It’s my birthday in a couple of days. As is customary, I haven’t bothered to organise anything for it. I have, however, been craving some delicious cake, so I wrangled one of my friends into going for a drive to get some.
While stuffing our faces with vanilla cupcakes and vegan sausage rolls, we got talking about travel. Or, rather, I did…as is customary. God knows how — but every traveller will attest its inevitability — but the conversation circled around to poop stories. Upon laying mine down on the table, the two of us were in fits of laughter at the absurdity of my self-induced disgraces.
Buoyed that my embarrassing experiences — while, at the time, were sources of great distress — could prove so entertaining, I plundered the depths of my memories and unearthed a handful more.
And now, I pass my humiliation onto you, dear readers. May you revel in a small dose of shadenfreude if you’re having a crappy day, or — if you’re presently cowering beneath a rock somewhere in the world, shamed by your own behavioural or bodily limitations — know that you’re in good, albeit embarrassing, company.
Also note that this is not an exhaustive list (believe it or not). I didn’t include certain experiences that toed the line between, say, humiliation and horror. I haven’t included the time I agreed to accompany a new friend to his house, only to clean up a whole lot of blood. Or the time an angry monkey attacked my foot. Or the time I had my bank card scammed from me in Cape Town, and chased the thieves through a crowded shopping mall.
Those are both stories for other times. Today, I exist only to entertain.
Enjoy, friends! (I recommend skipping the first two if you’re currently eating, a bit squeamish, or don’t love a good poop story…though, honestly, you’re missing out.)
1. Puking and shitting myself half to death in a Bangkok hospital.
Behold, people: the pinnacle of my humiliation.
As is how many travel bug stories start, I ate something that I shouldn’t have. I still don’t know what — doctors could only narrow down the window to one day, during which I was in two different cities and consumed food from five or six street stalls and restaurants.
Around 7:30pm, I started to feel a bit off. Nothing overwhelming, just a little woozy. I caught a taxi back to my rented apartment, while my boyfriend at the time chose to walk. By the time he reached me, I’d spiralled so quickly that I was facedown on the bathroom floor, peeling myself up only to either vomit or shit in alternating 15-minute intervals.
Alex insisted on calling an ambulance. I stubbornly refused, in between accidentally inhaling the odour of my disgrace and hurling in disgust. Sometimes, I needed to evacuate both ends at once…and was forced to make split-second choices.
Honestly, if you’ve ever seen the episode of South Park where Stan’s dad gets a stomach bug, and the hilarity that follows…yeah, picture that. Except by the time Alex out-stubborned me and arranged my swift transfer to a fancy private hospital, and doctors performed their tests…it became apparent that I really was quite unnervingly ill. You know the pinch test that determines how dehydrated you are? Yeah — my skin didn’t unpinch.
My skin was corpse-grey. I reeked because of how many times I’d soiled myself (and hadn’t thought to bring a change of clothes). Despite that I had barely anything left in me, I couldn’t stop passing fluids — which now contained a horrifying amount of blood. And, because I usually didn’t get warning in between waves, this all took place in full view of my boyfriend…and four or five medical staff.
Thankfully, after two days of forcing liquid back into my body via drip, I was just well enough to eat again (a hospital diet of mashed potato and jelly and what appeared to be alien fillets, but food nonetheless), and be discharged. My medical bills totalled about $1300…which is why you must get travel insurance, people!
2. Crapping my pants on an overnight train in India…twice.
It’s every traveller’s nightmare: getting ill on long-distance transport.
I got sick because I mistakenly let a staff member at a popular tourist restaurant in Hampi refill my water bottle behind the scenes. Long story short, it wasn’t filtered water, he lied to me, and may swift justice in the form of slipping in donkey crap descend upon him.
For weeks, I was unable to eat or drink or do much at all, because I couldn’t leave the bathroom for more than five minutes without everything I’d consumed that day rushing back out again.
Eventually, my illness subsided for long enough to travel between cities. I met up with my new travel buddy in Bangalore, who graciously took it upon himself to care for me and keep my spirits up. We resolved to return to Hampi for Holi by overnight train. I’d been feeling sketchy that day, and probably should have taken some Imodium tablets or something…but I didn’t, and made the mistake of falling asleep.
I awoke with a start when I projectile-crapped my pants.
