Backpackers Share Their Unforgettable Travel Stories

Backpackers Share Their Unforgettable Travel Stories

Backpacking around foreign countries has been a popular activity for many people with the time and means for several decades now. Such a journey is an excellent opportunity for personal growth and can change people in drastic and unexpected ways. When you are walking (and taking a train, often, to get to new areas) around another country, alone or in a group, there are a lot of things to experience, many good, some bad, and a few absolutely frightening! Whatever a backpacker happens to experience on their adventures, they will always return home with some good (or horrifying) stories to tell.


55. Unbearable

I hung my food up in a tree to keep it from bears. But I slept under it. I woke up with a bear straddling me trying to reach the food. Fortunately it was a tall bear and it reached the food and didn't resort to me. I got older and wiser.

bear-422682-300x200.jpgImage by

54. Well Traveled

Backpacking in Europe, I missed my ferry from the Netherlands to England. It was late, I was in a small town, and I had nowhere to go. A cute little local couple who happened by asked me if I needed help, and proceeded to offer me a place to stay. They even made dinner for me and paid for my taxi the next morning. I thanked them profusely and was on my way.

Flash forward 5 days later. I've finally made my way to England, and am doing the touristy thing and visiting Westminster Abbey in London. I'm about to walk out when I hear my name being called. Lo and behold, it's the same little Dutch couple, on holiday.

couple-daylight-elderly-1589865-1-300x200.jpgPhoto by from Pexels

53. Stranded In Patagonia

In the middle of Patagonia as our cheap car suddenly lost all of its fuel due to a crack in the fuel filter, the ipod shuffled to the song that was played by the quintet as the titanic sinks. My buddy and I, who were both quite nervous about being stuck in this particular stretch, turned to each other and started laughing hysterically. As the car loses its momentum my buddy just jumps out and starts pushing us shouting that he sees a town up ahead. I follow suit and we end up pushing the car for ~5-10k to find the town is actually just a small group of trees.

argentina-patagonia-788744_1920-300x200.jpgImage by Daniel Agrelo from Pixabay

52. Saved From A Spill

An Italian lady started freaking out at me in a train station after she ran into me and hurt herself.

She was running through the station and I was just standing there waiting for the train to stop. She took a pretty hard spill after running into my backpack. I tried to help her up a bit, just being nice, but she started screaming at me and basically just going nuts. I was stunned.

The twist was when some other random Italian chick came up and started yelling back at her. Just right up in her face yelling and pointing at her to keep going. I know a little Italian, but not enough to follow exactly what was going on. Finally the crazy lady walked away and the helper lady just kinda smiled at my wife and I then walked away. The whole thing was bizarre.

I thank you random Italian chick in the La Spezia train station.



51. A Stranger In The Woods

Backpacker of over 15 years here. I've traveled to almost every continent, learned amazing things from local cultures, and have seen some really crazy things out in the wild. Back in 2001 while backpacking in the rockies of BC Canada with my wife, we had decided to make a tent out in a nice secluded spot of the forest, after hiking for over 10 miles. While setting up our tent I remember my wife telling me she was hearing rustling in the bushes, which I just shrugged off since I couldn't hear it. About 15 minutes later I start hearing some heavy rustling about 100 feet away, and hear lots of twigs snapping. The next second we both hear a deathly screech which I can only compare that to a baboon, and see a bunch of bushes shaking. Needless to say, I don't know what the heck it was, and we both almost poop our pants. We packed up and left right after that. I'm not a bigfoot believer, or monkeys being out in the rockies, but I have no idea what that was.

camping-1763605-300x200.jpgImage by

50. Legendary Tiger Pants

My wife and I took the overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow in 2010. We had to share our sleeper room with a Russian guy who spoke no English and looked like a mobster. He acknowledged us, sat down and said something in Russian. As soon as he realized we weren't Russian and were visiting his country, he ordered a bottle of the good stuff and three glasses from the stewardess. We sat drinking it and communicated using anything but language for about three hours. When it had dried up and bedtime was upon us, he took off his trousers to reveal a black pair of tight underpants which had a tiger's face on the front. He climbed to the top bunk and fell asleep. Absolute legend of a guy.


49. Not Just Any Web

I was hiking in the rainforest on the Brazilian/Argentinian border near Iguazu Falls with one of my best friends. It was a stunning landscape and we were having a great time until I heard a shriek come from behind me. My friend had wanted to take a picture of something slightly off the path and walked directly into a spiderweb. This wasn't just any spiderweb, it was about six feet tall and spanned between two large trees across a four-foot distance. Her entire body was coated in web. We all laughed at her and cleaned her off... and luckily never saw the spider that went with it.


48. Scam Or Not?

I was in Busan, South Korea, which is a city with a lot of American military personnel and Russians.

I'm walking along the street by myself when I hear a car honk its horn. I think nothing of it until he honks again while motioning for me to approach him with his hand.

I thought perhaps the driver had a question for me. I slowly approach the taxi as the driver lowers the window. He looks at me and says "American?" in broken English. I answer in Korean "annyo" (no). He then says "Rusky?" and being a little fed up at I answered in Korean "no, why?".

At this point, the taxi driver takes out a large stack of bills, looks at me and says "Money good, yes?" If I had to guess I would of said there was probably $100-300 cash in his stack. He tries to hand me the money and keeps saying "Take it, money good, yes!?".

I take a step back and shake my head saying "annyo" (no) over and over in Korean. I kept slowly stepping back and eventually, he just drove off.

