Travelers Share The Overseas Close Calls That Still Keep Them Up At Night

Travelers Share The Overseas Close Calls That Still Keep Them Up At Night

No travel comes without risk. Every time you step our your door, you enter a world where tragic and unexpected events take place all the time. No matter how much care you take, you can't shield yourself from everything.

On the other hand, there are plenty of things you can do to drastically increase your chances of having a dangerous experience when you're traveling -- not that we're blaming anyone for their misfortune.

The folks below all have one thing in common. They all had scary close calls while traveling that still leave them contemplating how lucky they are. It's a good reminder that anything can go wrong... but it could always be worse.


40. Thank You, Liam Neeson

I'm a blonde, blue-eyed girl, and I look innocent and younger than my years.

I went to London for the Olympics. This random guy started hanging around me when I was out shopping. Even though I was trying to ignore him, he kept talking about how I should go to this 'party' with him. He was very very handsome and charismatic.

If I hadn't seen Taken, I probably would have taken him up on his offer. It was almost exactly that kind of situation.

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39. I Wonder If He Was Telling The Truth...

I lived and worked in South Korea for a year.

Late one afternoon, a friend and I decided to go to the grocery store. We are both Americans and lived in a smaller city where foreigners were more of a rare sighting. This will get you some stares and maybe some curious questions but not much else...usually...

The store we needed to get to was a bit far away, so we decided to take a cab (taxis in Korea are super cheap). Depending on the English proficiency of the taxi driver, sometimes they will strike up a conversation with you. My friend, being a super friendly girl and better at the Korean language than I, happily chatted with him about where we were from and what we liked about living in Korea etc. while I just gazed out the window. His English was broken but he seemed nice enough, nothing to cause alarm.

So about five minutes pass by when I begin to notice that we are driving in the exact opposite direction of the grocery store and heading out into the more remote villages that surround the city. At first I thought I'd made a mistake in giving him directions (again, my Korean is just barely passable), so I repeated it to him. He just smiles and replies in Korean, which my friend translates to: "I want to take you somewhere and show you something first." We tell him no, we just want to go to the grocery store. He refuses to turn around and insists that he needs to show us something first.

Needless to say, two Western women in a car with a strange man begin to freak out. My friend repeatedly tells him, in Korean, to stop and let us out. He keeps insisting that he wants to show us something. Outside the sky is getting darker and the buildings are getting smaller and farther apart.

I begin rummaging through my bag to get my cell phone to call the police. Oh, goody! Dead battery. I look through my bag again and find a box cutter I had used for a work project the day before and forgot about. At the same time, my friend finds her pepper spray.

She repeats again in Korean to STOP THE CAR and shows him the pepper spray. Guy slams on the brakes. We all get out. She is brandishing her pepper spray and I my tiny box cutter. The cabbie puts his hands together and begins blubbering out an explanation.

Turns out, he and his friend had built a karaoke room in his house (karaoke is big in Korea) and he was so excited to be making friends with Americans that he wanted to show it to us. The look on his face when he tried to explain.... you would think we had just murdered his puppy. We paid him for the ride out to nowhere, but insisted he call for another cab to come pick us up despite his protests that he would take us back into town for free.

A year and a half in Asia and that was the scariest thing to happen to me. HOWEVER, Korea in general is relatively safe and it's an awesome country. I would recommend it to anybody.

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38. Pinky Swear?

Probably my closest call was being in a yazkuza-owned hot spring as the only foreigner.

When I first entered the baths, I noticed every single person had a tattoo and/or missing pieces of fingers. That was pretty startling, but they ended up being pretty chill and even complimented my half-sleeve.

It's not that I thought they would harm me, but to be surrounded by people who you know do seriously heinous stuff... it's pretty intimidating.

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37. Last Minute Escape

I was studying abroad in Mexico in college. We had been told repeatedly as women not to cab alone, especially at night. Ordinarily myself and my housemate would cab with a girl who was staying down the street from us when we came home from the bar/club/discoteca but this particular time, my housemate had decided to stay later.

We asked the driver to drop her off first and, because it was only around the corner, I figured the cab ride would be okay. After we dropped her off, I was practicing my conversational Spanish with the driver... that is, until he turned down an alley instead of onto my street. I told him he was going the wrong way and he said the road was closed and we had to go this way.