Trust me when I tell you: that realisation, and resulting experience of hurriedly climbing down from your top bunk, trying not to wake anybody up, while feeling liquid shame trickle down the back of your legs; of washing your clothes in a bathroom the size of a shower, with filthy tap water that’s hitting the sink and ricocheting upwards, drenching you in the very liquid that made you sick in the first place; of attempting to slip back into your soaking wet shit-clothes while being thrown from wall to wall because, y’know, you’re in a train bathroom, and weren’t able to get to any of your clean clothes, and crying hysterically with your pants half-down at the injustice of it all; is unparalleled.
Somehow, I cleaned myself up, and returned quietly to my bunk. No one — not even Billy — saw what happened. I eventually fell back asleep, cold and shivering and sniffling…and then it happened all over again.
3. Realising, three hours before an international flight, I’d accidentally sent my passport home with my parents…six hours’ north.
I wrote about this in more detail here — my first ever post. Spoiler alert: I still made my flight.
4. Detained at the UK border.
5. Stung on the face by a bee.
A friend and I were riding scooters through northeast Thailand, doing 80km/ph on a winding back road when something tickled my right cheek. I brushed it away, and immediately felt searing pain down the side of my face. I nearly lost control of the scooter, and quickly pulled over so I wouldn’t crash into a ditch.
I can only assume a bee was to blame. My cheek reddened angrily and puffed up over the course of a couple of hours, partially obscuring my eye. I looked ridiculous — and, when we checked into our guesthouse later that day, the staff took one look at me and shot accusatory glances at my male travel buddy. We hastily explained what happened and that Ian had not, in fact, been beating me.
Still, the concern was nice.
6. Mouth-kissed by a giraffe.
There’s a wildlife education centre in Nairobi where you can not only learn about giraffes, but feed them, either by holding pellets in your hand or — if you’re feeling brave — stick them between your teeth.
I was talked into doing the latter, and cringed as a long, blue, slimy (but antiseptic, at least) tongue darted in and out of my mouth, taking the pellet with it.
Reminded me of my worst-ever kiss; twelfth grade, with a sleazeball named Matt. Dude, wherever you are now: you kiss like a giraffe. So there.
7. Accidentally getting drunk off banana wine and nearly passing out on the floor of my truck.
Once, in my past life as a tour leader, I had a precious few hours of passenger-free bliss. I chose to spend it relaxing by the pool at our campsite, and drinking my last two bottles of banana wine I didn’t want to see go to waste.
It’s worth noting here that not only had these bottles been rolling around in my boiling hot locker for weeks, but I’d bought an entire six pack in Rwanda for the equivalent of a couple of dollars. So I got (unexpectedly) outrageously drunk off a small quantity of alcohol, over a pittance. I am nothing if not a cheapskate.
I then unfortunately chose to lie down on the floor in the back of my truck…and was discovered by my passengers, who’d just returned from a day tour.
Needless to say, I made a fabulous impression.
8. Thrown into the Nile…sans pants.
One of my (unofficial) guidelines as a tour leader in Africa encouraged drinking with passengers. There was no better opportunity to do so than on several booze cruises dotted throughout our itinerary. Two hours, unlimited spirits.
They always went like this: you ordered your gin and tonic, and sipped it casually while conversing with truck buddies on the top deck. Conversation flowed freely, scenery would roll by — maybe you’d get a refill for good measure. The pace was unhurried and relaxing.
Then, you’d see the dock approaching in the distance, realise you hadn’t got your time and/or money’s worth, and immediately rush to the bar and down as many shots of vodka as you could, to chants of “tour leader does the shots!” By the time the boat pulled up on shore, you were utterly paralytic — and escapades unfolded.
In my case, some cheeky bugger ripped my skirt off and threw me into the Nile. I resurfaced just in time to see his bare tackle soar over my head as he jumped in after me, stark naked.
Other events of the evening involved losing one of my thongs (a traditional reoccurrence every time I passed through Jinja, Uganda), misplacing my truck keys and fearing they’d sunk to the bottom of the river, pole dancing in the bar, and waking up in someone else’s tent.
9. Every time I fell off a thing.
I’m a clumsy clot and have a knack for falling: backwards off boats when waves and rapids hit, from rocks I boldly attempted to jump between, and sideways off a scooter when I attempted to ride with my petite Vietnamese friend, and proved heavy enough that she couldn’t keep it upright. Flattering. I managed to catch two of these incidents on video, which (perhaps mercifully for me) has been lost to the sands of time.
10. Scrubbed, fondled, and nearly frozen to death in Laos.
Read here why I’ll never again attempt to pamper myself overseas. In short: I signed up for a massage and full body scrub in Vientiane, Laos, and spent two hours in a freezing cold room being entombed in lotion, losing my skin, and having my breasts felt up.