To this day I've always wondered if it was a scam or if I missed out on a bunch of free cash.


47. Music Is Universal

I was in Athens last year and it was our last day there with nothing else to see. We were being told to stay out of dark alleyways because of homeless people and whatnot. At the time there was a lot of protests going on so sometimes you could hear them in the distance. We were walking and heard all this music, singing, and yelling coming through this alley. We ended up following it all the way through and came out between this old apartment building and the metro. All the music was coming from the building and a window was open so we decided to throw some rocks through the window to ask to come up. Thinking back on it, that could have been a bad idea but it worked out well. A guy looked out the window with a handlebar mustache and said something in Greek. We yelled "Can we come up? It sounds fun in there". Then he gave us a smile and said "Oh, Americans! Yes, yes come up my friends!" When we get in there, all the rooms of this apartment building were converted into recording studios with all different bands playing. We ended up hanging out there for about two hours. We didn't understand them too well and they also didn't understand us but we all knew the music so it worked out.


46. Cultural Norm?

I'm 18 just arrived at Paris De Gaulle airport to travel through Europe alone. I am having a 'what have I gotten into?' moment as I kneel down to tie my shoe. A pretty French girl comes up and tells me not to place my bags on the ground or they will be stolen. When I respond she asks if I am American. I tell her yes and thank her again. She asks if I have a place to stay in Paris, I tell her no, and she offers to take me to a hostel. The next hour is a blur as she drives around Paris giving me a mini tour as I fade in and out of consciousness in the front seat due to jet lag. She ends up telling me I can stay at her place for the night. I get there and while showering, I hear her come in. I'm thinking maybe it's a cultural norm when I hear a voice say, "You're" cute," and turn around surprised to see her peeking in. I was supposed to head down to Toulouse the next day to see an ex-girlfriend. I ended up staying in Paris for three days. She was a 28-year-old reporter.

18750-1548778803184.jpgBen Raynal/Flickr


45. Grandmotherly Guilt

I was walking by myself one beautiful Sunday morning along the road from Struga, (former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia, along Lake Ohrid to the Albanian boarder, when I caught up to two old women walking the same direction in the otherwise completely empty road. I nodded a greeting, not expecting them to speak English, but to my surprise they did, as one had a son working as an engineer in Australia.

They asked me where I was going. I said Albania, and they said they were going to "cheeses." My first though was, this being Sunday, they were going to a market. Then I realized wait, it's Sunday... they're going to "Jesus." I asked, and they said yes they are... Then, in the most grandmotherly way possible, they added, "Aren't you?" I'm not religious, but when a sweet old woman guilts you like that, you can't say no. So I went with them to a beautiful old but small Orthodox Church and ended up sitting through mass. I had no idea what anyone was saying, and no I didn't convert, but it was a cool experience.


44. Technically Allowed

At a hostel in Amsterdam, we stayed in an eight person room. We ended up chummy with the other two couples in there, and had fun sharing stories for a while one night. As we were chatting and getting ready for bed, a guy came in to take one of the other beds remaining, sat down, and PULLED OUT A GIANT SWORD.

He just sat down on the cot, took it out, laid it on his lap, and sat there silently. We also went silent for a second because we didn't know if he was serious. We tried to say hi and be friendly. He ignored us, and just sat there with his sword.

We were all tired but we were sort of eyeing each other like we didn't want to sleep. The guy just put his sword beside him on the bed and went to sleep.

Next morning we asked the desk about their sword policy. They allow them.


43. Accidental Arrangement

I accidentally became engaged to a local in Vietnam. I was exploring this little village, and stopped at a restaurant for a drink. A guy comes up and starts talking to me in very broken English. Within five minutes he asks, "You married?" I say no, so he then says, "You marry me?" with a big goofy grin on his face. I assumed he was joking, because we'd known each other for five minutes, so I said yes. He was not joking. He immediately began yelling something in Vietnamese, then grabs my hand and starts waving it around in the air. Within minutes we were surrounded by dozens of people who are all cheering and smiling and shaking my hand. He then took me to his house to introduce me to my future in-laws. I broke that poor boy's heart when I left for another city the next day.


42. Just Like Indy

I was backpacking around Europe with my girlfriend and we were on the train from Krakow, Poland. Just as the train set off, we realized it was the wrong one and that we had to get off. Ended up with us opening the door (it was an old train with a manual handle, no electronics) and jumping out onto the platform as it was travelling at a fast run, grabbing her bag and making sure she got off before the train sped up. Turns out it does make you feel a little like Indiana Jones.


41. Unscheduled Hospitality

Six friends and I were on a backpacking trip around Europe after graduating college. While we were stopped in Munich, we decided that we needed to see a brewery. The Spaten brewery happened to be the closest to our hostel so we just walked on over. An older gentleman answered our knock on the door, and we asked him about going on a tour. He didn't quite understand what we were asking, and thought that we had scheduled a tour that he wasn't prepared for. He apologizes profusely and brought all six of us up to the private top floor of the brewery (not quite a skyscraper, but a really tall building near downtown). Turns out they had moved an old restaurant to the top floor, it had a full bar, hot pretzels, and amazing views of the city. Up there we met a guy who spoke English and we figured out what had happened and that it was a big misunderstanding. Instead of telling us we needed to leave, he gave us all beverages, gave us food, and told us to stay as long as we liked. It was completely random and so amazing how nice people can be sometimes. Spaten gained six lifelong customers that day.


