Three Weeks of Travel: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The last three weeks have been a great learning curve for me. Travelling through Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria has definitely been interesting and I’ve learned a lot about my travelling style and how it’s changed since my last extended trip in 2010. I’m so glad I’ve had this opportunity to get to know myself as a traveller again ready for Mexico, Guatemala and Belize at the start of October.

There were just a few things that went a little bit wrong during my three weeks of travelling, but I’m planning to learn from each one…

My laptop died and my iPhone was stolen

On 24th August 2014 my laptop gave up. I’m aware that any normal person may not be quite so devastated about ‘a laptop’, but we’ve been through a lot together. My laptop is also my livelihood – without it I can’t make money from my freelancing gigs that allow me to travel. Thankfully I had backed it all up with Time Machine on 4th August, and do a lot of my work on Google Drive, but it still meant I lost three weeks of photos and useful time on ten-hour train journeys that I could’ve been writing or editing pics. Time is money when you’re a freelancer.

3 weeks of travelling

Then, five days later my iPhone was stolen in Bucharest, Romania. This wasn’t backed up at all, and as I keep being told, I “should’ve used iCloud, it’s easy!”.

I lost the photos that I’d put on the computer to back up, music for my future journey to Sofia, and to home, and hours of notes on articles about Sziget I wanted to write. Gutted.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t write, photo, do, anything without backing it up.
  • Connect to iCloud and connect with Find my iPhone.
  • Carry my external hard drive with Time Machine with me.
  • Don’t use my laptop for ten hours straight or it will explode.
  • Look after my future iPhone better.

I then paid £40 to report my phone stolen

On the card next to the phone in my hotel it proudly boasted ‘4 per minute’. Bit steep (70p) I thought but I really need to report it stolen – some chatty Romanian could’ve phoned their whole family by now. Being in Romania, and the fact the hotel food menu, and the spa menu I’d studied were in lei, the Romanian currency, I didn’t even comprehend they might use another currency.

Just over 10 minutes later and Three finally picked up. Three minutes later my phone was barred and cancelled, done.

Only when it came to pay at check out I found out it wasn’t 4 lei per minute, but 4 euros. I had to pay £40 for my call to Three trying to get hold of someone. I’m so annoyed at the hotel for not being clear and I’m really annoyed at Three for taking so long to answer when I clearly phoned the lost and stolen line advertised. Obviously if someone phones that line they’re in some trouble.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t use phones in hotels.
  • Triple check the currency a hotel decides to use.
  • Not much i can do about Three, don’t want to move providers for that but I’ve already sent them an email to tell them it’s not cool.

I hated the first two hostels, really hated them

I used to work at HostelBookers, I bet I’ve stayed in more than 100 hostels in my life and I’m a huge advocate of the way hostels work when any naysayers are around – you would’ve thought I’d know better.

But I reckon I got about an hour’s sleep in the hostel in Bratislava and just a little more in the one in Timisoara. Both were cool hostels, both lots of staff were really nice and both had a cool vibe. They were just both really noisy, had a strange clientele and were generally uncomfortable to actually sleep in. In Bratislava I was on a mega squeaky iron bed next to the kitchen and in Timisoara it was cold, weird and people were in and out all night long. I genuinely didn’t think I could do hostels anymore and I was worried for my travelling future.

When I worked at I always used to advise new travellers to stay at a hostel with a bar to make friends. I am now strongly against this and hope that none of these newbie backpackers actually took my advice. Hostels are for sleeping – I can make friends some other way.

Once I got to Centrum Hostel in Brasov I felt a lot better. The staff were really nice, it was clean, warm, there was a nice bathroom and I was in a smaller room and finally managed to get some sleep. I’d still say it was only about three hours uninterrupted though.

Lessons learned

  • Never stay in a room with more than 6 beds.
  • Look at the cleanliness rating.
  • Look carefully at the photos.
  • Scour the reviews for any inkling of ‘party’or ‘noise’.
  • Never stay in iron beds.
  • Never stay in a hostel with a bar.

Didn’t really get on with the food

Yeah, it’s a sad one, and a mad one for me. Food when you’re travelling is one of the best things about it all but I just couldn’t get to grips with the food in Hungary or Romania – where I spent most of the time.

