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Travel Tuesday question of the week – what’s your most embarrassing travel moment?

January 17, 2011
by budgettravelsac

For anyone who has spent time traveling, we have had our share of awkward moments.  Hopefully, most of our travel experiences have been good ones.  However, some are low points and we need to reflect on the learning experiences as well.  Sometimes, we just have a moment where we are really embarrassed about something we said or did or just something that happened.  Those can be great memories to look back on and laugh.

What is your most embarrassing travel moment?

A few years ago, I was hiking along the southern coast of Portugal and wandered upon a nude beach.  Like most nude beaches, it was quite tasteful.  As an American, it’s a bit of a shock and adjustment seeing people fully naked people  on the beach.  Honestly, it was a beautiful stretch of beach and was surrounded by the cliffs.  No wonder it was a nude beach because you really had to know it was there in order to discover it.

After two hours and a lot of courage, I decided to participate.  And I mean fully participate.  I figured this would be one of the only chances I ever had to spend on a nude beach.  And quite honestly, I was embarrassed – but not for the reasons you think.

When you are on a beach surrounded by tan people, you might be a little wary of taking your shirt off or walking around in a bathing suit if you haven’t spent much time in the sun.  When you aren’t wearing anything, multiply that feeling times 10 and you are really aware of how white you are when nude people have all over tans.  On that beach in Portugal, I was actually embarrassed to be there as white as I was.  It was for that reason, and not the nudity, that I was ashamed and embarrased.  To add to the embarrassment, I ran out of sunscreen (I had to apply A LOT) and had to ask a British family for more before I hiked back.

Looking back, it was an interesting and fun experience.  My lack of skin color was more embarrassing than my lack of clothing.  But I won’t forget my nude beach experience in Portugal (Check out more of my experiences in my Spain and Portugal journal).

So I’ve shared my  moment.  What’s your most embarrassing moment you have had while traveling?

Want to share your photo of your embarrassing or compromising moment?  Do so and you can win a $50 iTunes gift card from Todd Wassel.

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2011 12:16 am

    Well, my story involves no nudity at all… but it’s still embarrassing!

    When I was studying abroad in New Zealand, two friends and I rented a car a few times to travel around the country. On my birthday weekend, we rented a car to get out of Wellington and check out the nearby wine country. Since I was the birthday girl, it was decided that I should drive.

    Well, in NZ, everybody uses their parking brake at all times, even if it isn’t necessary. (They also drive on the opposite side of the road, but, believe it or not, I had no problems with that!) Coming from Ohio, which is ridiculously flat, I have never ever put a parking brake on in a garage.

    So, when I left the rental car lot, the parking brake was still in place, and we went screeching down the highway. My two friends were almost peeing themselves as our car made some very terrible sounds and other motorists flashed their lights at us. (In my defense, my friends had no idea what was wrong, either.)

    We ended up driving back to the rental car garage and then proceeded to get made fun of by a bunch of kiwi men. Talk about embarrassing!

    • January 18, 2011 8:59 am

      Yeah, that’s pretty bad. I actually use the parking break all the time here in California. Yet there were a number of times I have put it in reverse or drive and taken off with the parking break still on. Luckily, I never went very far without realizing it and never had anyone else notice for sure! That was definitely embarrassing! :)

  2. January 18, 2011 1:43 am

    My most embarassing moment while traveling occurred in Burma, on Inle Lake. I was in a boat full of Pa-O men and women returning from their market trip to pick up supplies for the week, and I was wearing a traditional Burmese longyi (for women, called a htamein). The thing about the longyi is that it’s essentially a tube of fabric, like a sarong that was sewn together. You climb into it and while men tie it in a knot, women merely fold it tightly around their waists and tuck it in. Well, I stood up from the front of the boat to get out and my longyi got caught on a nail. It undid. It fell right to the ground. Let’s just say that these remote Pa-O tribespeople have likely never seen a foreigner’s behind before, let alone one as pasty white as mine. And I highly doubt any of them wear thong underwear. The shock on their faces would have been hilarious were I not dying inside. Trying to maintain a shred of dignity, I flashed a huge, embarrassed smile, gathered my longyi back up and re-tied it around my waist. And from then on, I made sure to carry a safety-pin with me at all times.