40. Sock Thieves

I was camping in the outback in Australia with my buddy last summer (their winter), he took the tent and I slept in a swag bag because I'd never seen so many shooting stars in my life and it really was quite beautiful.

So it's about three in the morning and I start hearing a howling from the hills around the campsite, like wolves howling at the moon kind of howling. So I shout to my buddy and ask him what's making the noise, he informs me that there are some dingoes around here. Well, what would the odds be that they'd actually come into the campsite, right?

Around half an hour later, I feel something weird sniffing around my feet. I slowly reach for the flashlight I had in my pocket and shine it on my feet. There's a dingo sniffing around my swag so I tell it to go away and leave me alone.

The dingo kept coming back with its dingo buddies and apparently all through the night my friend could hear me muttering swear words at them. I asked a ranger the next morning if I was ever in any danger and he said no, they've just got a bit used to humans over the past couple of years and don't have too much fear anymore.

But I'm pretty sure one of them stole a sock that was drying on the car so I was a bit peeved about that. I wonder if the Australian high commission would reimburse me the cost of a nice pair of hiking socks?



39. Lovely Even Sick

Leaving Rome heading to Venice by train with my buddy. Before we board, we get some cheap pizza and some water and enjoy the sun setting by the Spanish Steps. Life's good. For now.

One hour after boarding. First symptoms hit. Stomach pains. Feeling feverish. Feel like puking but can't.

Two hours after boarding. Lock myself in train toilets. Puke the life out of me. And what looks like mushrooms. Thank god, it must be over.

Nope. Arrival in Venice. It's late. There's snow everywhere. Puked two more times on train. Feeling horrible. I can barely walk by now and feel like dying. We got to find our hostel. We get lost because, well, Venice. Can't take it. Drop my backpack, fall on my knees and puke my guts out in the Grand Canal, under the eyes of countless outraged tourists on a romantic dinner out. Buddy is laughing so hard and takes pictures. Great friend.

We make it to the hostel, somehow. Spend the worst night of my life. Food tastes like pain and misery. Can't eat for the next three days, buddy forces me to. Recover by the time we move on to Florence.

Venice is lovely, though.


38. Toblerone For The Save

The trip between Chisinau and Tiraspol in Moldova is pretty short, but because the civil war never really ended there are plenty of military checkpoints on the road, with heavily-armed militias or Russian "peacekeepers." We finally arrive to what appears to be a border post, and, as the only two foreigners, are quickly escorted out of the bus to a little interrogation room.

Well, the interrogation was pretty short: an 18-year-old conscript is looking through our bags and asks the usual "Do you carry illegal substances or weapons?" when an officer storms in, points at us, and says, "You, ten euros; you, ten euros," and leaves.

At that point, there is an awkward silence on our part, but the guy is already gone and the kid, who obviously did not speak English, kept rummaging through our bags. He then reaches a Toblerone bar I had brought along, and looks at me. I point at it and say, "It's yours." He then slips the bar into his sleeve, at which point I turn to my friend and say, "I believe it is time to leave." We take our bags, walk quietly to the bus, and move on to our destination. We did not see the officer on the way out, which I think was a good thing.

18758-1548779451109.jpgChris Hearn/Flickr

37. Guru In A Small India

I was in India, in Hampi, and met a guru who was in training to become a Naga Baba. Part of the training was he could not speak a word for 15 years. He had learned to communicate in a lot of ways, and had adapted a sign language that everyone could understand. He had such an amazing vibe and energy surrounding him, I never met anyone like him. The strange thing is, I bumped into this man a total of four times throughout my six-month trip in India. One month after Hampi, I met him again at a rainbow in the Maha Kumbha Mela. I was traveling in a car together with a Frenchman. Again we had a great time, and about three weeks later, I saw him again in Varanasi, this time he shaved his head and beard, I did not recognize him but some friends of mine did (by this time he had become a known man among the backpacker community). We spent time together and after a crazy festival (the whole city, and I mean every person, was walking barefoot in a big 10km circle around the city) I moved on. It was three months later, in a little village of about 15 houses in the Himalaya, that I saw him again! I shouted and he recognized me, and began drawing stuff in the sand explaining his adventures. I don't know what it means to have met him so many times, but having been around this man has been an amazing experience. Although we did not share a word, I feel like I learned a lot from him.

18787-1548783739562.jpgJanaya Veloza/Flickr

36. Taiwanese Hospitality

I was riding a train to go to the eastern coast of Taiwan to my next couchsurfer host when I met a bunch of Taiwanese lifelong military members who gave me refreshments and tried to talk to me in Mandarin and very broken English.

After a few, my head was very clouded, and they started telling me that I should get off at their stop instead of mine. I agreed and I found myself at a shrimp fishing house with more of these refreshments of theirs.

I blacked out and woke up the next day because one of the Taiwanese guys' daughters was taking a picture of me passed out on her living room couch.

The guy then took me to a waterfall and we went swimming. Then he took me to the train station so I could meet up with my next host.

It was great though!

18760-1548779744566.jpgPaul Arps/Flickr

35. Best Barter Ever

The craziest thing that I first think of was back in 2009, when it seemed like a good idea to visit Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe because I really wanted to see the Falls. This was at the end of the hyperinflation that wracked that country. By that point, you literally had to take in the currency yourself that you wanted to spend in U.S. dollars as they had run out of money to print in the machines; you had to shower with your mouth closed as they no longer had money to treat water against cholera (note: really easy and cheap thing to treat for, bad stuff has really and literally hit the fan when you can no longer treat water for this).