I tried ham hock goulash (one of the worst meals of my life), sărmăluţe with mămăligă, (mincemeat wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves and polenta), a Hungarian breakfast (fatty chorizo barf and tough dirty bacon) and some grim meaty soup. None of them pleased me.

3 Weeks travelling

I have never left so much food on my plate as I did during meals in Romania. I felt awful but my stomach just couldn’t take the fatty meat and heavy sauces. I’d also planned to get a bit healthier on this trip as I’m bridesmaid when I get back, but there was no chance of that.

The best meals by far were the egg and cheese tortilla from the Gong Cafe in Budapest, the breakfast at the New York Cafe, the chicken shish kebab from Sziget Festival and the vegetable soup I got on room service from the Intercontinental in Bucharest.

I also ate a lot of kebabs – just because it was meat I knew I liked – and pastries were popular throughout every country I went to. I don’t like eating by myself so I survived on these a lot of the time. This includes the Hungarian speciality Langos and the pickled cabbage filled pastry I had on my Bucharest bike tour.

Lessons learned

  • Never did I Google what was good and find recommendations – could be a good idea.
  • Go veggie. I’ve always felt like if a meal doesn’t have meat, it’s not a meal but I need to weigh up the fact that a lot of meat disturbs me and maybe I should trust the veggie option to satisfy me instead.
  • Need to seek out fruit shops rather than settling for easy fatty foods. Go hunter-gathering!

Possibly too paranoid

When I started to write this post on my notes on my iPhone I said that ‘I was too paranoid that everyone was trying to take advantage of me, I unnecessarily felt like they wanted to steal from me and I didn’t trust anyone’. When I wrote it on my phone I said this was ridiculous and I wish I could relax and enjoy myself. But then my phone was stolen and my fears were realised. I know I can’t hold one douche bag responsible for everyone else I ever come across travelling though so I’ll stand by my not wanting to be too paranoid and try to learn to trust my surroundings.

Lessons learned

  • Try not to imagine everyone is out to kill me / steal from me / take advantage.
  • Look after my things better.
  • Don’t walk around with items of value unnecessarily.

I took too much stuff

I felt vulnerable and stupid carrying so much stuff around. I had a backpack, a rucksack, and a weekend-style bag with my laptop in, which was in one of those unstealable bags. There’s no way I’m taking all this stuff to Central America in October. Thankfully I won’t need the ‘cold’ clothes and I’ve learnt about what I actually will wear when I’m away.

three weeks travelling

Lessons learned

  • I didn’t need the bike helmet, the two towels, the pink hair spray or the tie dye dress.
  • Take half as much stuff and twice as much money.
  • Don’t take anything I can’t justify.

Spent way too much money

Oo that’s cheap…
What a bargain, I’ll take two…
Oo massages are half the price of at home…
I’ll just get a taxi…

Generally, this was me over the last three weeks. Everything seemed a bargain and I’ve basically been living the high life around Central and Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until my last day in Bucharest that I added up what had come out of my bank while I’d been away and I was horrified.

My travels aren’t going to last very long if I continue like this.

Lessons learned

  • Have a daily budget.
  • Change banks so I don’t pay £xx per transaction like with Natwest.
  • Stop upgrading because Everything is so cheap.
  • Get my budget on.

Just 7 of the many important lessons I’ve learned. What did your last trip teach you? 

Top Tips for Hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza
Phwoooarrr, Check Out the Food at Sziget Festival!


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  2. by Hannah Wasielewski on September 14, 2014  8:02 pm Reply

    my last trip to Bolivia had a lot of mishaps (including a stolen iphone), and it was a 3 week trip too! It was a combination of me screwing up and just having bad luck. I lost a lot of trust in people after that one. the best thing out of it is that you learn a lot of lessons!

  3. by Jayne on September 29, 2014  2:03 am Reply

    I HATED the food in Hungary and it really affected how I felt about the country, which I know is silly but dodgy meat and heavy sauce at every meal is a turn off for me too.

    I love that you have honestly laid out what goes through a traveller's mind when travelling solo though - and that lack of sleep and feeling uncomfortable happens, even if our love of travelling does override the bad stuff. At least you'll be well prepared for your central american adventures. J

    • by Vicky on September 29, 2014  10:33 pm Reply

      Yeah it was grim. Really grim. The memory of the Lonely Planet recommended place disturbs me. I'm going to go back next year though and I'll find out some better places.

      Yeah that's what I think about that little expedition - it was a prep for the big thing!

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