    • January 18, 2011 7:51 am

      Well I am sure that is a memory those men will never forget! I think all of us have some kind of embarrassing story but yours is definitely unique with the Burmese longyi! Let me just say I know how you feel when it comes to revealing too much of your pasty white self to other people! However, mine just happened to be by choice! :)

  3. January 18, 2011 4:55 am

    I can’t tell you my most embarrassing travel moment. It is way too embarrassing and only Dave knows because he was there. He wouldn’t know about it either if I had my way. Dave just said “yep, you can’t tell anyone that story, you really can’t”

    • January 18, 2011 7:55 am

      Well at least we know you have one! It’s a great tease! :)

  4. January 18, 2011 5:21 am

    Thanks for linking to the contest. BUT PLEASE don’t post a nude photo of yourself :) One of my embarrassing moments when I was naked in a Japanese bath and a women entered completely naked yelling at me that I was in the wrong bath!

    Became even more embarrassing when we all went out to the front door naked and I proved to her that she was in fact wrong and did not read the Japanese sign saying MEN. Seriously!

    • January 18, 2011 7:54 am

      Great story Todd! Funny to see how your embarrassment turned into her embarrassment! Another embarrassing moment involving nudity! It seems that is rather common when traveling but not something you experience very often here in the US! And no, I am not posting any pics – I promise! No one wants to see that! :)

  5. January 18, 2011 5:39 am

    We were in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and we had been drinking all day long with our friends from England who we had been traveling with for a few weeks. We were getting ready to leave the last bar, all very inebriated, when I took that last swig of beer, which was warm and a larger gulp than I anticipated. I don’t know if it was the warmth, the amount, the fact that I had been drinking for 12 hours, or a combination of all three, but as soon as the last gulp went down my throat, I felt it coming back up.

    Yep, I puked on myself and the table we were sitting at. Luckily it wasn’t a lot, but it was puke nonetheless. I will forever get comments about that night from our new friends (who we’re still friends with, btw–it didn’t deter them). And don’t worry Todd, we don’t have pictures, so nothing will be submitted. :)

    • January 18, 2011 8:27 am

      Adam, sounds like you took one drink too many! I am sure it was a combination of all the above – sun, drinking, warm beer. However, I don’t think an explanation would have been any consolation to those are your table! At least you and your friends laugh about it now. That’s what is great about these embarrassing moments! :)

  6. Alex Lop permalink
    January 18, 2011 5:40 am

    Nice one Todd!

    When I was 16, I was in Honduras SCUBA diving in Roatan. While there, I had randomly seen a friend of mine from school pass me by a few times on another dive boat. One day during the trip, we were out searching for whale sharks when I spotted his boat. I wanted to look really cool when we passed by his boat – like a “master of the seas” – and decided to stand up on the bow with nothing supporting me.

    Unfortunately, the waves were a lot larger than I thought. I’d say I survived 3…maybe 4 waves before I lost my balance and fell off the side of the boat into the ocean. The dive boat’s captain – carrying about 20 people or so – panicked, stopped the boat, and swung it around. People jumped in after me thinking I had hit my head or passed out; why else would I have fallen out of the boat?…it was a mess.

    Moral of the story: if you try to overly impress your friends, you’ll just fall off the boat.

    • January 18, 2011 8:21 am

      Ah the barvado of youth! I think we have all been there! Every teenager has a story like this where you are showing off trying to look impressive. Yours just happened to be in Hondurass…in the ocean…with lots of strangers watching…and an embarrassing rescue. That’s a great story though and I am sure you laugh at it today! Thanks for sharing! :)

  7. January 18, 2011 5:56 am

    Great idea for a post. Probably shouldn’t share this but….