I still have a 100 trillion dollar Zimbabwe note from those times. The most interesting thing to think back on is how you'd buy two drinks from a place and they would look completely different, filled to different amounts and odds are the label was long ripped off as the bottles were reused so much.

So there were a lot of very nice but incredibly desperate people. My sister (who was with me) and I took her old tennis shoes to the market area as we'd heard you could barter there for souvenirs, and they were better then gold as you couldn't buy sneakers in Zimbabwe by this point even IF you had money. We got well over US$100 worth of handcrafted souvenirs for them, and I'd never seen a happier merchant at that deal as he was going to give them to his wife.

18762-1548780063160.jpgErin Johnson/Flickr

34. Cold But Welcome

I backpacked across all of Slovenia a few summers ago. We were helping out a missionary stationed over there by taking surveys from literally every household in every village along the route from Udine to Ljubljana on foot. If you live on the western side of Slovenia, I've probably met you before. It was pretty awesome.

Slovenia is definitely the most beautiful place I've ever been to on Earth. It's sad that most of the people living there couldn't see it, though, but I suppose if you see it every single day it looses its glamor. The most memorable part of the trip was when we were taking a shortcut through a forest trail and we decided to take a break by a stream and eat lunch. Then we noticed a suspended walkway that circled around the side of a large rock face and we decided to check it out. What we found was the waterfall Kozjak. The waterfall is about 15 meters high and, as you can imagine, the water was extremely cold but I took full advantage of the opportunity.



33. Longest Day Of Their Lives

My friend and I were in Ajmer and wanted to take a train to Varanasi in India. First class and the Sleeper classes were all sold out. We decided to buy the cheapest ticket just to get on the train, and then hope that a couple people wouldn't show up in one of the above classes, in which we'd thrown down some cash to the train guy for those beds. Turns out that there had been a big university examination going on in Ajmer and the train was fully packed with students trying to get back home. The train guy got angry that we hanging out in this section and put us in the sleeper class. There were people everywhere including all over the floor. You had trouble walking over people. The Sleeper class is gross. Ahh, India. The train ride was scheduled to be 16 hours long. Of course, the train ride wasn't 16 hours long. It kept stopping at random places for a very long time. My American friend and I were feeling like it was never going to end. Of course, we didn't have a surface to sleep on. We ended up making friends with a bunch of students on the train and had some really interesting conversations with them. The ride turned out to be 24 hours long. It was the biggest test of patience for us but the Indians didn't seem to mind at all. No one was complaining.


32. Driven Into The Deep End

Was hitch-hiking in far northwest Australia, got a lift from a guy in a semi. A few hours in he says he's pretty tired, asks me if I want to drive. I was a teenager, didn't even have a car license. I said no, but a little while later I notice him nodding off at 130kmh carrying 37 tons. So I said okay, I will give it a go. He showed me how to work the gearbox, waited till I got up to speed then clambered back into the sleeper for the next four hours. Was awesome.


31. Weeping Woman

Years ago, I was backpacking across western Europe. I was just outside of Barcelona, hiking in the foothills of mount Tibidabo. I was at the end of this path, and I came to a clearing, and there was a lake, very secluded, and there were tall trees all around. It was dead silent. Gorgeous. And across the lake I saw a beautiful woman, bathing herself. She was crying...


30. Night In The Fortress

I was wandering around the fortress in Namur, Belgium, and sat down on a bench overlooking the town, and took an hour to soak it all in, and just watch the world go by. Around 4 PM, I'm thinking it's time to leave, so I head back to the gate... and it's locked. It's 25 feet tall with metal spikes on top. I found a way to scale the inside wall, and ended up sitting on top of the pillar that the gate was attached to.

The problem was, there was a 30' deep trench on either side of the gate. So I sat up there until a local drove up and started cussing me out in what I assume was Flemmish, because it certainly wasn't French.

About 45 minutes later, an enormous man on a scooter drove by, then circled back. He started yelling at me in French (which, at least, I understood) and opened the gate for me.

So that night back at the youth hostel, I had a cool story about almost spending the night in the old fortress.


29. Positively Plummy

I backpacked the Long Trail back in 2006. Every few days I would get to a road, and if a town was close by, I would hitch in and get some real food. Yes, Ramen, tuna, and cheddar cheese get old.
One day, after four days of normal trail food, I asked a pair of older women if there were any food establishments near by. The closest was ten miles, which was way more then I wanted to travel. I said "thanks" and started to go on my way. "Wait!" one of them said. They decided they were going to make me a turkey and cheese sandwich, and they didn't stop there, they gave me a plum too.

Best. Plum. Ever.


28. Wake Up, We're Doing Gymnastics

Woke up in my hostel in Barcelona, very tired and not remembering much of the night before. One of my friends slapped me on the stomach and told me to get up, we're making a human pyramid. I got sick and then went and made a human pyramid.


27. Don't Sleep Alone

I spent the summer before starting college backpacking in the intermountain west of the United States. I went alone because I wanted to have some sort of Walden experience. Anyways, I was hiking along in Colorado and everything was going fine. I was about four days of hiking away from my car and hadn't seen a soul. On the fifth morning, I decided to take a picture of the sunrise coming up over the mountains. When I attempted to take the shot, I was informed by my camera that I had a full memory card. I remembered checking my camera the night before to see how much memory space I had left. Approximately 60 photos. Baffled, I hit the replay button on my camera. As I flipped through photograph after photograph I felt my stomach sinking. Allow me to describe to you the theme of the images. Vantage Point: tent door. Lighting: dim. ISO: high. Subject: myself snuggled up in my sleeping bag. Someone had taken photographs of me sleeping from my tent door. To reach my camera they would have had to step inside my tent, reach over me, open the right pocket of my pack, and retrieve the camera. All without waking me up. I don't camp alone anymore.