He then asked me if I like "doing it". Alllllll my Spanish went out the window. I told him to pull over and he instead sped up and asked he again. He told me he was in the mood to hook up with someone right now.

So I opened the car door and tumbled out. He followed me in the cab while I ran to the house I was staying in, and stayed outside on the street for several minutes after I was safe in the house.

Not a fun experience. But yes, it easily could have been avoided if I hadn't taken the cab home, as my school and houseparents had repeatedly told us.

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36. Don't Hook Up With Crocodiles

I visited Egypt during the overthrow of Morsi. My hotel was 3-4 blocks from Tahrir square. Eventually, tanks surrounded my hotel. You could hear gun shots and see smoke. On the way out of the country, a corrupt "general" handcuffed my friend because he had a laser pointer, and demanded a bribe or he'd go to jail.

It was cool to be the only one at the Pyramids though. Also bit depressing.

Also, when I was in Thailand and I went to a crocodile show, and bribed them $7 to let me play with the crocodiles (I hadn't slept for a few days so I was an idiot). I got a pretty awesome photo of myself kissing the crocodile, but in hindsight that was probably not a good idea, especially because the handler had scars all over his arms from being bitten.

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35. Don't Fight Big Mama

Went to Sri Lanka. It's awesome. Went walking on a nature trail with a guide and a translator. Showed us some wonderful insect species and birds, flowers and some cool snakes.

It was getting towards dusk at about 5pm and we were walking through some dense forest on a well worn path. I am plodding along and nearly run into the back of the guide who has stopped stock still, he is holding his fist up in a "halt" kind of manner. He is absolutely motionless, eyes focused on something dead ahead.

I ask the translator what is going on. He only replies with one word.


The guide slowly steps back to us and speaks something in his language to the translator.

"Mother and baby, ahead in the bushes. We have to go back, no way around."

And go back we did. I did a bit of a poo when he said "elephants" as I know how dangerous they can be, especially around their young. In Sri Lanka, they kill people pretty routinely. If we had been alone, we would have been finished.

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34. The Reddest Of Flags

While visiting my friend abroad in Japan, her husband low key threatened me. I was staying at their house on a military base and we were already on the base when it went down. (FYI to get on or off of a military base you need someone on base to vouch for you and be with you when you come or go, so no calling a cab from inside, at least not for me as a visitor.)

We had stopped at a convenience store so my friend could grab cold medicine, while she was inside he was in the front (driving) and I was in the back seat, and he got really creepy. Not even looking at me, he said my full name very slowly enunciating every syllable and then said some things about how I was poisoning his wife’s mind and they were better off alone without anyone to interfere and I better mind my own business and shut my mouth going forward. Then my friend got back in the car and he immediately switched back to faux cheerful and talking about his upcoming trip back to the US.

I was stunned and sat in silence in the back seat and went up to the spare room I was staying in as soon as we got back. I didn’t want to stay there but I knew that I would need a ride to a hotel and I didn’t really have money to stay at a hotel anyways, and my friend wouldn’t hear of me staying at a hotel without a real reason which I didn’t exactly feel comfortable sharing with her at the time. The most unnerving part of it all— her husband collects handguns and the room I was staying in was his gym/ target practice room. Earlier in the week my friend had told me that he was having trouble not getting his aggression out because I was staying in that room, so he was extra on edge.

So yeah, didn’t sleep well that night at all with a threat from an aggression filled marine with a gun hobby. Thankfully left the next morning.

Later, I tried to voice my concerns which she brushed off entirely until I told her about the above interaction; she then at least admitted something was off and he shouldn’t have done that, but that was it. They’re back in the US now which I think is better for them, but I still don’t like him. I’m just hoping she comes to her senses sooner rather than later.


33. Never Play Chicken

Went hiking in the Himalayas in Nepal when I was 18 with a friend. We were the only girls on the hike. The entire time on the first day our Nepalese guide (probably early 30’s married man) told us we were going to have a ‘chicken’ party when we got to our first night stay in a village in the mountains. Not knowing what this was, we were very hesitant.

Turns out 'chicken party' meant that all the guys on the trek (guides and male trekkers alike) got hideously hammered and started ramming on our super thin, wooden door with a cheap, flimsy lock, clucking like idiots. We spent the whole night sitting with our backs pressing against the door to stop them coming in and doing god knows what to us. It was seriously creepy.