    My first night in Fiji I ended up at an awful homestay without a mozzie net. I got bitten about 40 times, mainly on my bum. I am allergic to mozzie bites so they usually get quite swollen and inflamed. Very attractive! Anyway I had some special cream with me in case of this happening but due to the bites location it was hard to apply. I gingerly asked my very loyal travel buddy who kindly agreed to apply it for me. At this stage we had moved islands and were in a 6 bed dorm. It was empty as she begun to medicate my derriere but unfortunately our roomates returned before she could finish. I just remember an American girl shrieking and leaving the room and me shouting after her, “It’s ok, she is only applying cream.” Don’t think the explanation helped!

    And no I will most definitely not be supplying pics :)

    • January 18, 2011 8:14 am

      I agree pics wouldn’t be a good idea! After all, who wants to see a pic of cream? :) Thanks for sharing! It’s fun to look back and laugh at these stories now.

  8. January 18, 2011 6:31 am

    OK, this is kind of work-related, but it’s travel-related too: A few years ago (on my other freelance job as a TV news photog) we were doing a feature story for a network morning show in St. Augustine, FL. Staying at a high-end St. Aug. hotel, where the hotel’s GM invited the crew (producer, myself and audio tech) to dinner at the hotel’s high-end restaurant. The dinner included several bottles of REALLY nice wine. At the end of dinner when I stood up, I suddenly felt dizzy and sick, but there was nowhere close to go. I casually strolled over to the long curtains by the restaurant’s window, stepped behind one and barfed. As far as I know, no one saw me — or at least they pretended not to. (I’ve never told anyone this story, except the audio tech I worked with).
    And the killer is, the next morning, we had to be up to shoot the sunrise at 5 am!
    Painful. Lesson learned.

  9. January 18, 2011 8:51 am

    Hmmm…. there’s just to many to choose from?
    Probably getting pick pocketed by a Thai hooker that was likely a guy. The short of it – drunk at 2AM on Khao San Road, waited outside 7/11 for Nicole to get new calling card, appraoched by said Thai hooker who grabbeb my junk and asked it I wanted “lovey, lovey” (I shit you not!). While in shock that the junk was being grabbed, she slipped hand into back pocket and grabbed wallet. I didn’t even realize until the next morning… which was a little too late! Didn’t loose much and I’ve been telling the story for years… so in the end it was worth it! ;-)

    • January 18, 2011 8:55 am

      Which one was Nicole more upset by – junk being grabbed or the wallet being taken? :)

  10. January 18, 2011 9:29 am

    Hmmm… so many to chose from!

    I was on a work abroad program in France while at Uni. I worked on a dairy farm in the south of France in a tiny village called Cesar Le Pas about 15km from Rodez). Equipped with only “book” knowledge of French, my new found hosts, who spoke zero English (which of course was great for my primary purpose to learn to speak French) threw a little fete soon after my arrival. About 20 of their family attended a large dinner at the house. The feefeefoofoo of the French tongue filled the air and I decided I would try and add some value to whatever conversations were being had by throwing out a compliment: “J’aime bien les repas au farm parce qu’il n’y a pas beaucoup de preservatifs dans la nourriture” (Translation: I thought I was saying that I loved the farm food because it was without preservatives (fresh)”). Faces nearest to me contorted wryly and I thought perhaps they didn’t understand my limited french and very american accent so I repeated it, this time a little louder. The table roar quickly came to a hush as all eyes we on me. I again attempted to explain myself at which point about 80% of the table burst out in tears laughing. The literal translation for what I was saying was “I like farm food because there are no condoms in it”. It was a hard lesson to learn that “preservatifs” means “condoms” in French and even harder for me to convince them that we did not eat condoms in the food where I came from…
    It was an embarrassing but great start to one of my fondest travel experiences.