26. Solid Advice

I was three days into a five-day loop in the North Cacades along part of the Pacific Crest Trail. There had been a lot of flooding that spring and a bridge had washed out on the trail we meant to take. There was a signpost on the trail fork about a half mile beforehand saying to detour to the left in order to reach the nearest town. Somebody had posted a note saying something along the line of "we hiked for an hour along this route and never got to the town. There need to be better directions posted here." Below that was a response: "It's 50 miles. You need a MAP."


25. German? American? Who Knows?

Was staying at a traveler's hostel in Utah. Met a German guy in my shared room who spoke with a thick accent. Hard to understand. Spoke to him for an hour or so before going to bed. I was on the top bunk and he was in the bottom. I woke up at 3 AM that night to find him standing up staring at me, our noses virtually touching. I yelled "What the heck?", and he just smiled and retreated down to his bed. I didn't sleep for the rest of the night. As an added kicker, the next day he was speaking with no accent whatsoever and I found out he was born and raised in Arizona.


24. Subverting Preconceptions

Was backpacking in Paris, I know a very very little bit of French. Not enough to get me around. I was there anyway.

I booked a tour with a company that had their office in some backstreets about a five-minute walk away from a Metro station. Stupid, stupid me, didn't think that my directions needed to be super specific for me to understand. I didn't even know if I should have been "go[ing] right" from the exit that I took out of the Metro.

Got my backpack on, young girl with paper in her hands looking like she is late for a date with [insert attractive male celeb here] and this sweet old man walking along comes right up to me, and says "hello, can I help you?" Straight off the bat in English. I tell him yes please, I need to find [this street] because I have a tour there. Not only does he know where it is, he says that it is not far from where he is going, so he will walk me there.

He walked past the post office (where he was headed) asking me about life back home and telling me that he has always wanted to visit Melbourne but has never gotten around to it. He dropped me off at the tour office and I thanked him profusely.

This was my best experience. In the country that everyone told me "oh, no one will help you because you don't speak enough French. They're snotty and hate speaking English with travellers" I found this wonderful man who saved my day.


23. Lucky Birthday Party

Two years ago, I was just an ordinary Canadian on a road trip to Miami, got invited to a birthday party by a girl I met in Vienna. She tells me it's her friend, Travie Mccoy's birthday. At that time I had no idea who that was (thought it was some chick).

Summary of the night: Turns out she was rich and connected, private party, unlimited free drinks, T-Pain sang a few songs, Dennis Rodman is one huge guy, got wild with semi-famous people.


22. Proof Of A Small World

I had been a few days in Warsaw, and I decided to go out alone Friday night. Since I was alone I didn't expect anything, and I didn't speak Polish. A few beverages in, and an English speaking group came in, two Poles, an Englishman, a Scotsman, and a Dane.

I fell into a conversation with them and joined their table. After a few more they wanted to go hopping place to place and they wanted me to join them. So we went hopping in Warsaw and had a pretty wild night. We got separated in the end, which was a bit sad, because they were really awesome.

I never expected to see them again, but here's the funny thing.

A few days later, I'm still in Warsaw and at a restaurant to get some quick food. Well, guess who is my server? One of the Polish girls. That's cool.

Few days later, I'm heading out of Warsaw on a plane to Malmø. Guess who is on my flight? The Danish guy. The plane had free seating, so we could sit next to each other and talk for the one hour flight. I'm friends with him on Facebook, and I still talk to him occasionally, since we both live in Copenhagen.

A few months ago, his Scot friend came to visit him, and we went on another  hopping adventure, this time in Copenhagen.

When you've been backpacking for a while, you realize that the world isn't that big after all. This is the story I tell to illustrate that point.

18775-1548782140434.jpgfortune cookie/Flickr

21. Make Your Own Fun

I had a layover in Kyoto, Japan and had met some other backpackers on the plane who also had a layover. The five of us went out and ate dinner, had some drinks and pretty much just started walking around the city looking for a place we wouldn't embarrass ourselves in.

Suddenly this giant bus (like a coach) rolls up, and the bus driver asks us if we'd like to go to a restaurant. For whatever reason, we decide to go and get on the bus. We are all handed one drink each and went to sit down at the back of the bus. There was a TV mounted to the roof and people were passing around a microphone singing karaoke.

We got to someplace kinda rural and piled off the bus. It was like a few semi trailers that had been stacked together, the walls broken down in between them, and cheap wooden panels mounted everywhere. But other than that it was a regular place with tables, chairs and, of course, karaoke. Most people there were Westerns. We had a lot of fun. Took a taxi home.

Through the course of the night, we did learn that the place was created for the flight crews of European and American airlines so that they would have somewhere to go and hang out in Kyoto.


20. Footbath In The Wilderness

Last year I went walking in the Pennines for a couple of weeks. I was a bit lost, to be honest, and wouldn't make it to the campsite I was aiming for in time, and I ended up walking along a canal. Next to it was was a little area with makeshift benches and shelters, and the guys who lived on the boats and some homeless people were hanging around. One guy asked if I needed somewhere to camp, and said "anywhere here". I spent the night around a fire with them all and met some really interesting people. Then when I was talking about my sore feet I was offered a footbath. I politely declined but was given a tub of water with some salts and stuff to put my feet in anyway. It was rather surreal, hanging out with these guys and having a footbath in a place I'd never visited, but it was really pleasant.


