Cultural Experience | Resources

Awkward: You Can’t Travel Far Enough Away to Escape It

It travels with you. 

There are many joys and excitements that come with traveling. One of its appeals is the possibility of an escape from reality. In the case of being awkward, I’m here to tell you the opposite.  You can’t outrun your awkward, no matter how many miles you fly or how many continents you cross. At least you can’t if you’re me. So here’s a small excerpt of the multitudes of unfortunate encounters I have experienced over the span of several years and several continents:

• That time my host mom asked me in Spanish what I thought of the new pope and I thought she was asking me about potatoes.

• When I used my curler the day after I arrived in my host home and then took out power for the entire household…for the entire weekend…

• When I met a cute Spanish boy at a bus stop and we were hitting it off as the bus came…. and then drove away without stopping. It was the last bus of the night, so the boy apologized and began sprinting after it.  Nothing says confidence boost like a cute Spanish boy literally running away from you.  

That time I was getting ready for a night out in Spain and realized I had bought (in America) and packed two different, right footed shoes as a pair.

• One night I was eating out with some Cambodian friends in a local restaurant when one of them started saying a lot to me in Khmer and laughing. My Khmer isn’t that good so I asked another friend to translate. The gist of it was that I was pretty and essentially wife material, but I ate too much and would be too hard to provide for. Oh.

• When a cab driver in Slovenia has Justin Bieber playing on the radio so I hum along and he notices, turns it up, and says “Ah yes you like Justin Bieber!” Annnnnd I single-handedly confirmed the existing stereotype of American girls. (Sorry!!)

• One time I rode a train for 14 hours and went to the food cart about two hours into the trip only to discover they had run out of all food and would not be receiving more.

• My first night in Kenya I decided to buy this really pretty green jade elephant. I’m not sure how much the shopkeeper asked for it, but I halved the price and felt pretty good about my ability to haggle. That night when the group reconvened we used a converter to figure out how much I spent. It was $100. I spent $100 on a small elephant. Now they use me as an example of what not to do for everyone going on the trip in the future…

• When my host family left me alone for my first weekend in Spain and didn’t leave any pre-made meals so I ate all of the bread in the house instead.

• When I’m skimming through my travel notes and found, “Then I danced with this Italian man that smelled like croutons but danced politely so I’m not complaining” and that about accurately sums up my time with European men.

• Being a blonde in Spain allotted for many awkward bus experiences. One in particular was a man who would not get out of my face as he talked and stared intensely at me as he tried to clarify my eye color. Yes, they’re green. (You would think that would be apparent as close as he was.) He then went on to say, “Americanos son guapos, no? Sevillanos también son guapos.” And winked. He continued on to tell me I should vote for Hillary because she “has heart,” quizzed me over whether or not I liked cold soup, and was emphatically overjoyed when I responded yes. I got off a stop early.

• That time I tried to say “Yeah lol my life is complicated” in Chinese but actually said, “I have a lot of love affairs.”

• When I was warned that the electricity in Kenya could be spotty and may go out at times, so as I go to wash my face and splash the water, I closed my eyes and then screamed. Everything went dark and I had thought we lost power. Really I had just closed my eyes. I wish this wasn’t true.

• When we were driving through Kenya and AC had been out on the bus so I had my head sticking out of the window for a breeze.   I hear a crack, so obviously, I’m like, “Sweet! Fireworks!” It was gunfire.

• That time I was in a train station between cities after a long day of traveling and I saw a father and daughter wearing A&M gear and went over to say hi and introduce myself. We’re having a nice chat about our journeys up to that point when I stopped and asked, “Where are we again?” And they looked at me as if I had lost it. Like, who doesn’t even know where they are? It was a long day, okay.

• When this cab driver felt personally responsible for me and accompanied me in to buy my train ticket home but the station only accepted cash so it took all of my cash to pay for the ticket and then I didn’t have any left to pay the cabbie so afterwards he had to drive me to an atm and then back to the train station.

• When I made prolonged eye contact with a monkey in Gibraltar and then it proceeded to jump on my back where it stayed for several minutes as I kind of ran around unsure of how to get it off. A crowd formed.

• Then there was this time in Cambodia when we were waiting to ride the elephants and the natives were holding some monkeys. Obviously, I wanted that for myself. So I walk over and ask for the monkey, the local hands it to me, and it promptly freaks out. I immediately began running away but it got a hold of my braid before I could. Wresting ensued. (Do we see a pattern here?)

More: How to Travel through SE Asia.

• There was that one time I tried to use Chinese on Koreans. (I’m the worst kind of westerner, I know – swear I heard words I recognized in Chinese.) After asking them twice to take a photo of me in Chinese, the girl responded in English that they were Korean. But we actually spent the rest of that night together and the group informed me that no one knew one another but that there was an app Koreans used to find each other when traveling. Neat.

• When I got emotional about my last day of work in Spain and then actually bawled in front of all my coworkers and left a mascara stain on my boss’ shirt as he attempted to console me.

More: 10 Ways to Enjoy Barcelona for free.

• Our first night out in Slovenia we ate at a bar to watch a Celtic band perform. Everyone was sitting and nodding their heads to the beat. Except for one man. This eighty-something year old man had taken to the floor to do the oddest combination of off-beat skip-hopping I ever had the pleasure of viewing. And then participating in. Because he dragged us out to the dance floor. I am sure that I have never looked more ridiculous in my life. (Then again, judging from this list maybe that’s not a true statement.) But it gets better. Two nights later, it’s about 1am and we’re in the middle of Ljubljana’s best night club. Who do we see hopping his heart away in the corner? Dancing grandpa.

So there you have it. A solid collection of cringe-worthy moments from my travels. Imagine the ones I chose not to include.


Awkward - You can't travel far enough to Escape it.

Kelli Meyer

Texas A&M University | 8 stories

Howdy, I'm a junior international politics major at Texas A&M University. I have loved traveling since I first went to Africa for a mission trip when I was 15. I spent this past summer interning with a nonprofit in the south of Spain, and this coming spring I will be spending my semester in China. I'm psyched to share some of my adventures and perspectives through College Tourist.

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