    • January 18, 2011 9:35 am

      This is actually the kind of comment I had in mind when posting this question. I figured many people would have an embarrassing moment involving languages. Glad that they laughed about it. I am sure you felt embarrassed but any of us who have tried to speak another language (the closest language I come to speaking is French) has made a mistake like this. It’s a lot more fun reading other people’s stories though! Thanks for sharing! :)

  11. January 18, 2011 10:02 am

    Funny – I was recently thinking about throwing this question out to my facebook page fans, but realized I’d have to share one my most embarrassing travel experiences (there have been plenty). Unfortunately, I don’t have the courage yet to do that yet. Let me at least take the first step in coming clean about one of them — it involves a train in Switzerland.

    • January 18, 2011 11:01 am

      Oh come on now! If you’ve got a lot of them you’ve got to share! Look at what I exposed myself to (pun intended!) :)

  12. January 18, 2011 11:52 am

    I totally get on the nude beach experience! Bob and I stumbled upon a nude lake- which by the way, not as cool as a nude beach- and thought we would participate. Most of the other people were way older than us, but we thought it was fun and oh, well- we had already jumped in! Then about fifteen minutes later, we find out it’s actually a private lake and all the people are swingers… seriously they wanted us to join in on the fun! We quickly put our clothes back on and thanked them for wanting us to be including and stumbling upon their party, but declined. Needless to say, I don’t need to be a part of any nude anythings for a long time!!

    • January 18, 2011 12:06 pm

      That’s awesome! Your story is much more humorous than mine because of the twist of what you had stumbled upon! It’s great that you had the courage to do it and I am sure this story is quite funny now! With my experience, many people were older but there was a German couple in their 30s and in very good shape. However, it’s amazing how non-sexual nude beaches are – unless you hang out with swingers! :)

  13. January 18, 2011 12:10 pm

    Are you sure you aren’t BRAGGING about the amount of sunscreen? (smile)

    I have two embarrasing moments.

    When I was in college, my family took a vacation to Hawaii. I was wearing a halter top. Well, I sort of….. “fell out” of the halter top and didn’t know it. This was the first time my FATHER got upset over what I wore.

    About six years ago, I was in my RV, and needed to go to a bank. No room in the parking lot for an RV. So, I decided to take the RV through the “drive through” banking. Well, it appeared that HEIGHT wasn’t an issue, but the WIDTH was. Fortunately, someone caught me before I made a terrible mistake. The other person directed traffic while I got out of line.

    • January 18, 2011 12:15 pm

      So if you didn’t know you had fallen out, could you really be embarrassed? I am sure your father was embarrassed – and probably angry! :)

      No, I wasn’t boasting about the amount of sunscreen for the reasons you suggest. There was just a LOT of whiteness all over my body that needed to be protected. It’s not good that I am a bit fair skinned. It’s really not good when some of that skin has NEVER seen the sun. So yes, I needed a LOT of sunscreen! :)

  14. January 18, 2011 12:13 pm

    This has nothing to do with embarrassing moments, but believe it or not, there are some “clothing optional” RV parks. Someone once said, “I don’t want to see ‘clothing optional’ and ‘RV’ in the same sentence.”

    • January 18, 2011 12:22 pm

      I would assume (maybe wrongly) that many RV parks have older travelers? If true, that wouldn’t be much different than many nude beaches.

  15. January 18, 2011 1:56 pm

    Fab post Jeremy! I have had my fair share of embarrassing moments. One that often springs to mind is the time I walked into a crowded bar in a small town in Mallorca to order two coffees. I was rather nervous because I don’t speak good Spanish but I certainly knew how to order two coffees: “Dos café con lecce por favor” right? Easy-peasy! By the time I got the attention of the bartender, I ended up saying “Due cafe latte per favore”. I wasn’t even aware of what I’d said but the bartender kindly repeated my exact words and the whole bar roared with laughter. I think my face must’ve turned beetroot because they pointed at my face and started cracking up even more. I simply smiled. The bartender said he’d bring over my two lattes so I headed back to my table – to be honest, I just wanted to leave A.S.A.P.. As I turned around, totally engulfed in a cloud of embarrassment, I hit a bar stool and it landed on the floor with a heavy clang. Now that got the entire bar’s attention! Some laughed. Others glared. I picked up the stool and sped out of the bar. I had my latte outside. :-)