19. Sweaty And Victorious

Hiking in the Guatemalan jungle when a huge rainstorm hits in the middle of the night. Sounds like the world's ending— thunder, lightning, wind. Wake up to a howler monkey with obvious lung problems coughing and howling in the tree above us. Eating breakfast, so tired after a 35KM hike the day before and a tree falls almost killing our guide. Spend the next day stumbling through the green wall of jungle with a guide who hikes in gum boots and seems to be a natural GPS. Arrive at Tikal in the mid- afternoon with plump tourists in trolleys being carted around. My hiking mate and I have bathed in our own sweat for three days but both of us have huge grins as we down cold orange fantas and remember the awesome sites— millions of bats, toucans, monkeys and temples covered in jungle.


18. Scratch And Sweep

I was staying in a hostel in Brugge, Belgium, in a room with about 20 beds. One of my roommates was this young Japanese guy who didn't speak English but was friendly enough to mingle with a group of America girls and I let him borrow a bottle opener. That was the normal stuff.

Before bed, he started this process of scratching his skin while standing. He systematically moved all over his body while everyone that was awake did the whole awkward "Is this really happening; should we say something?". After about 10 minutes he takes some clothes off and crawls into his top bunk and continues scratching. Five minutes scratching followed by sweeping clean his blanket of skin flakes. Five more minutes scratching. Sweeping. After about 15 minutes he finally lays down and someone hits the lights. More scratching. Sweeping.

All in all, it seemed to be a 30 minute process for him. I just feel bad for the guy on the bottom bunk. It probably looked like he was snowed on during the night.


17. Chain Of Communication

Me and a friend were on our last night in Scotland, we had an early morning flight. So rather than crashing in the airport and being bored all night, we decided to crawl Rose Street instead.

We started out in a pub, had a couple beverages, but it closed really early at 9 PM. The bartender said, "Don't worry some of the other places stay open later," so we went down the street to pub number two. Before we know it, it's last call — this place closed at 10 PM So we go down the road to pub number three. We walk up to order and the bartender says, "About time you two got here."

The bartender we had been chatting with at the first place had apparently called down the road and warned them we were coming their way.


16. Nothing But Paper

Four years ago I was backpacking Europe with my sister. We had just started travelling: we were taking the train from Paris to Amsterdam, but since we were doing this without spending too much money, we had to wait for four hours in the middle of the night in Lille. I thought we could spend the night in the station but no, they closed, so we were forced to find a quiet and safe place to spend the night.

While we were wandering, all of a sudden another guy with a backpack came out from nowhere and started chatting with us. I thought, hey, another traveler, maybe he knows where to spend the night!

Well, he started by saying that he was travelling like us and had just arrived. Then he invited us to his house. Nope, dude, you told me you just arrived and were supposed to leave in a couple of hours. Why do you have a house?

Then I look into his backpack and... it was full of paper. The kind of paper balled up you might find in new shoes. So, either this guy was lying or was travelling with just paper. Either way, I did not want to pass the night with this dude.

The only problem was that my very friendly sister was oblivious to this and wanted to stay with the guy. He spoke our language, so I could not tell her what was going on.

So basically this guy started following us around until we met another dude who was lost in the city and they started talking. I took my sister aside and slowed down until we could turn and go away from them... last thing I heard the creepy guy was inviting the lost dude to his house. Always wondered if the lost dude survived the night...


15. Fuel Stays Away From Fire!

One time I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail around northern Georgia. It poured the day before and everyone in my group was hanging their gear in the shelter to dry. A less experienced group of hikers were camping outside the shelter in tents, and they decided to start a fire to dry off. One of them decides "Hey, why not use some of the liquid camping fuel to start the fire", so he pours some onto the fire and sets aside the bottle. His wife, upon seeing the fire, decides that now is the time to start drying her clothes; she leans over the fire while her husband is still tending to it and accidentally knocks the fuel over onto the flame, sending a literal river of fire down the trail and accidentally igniting the man's long sleeve shirt. No one was harmed and the forest didn't catch on fire, but I finally got to see someone on fire actually drop and roll.


14. Sleeps Like The Dead

Running around screaming, searching for my friend who just vanished on a pitch black beach in Japan. The next morning I saw him sleeping about five metres from where I spent the most time yelling and searching. He had not taken any substances or anything, he is just the heaviest sleeper.


13. Decision Of A Lifetime

During my first trip out of the USA, I was debating whether I wanted to go to Ireland or Germany. After weighing both options I decided on Ireland. Go to Ireland and have an amazing time.

On my last night out in Ireland, I meet a drop-dead gorgeous German girl at The Temple Bar. We hit it off and talk until three in the morning even though my flight leaves at 9 AM. We exchange contact info and have three awkward hugs because both of us are too shy to try to kiss the other.

We stay in contact during and after the trip. I tell all my friends and family about this amazing German girl I met in Ireland and jokingly call her "My German Wife".

Fast forward two years and I am living in Germany with her and we are getting married in June.


12. Wildly Chaotic Ride

I was once in Frankfurt, had just arrived and found the nearest hostel that did not have a homeless guy who had soiled himself out front. There was an Australian girl in front of me checking in. They were nearly sold out and wanted almost $100. I told the girl I would split a room with her at a hotel for that and she agrees. We call a cab and a large black Mercedes picks us up. We jump in and as I sit and reach to my left for the seatbelt, the driver flips a U-turn. As he does, I catch a flash of motion and it registers that the motion is a car and it is going to hit us. I drop the seatbelt and brace, the girl never saw it, and we got T-boned. I was okay, but the car hit on the girl's side and her head hit the door pillar. She was not bleeding but she was out cold. A crowd formed and I was yelling at people to call an ambulance. After the hospital trip, I spent the next three days taking care of her at a hotel while she recovers. We decided to go to Prague after.

18764-1548780468724.jpgCasey Hugelfink/Flickr

11. The Courage Of An Old Soldier

We go and spend the entire day at Auschwitz. That night we are waiting on the bus and there is an old man sitting there. I recognized him from the bus ride over and said hello. He greets me and his eyes are red from crying. He is American. He tells me he fought in WWII and helped liberate other death camps. He has lived in Poland for eight years and made the decision to visit Auschswitz to try and understand why. For two years he has made the bus ride from Oschwiem but he does not have the courage to go inside. He sits on the bench all day until the bus comes back. It was a powerful moment after a powerful day.



10. Small World Theft

I got robbed by someone who went to my high school in Bolivia. (I went to high school in Maryland but did an exchange.)

So I was walking down the streets of La Paz at around 10:00 AM with a friend. We hear a voice speaking gruff, unaccented American English, "Hey, hey you guys." We turn around. There is a white guy who looks like he's been on the streets for years. His hands are black. He asks where we are from, saying he is from DC. We are like, "We're from DC too!" He asks us where in DC. We say technically not DC, but a suburb. He says, "I went to high school X." It was the same high school my friend and I went to.

Anywho, he invites us on a tour of San Pedro prison. We don't trust him, so we go to an Internet cafe. The prison tour is technically illegal, but recognized as a legit tourist attraction. We meet up within, pay him for the tour. He goes to talk to a guard, telling us to stay put to avoid more bribes. After talking to the guard for a few minutes, some Bolivians helpfully point out we are being robbed. We run after him. He runs down an alley, never to be seen again.

18759-1548779641466.jpgCliff Hellis/Flickr

9. The Politest Theft

I was on a train in Paris about this time last year when my friend and I were on our way to meet some people down at the Moulin Rouge. I was eating a cup of noodles with a fork I'd liberated from the hostel. When this lovely gent stands up to leave the train, sort of half bows with his head down and hands together and ever so gently takes my noodles from me. Says 'merci' a couple of times and departs the train.

I wasn't even mad, it was beautiful. The way he took them was just great, one of my favorite parts of the trip. I don't know why, it just felt awesome.

18748-1548778564022.jpgMichael Verhoef/Flickr

8. Birthday In Japan

Had my 19th birthday backpacking in Japan. I was in Sendai and backpacking alone, so was taking myself out to a Hot Pot dinner and a man walks out of his hole in the wall bar and starts asking me where I'm from. When he finds out it's my birthday the next day he invites me to his other restaurant for a party when I finish dinner. I show up and it's free deep fried food on sticks and drinks until midnight. All his friends turned up and filled up the place. When they ask me how old I was turning I said 23 because I didn't know the legal drinking age and they all seemed to be late 20s. At midnight, breaks out more higher end beverages free of charge and I feel far gone. Bar owner talks to my super strict hostel owner (who he happens to know) and gets him to give me the key so I can stay out past curfew. Next day, sick until 6 PM. They have invited me back for a second round. I show up and all the same people come again with birthday gifts! They sing happy birthday. More free drinks and deep fried food on sticks. The bar owner gifts me a schoolgirl uniform and I put it on over my clothes. They bring out a cake with 23 candles. At the end of the night, I wrote down my email so they could all keep in touch.


7. Snicker Wars

I was hiking in the backcountry in southeast Alaska with ten other students as a part of an undergraduate summer program. We spent seven weeks in a tent and did two backpacking trips. The second trip was 20 days long. Anyway, one of our instructors carried Snickers in his pack, and used them to barter with the students. (Snickers become a valuable commodity when you only rely on the food that you carried in.)

I bartered for a Snickers in exchange for buying two ice cream cones when we got back into town. Saved the Snickers until around day 17. We took a resting break, and I pull out my Snickers. Some of the students tried to pressure me to share it. It almost broke out into a fist fight with one of the girls... over a Snickers! I didn't know someone could get so worked up over food, but you sure do when you're out hiking for that long.


6. A Groovy Evening

Backpacking through Great Britain just post college with my cousin. Summer solstice '99, we make our way out to Avebury for the evening and set up camp. Avebury is like a whole town built around a Stonehenge-style place with a huge mound and a point stone that the sun rises over with the solstice.

We spent the day playing frisbee golf with the dolmens around town.

We camped with this hippy group with plenty of party favors to go around. Spent the whole night singing to guitar and beating on pots and pans. I can't really put it into words how crazy the evening was, just very surreal. Stayed up the night and climbed the mound to watch the sun rise over the point stone.

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5. The Deer Want What You Leave Behind

Right, well, you know how deer are big jerks? I was packing out in Sequoia on the HST and spent a night at Bearpaw meadow, which is a slum. It gets a lot of traffic and the local wildlife are accustomed to getting food from hikers, so they have very little fear. Had the whole place to myself because it was very early season.