    • January 18, 2011 2:11 pm

      Way to go Keith! Not only did you make the common traveler mistake of butchering the language, you added a bit of physical comedy as well with a barstool! As an observer, that has to be funny! If I was you, I would have been just as embarrassed! I don’t think I would have ordered another coffee in Spain for quite a while! :)

      • January 18, 2011 2:54 pm

        Haha! Trust me to get Spanish all mixed up with Italian. Guess those are some of the perils of travelling! :-)

  16. January 18, 2011 6:39 pm

    When learning both Japanese and French I used to approach young ladies with the purpose of striking up a conversation with them in their language – as you do!! I approached a very beautiful young girl in Lyon (France), and thought of something random to say. “Excusez-moi ou se trouve la guerre (should have said “gare”) la plus proche?” Asking said beauty where the nearest war was wasn’t exactly what I had in mind! Might have been OK in some countries!!

    • January 19, 2011 9:30 am

      Yes, exactly the kind of comments I expected on this. I thought a lot more people would have foreign language moments.

  17. January 19, 2011 12:57 am

    Greg’s language error reminded me of one of my own. Somewhere in Germany, starving, I wandered into a restaurant I couldn’t afford and ordered soup (the cheapest thing on the menu). I scoffed it down and then asked him my best German for “die Rectum, bitte”. I thought I was asking for the bill but I mispronounced Rechnung (bill).
    The water froze, then dashed off to get help. An older guy came back and asked me, in English, how he could help. I was a bit confused so just asked for the bill in English. As I walked out I realised that, in English, rectum is a bit rude.
    A few days later I arrived in Hamburg to stay with my German friend. I told him about the funny rectum story and then asked him casually if rectum had any meaning in German. That’s when he started laughing, telling me it was a Latin word that meant the same in English and German.
    No wonder the waiter ran away when I asked him for his rectum! I hope he laughs about it now.

    • January 19, 2011 9:32 am

      That is definitely a funny story! Got to love butchered language and mispronounced phrases stories!

  18. January 19, 2011 3:10 pm

    Very funny story, Jeremy! My most embarrassing travel moment happened a couple years back while flying to Paris on an overnight flight. I fell asleep only to wake up a few hours later with the house lights turned on and the entire airplane looking at me and my friends. Evidently, one of my friends had a few too many BOTTLES of wine and was crawling down the aisle, vomiting on the floor! It was so humiliating to be associated with them for the remaining several hours on the flight!

    • January 19, 2011 3:20 pm

      At least it wasn’t you! I stated on here when people first started posting I thought most comments would involve nudity, alcohol, and vomiting! :) Although language screw ups is probably something all of us have done!

  19. January 19, 2011 6:13 pm

    LOL! I bet those nude sunbathers looked like George Hamilton after years of clothes-free tanning. My most embarrassing moment was rushing to the airplane toilet during descent to throw up in the bathroom, then having the toilet lid hit my face, resulting in 2 black eyes! I came out of the bathroom looking all beat up and for my whole week in Rio de Janeiro guys were hitting on me with lines like, “In Brazil we don’t beat out women.” Pretty embarrassing!

  20. January 21, 2011 7:48 am

    I’m pretty sure I told you about my embarrassing story on Twitter. Which I regretted right afterward. So, not telling (again) :)

    That aside, I came across a nude beach inadvertently in San Francisco while hiking. Well, actually we were hiking on a trail on a bluff overlooking the beach, and there was this nudist running along the trail. I can tell you something, seeing someone fully naked when you least expecting it… was… quite shocking.


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