Most backpackers know that deer will lick up human urine for the salt (they have a natural salt deficiency). These deer weren't that patient. They started by just licking up the puddle as I was peeing, but they started to fight over it and took to drinking it mid-stream. The thing about deer is, you can't fight them. And they wouldn't scare off. So I just had these creepy deer following me around waiting for me to take a leak so they could have a sip, and they would chase and nip at each other within very short range of me. It was terrifying. I've never seen such aggressive deer before or since.

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4. I Rode With An Axe Murderer

I was trying to make my way from Vienna to Budapest, and I found this guy on who was doing just that. He pulls up in this tiny yellow sports car. I throw my pack in the trunk, and I get in. The guy introduces himself as Victor from Bulgaria. The man is covered in fur. Fur on fur on fur. He's clearly a very lavish Bulgarian.

He spends half an hour trying to find his way to the highway, while explaining to me that all couchsurfers (me) are the weird and insane. A few minutes after this, I look down near the gear shift to find an ax. An old, rusty ax. I ask Victor about it, and he says that usually he carries a gun with him, but he can't do that in Austria, so he carries an ax in case he gets into a 'spot'.

During our drive to Budapest he goes on and on about how first the Soviets invaded and now the goddamn windmills. The spawn of Satan and ugliest things on earth.

We get to the outskirts of Budapest and he drops me off on the side of the street nowhere near anything. Luckily I walk long enough until I find a train station, I hop on a random train and make it to the society and the most important place during my travels--Starbucks, the land of almost free bathrooms and wifi.


3. No Man Is An Island

I went kayaking in the San Juans and experienced something super weird. In my crossing from Shaw to San Juan, we hit bad weather and landed on Spieden to wait it out. Now, the law is that anyone can land on a private island as long as they stay below the high tide line, which we did. Spieden is known as the old hunting island because there used to be a lot of animals imported from all over the world for hunters to shoot at. We are talking lions and tigers and bears here, and there are still some sikas left on the island. So we are waiting out the storm on the beach when out of the woods comes three black SUV's and men in uniforms that can only be described as resort security. They had all black suits and raincoats. About 5 of the men approach my kayaking party and one of them tells us we need to leave the island right now. My buddy explains to them that it wouldn't be safe and as long as we stay below the high tide line, we can legally be there. The dude talking to us very purposefully reaches inside his suit and reveals the end of a gun. He once again repeats that we need to leave the island right now or else they will make us leave. So we hustle back in our kayaks and cross over to some millionaire's private island nearby.

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2. Not A Prince

I was traveling across Canada by myself for the first time this summer, and I ended up being in Calgary for the Stampede. My best friend who lived in Calgary worked so I went to explore the festivities by myself. Ran into this seemingly nice guy who was dressed up in cowboy getup, and he told me I looked lost. I informed him I wanted to find boots, he told me he could show me where to find some, sounded like a nice guy.

He asks me if I want to see Princes Island and I stupidly say yes, because there are TONS of people around if anything bad happens, I can go for help, plus I wanted to see the island before hand. We head to the island and there is caution tape everywhere, no one is around, no signs, it looks sketchy. I ask if this is actually the island and he ensures that it is, and points to a creepy looking path saying the best view is down there. The entire time we're walking, he's going on about how he thinks it's crazy I don't have a boyfriend, that I'm really pretty, etc.

The path looks sketchy and I'm like woah no way, lol lets head back. He's all like no its safe, come on, best view you'll get great pictures. gut tells me no, i start walking away, he kinda seems annoyed but follows me out off the island. He asks for my phone number, give him a fake and tell him I have to run.

This is turning out way longer than I wanted. ANYWAY, The next day my best friend takes me around Calgary and we go to Princes Island. Guess what. ITS A DIFFERENT PLACE. WHERE WAS I WITH THIS GUY?!? I was really freaked out and kind of came to a realization at how dangerous that situation could have been. That was the only creepy thing that happened to me in my 4 months of traveling though!

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1. Tuk Tuk Terror

I have a lot of really strange stories but I'll sum them up quickly. This is the story about the scariest night of my whole life. I was traveling south east Asia with my best gal pals. We were in Bangkok when three of us decided to go on a bit of an adventure, we ended up taking an overpriced tuktuk ride to a ping pong show (look it up.) When we left that sketchy hole in the wall, there were a bunch of taxi drivers trying to offer us the best deal. We were about to hop into a cab when another driver offered to take us back to our hostel for 35 baht which equals about one dollar Canadian for a 20 minute ride. I thought, yeah, no way, but my friends convinced me it was okay so we get in his cab.

Thinking back on it now I realize how stupid we were, anyway the whole cab ride the dude is fidgeting with his radio, never landing on a station because he was pressing the button too fast. I nudged my friend and told her to open the window in case something happens and whisper to them both to stuff their valuables into their bras and stuff. The guy starts driving into obscure areas and tells us to close the window, we say no, we don't feel well and we need it open. Then he says he needs to pull over and go to the bathroom and starts down a dark, empty alley. Panic mode sets in, I start screaming at him that he can't go to the bathroom and he needs to take us back, we all ended up yelling at the guy for fear that he was going to mug us and leave us there, he was sweating balls and was über sketchy looking. We scream him into submission and he drives us home. Just as we were leaving the alley I notice a group of guys who had been sitting in the shadows, they were wearing masks and one of them was holding a switchblade and another had a glock in the waist of his jeans. I'm pretty sure those guys were the drivers pals who were going to make out with our money. Thank goodness for deafening lady screams.

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