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32. The Company You Keep

I was arrested in Japan after only being there for 42 hours. I thought I was there for a wedding, but it turns out my traveling companion had other plans.

My travel companion had decided it would be a fantastic idea to mail illegal substances to our hotel room (without my knowledge). When I got the call from the front desk that there was ‘luggage’ for us at the front desk, I assumed he had forgotten something downstairs. I was unaware of what was going on when he instead brought up a small envelope package. He opened it immediately, and... I was horrified at what was in there.

Five minutes later, 10 Japanese police officers burst into the room and went through all our luggage, took our passports and put us both in handcuffs. The entire time I had a stunned look on my face, and kept asking, "What is going on?" No one answered me.

I was unable to contact any family or friends after being arrested. This is applies to everyone, no matter what the charge.

Then began the worst travel experience of my life. I will make a long story short in saying that it took 35 days, two high powered lawyers from Tokyo and becoming semi-fluent in Japanese to get myself released without charge. The same cannot be said for my traveling companion, who ended up in jail for much, much longer.

The biggest takeaway here (this should be a no-brainer, but just in case!): never ever smuggle anything into another country.

Although I had nothing to do with this case of smuggling, it still took a very long time for me to prove I was innocent. And believe you me, they left absolutely no stone unturned in their investigation. Japan has a 99.5% conviction rate. The fact that I was released without charge further proved my innocence.

I lost 25 lbs, and when I returned home I lost most of my hair from the sudden weight loss and stress.

I have not let this hinder my love of travel, though! Not even a year after the incident, I went back to Japan (without the companion) to explore what I did not get to experience the first time. I will keep traveling till the day I die, and I will tell this story to my grandchildren, along with all the other amazing stories I have collected along the way.

Krysta Storer


31. Oh, That's Just Dave

I went to Kiev shortly before the conflict broke out, and the very first thing I saw walking out of the train station was this enraged naked guy savagely striking random passersby with a leather belt, right outside of the station. The most distressing part was that everyone was walking around him like it happened all the time.



30. Strawberry Blonde Forever

My hair is a very unique shade of strawberry blonde.

Anyway...when I was a teenager my parents and I lived in Singapore for a little while and we visited parts of Malaysia for a few weeks for a holiday. I had weird men wherever I went make comments on my hair. They would touch it and stroke it, but that wasn't so bad. I had one man put his arm around me and start guiding me towards a taxi where a bunch of other grinning men were waiting. I shoved him off and bolted.

But that's not the really scary one.

The really scary one is when I was walking down a fairly busy street in Kuala Lumpur and suddenly my head was jerked backwards. I thought my hair had caught on something but I was wrong, a man had roughly grabbed a fistful of my hair. I saw something metal in his other hand and my first thought was "I'm going to die!" So I started thrashing about like crazy and screamed. Like I said, it was a busy street and people were turning to look at us and so he bolted. He dropped the shiny thing as he left and I saw it: it was a pair of scissors. He was going to chop off some of my hair!

I went back to where we were staying and told my mum. She forbade me from leaving the house without her after that. I was fine with that because I have never felt so vulnerable in my life. I was grateful to return to New Zealand (where I grew up) a few weeks later.

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29. Too Dumb For The Jungle

I was in the Amazon with my husband. As we went, I kept complaining that I felt something moving in my upper back. I suspect my husband thought I was going insane until he saw a little little head poking out of my shoulder blade. We went to the hospital and they saw the head thing too. They said something had likely laid eggs inside me, but they had never seen anything quite like it; it was kind of like a botfly but bigger.

I left after they started to cut me with a scalpel and couldn't quite remove it. We had been in a fairly remote part of amazon and have to admit we climbed a couple of trees that we probably shouldn't have. I think that's when it happened, as we obviously disturbed the canopy. In hindsight, I remember getting stung a couple of times by something. it must have been laying their eggs in me. I sound like Indiana Jones, but I'm really just someone who's too dumb for the jungle.

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28. Full. Metal. Jacket.

The time: August 2005.

The Place: a JFK airport, New York.

I was coming back from Las Vegas, and I spent a few days in NYC before heading home to Tel Aviv. I was 4.5 years into what ended up being a decade-long military service in IDF Military Intelligence. There is a reason I bring up my military service.

Anyways, after a few days in NYC, I packed up my suitcase and backpack (inevitably decorated with various hacker stickers and patches), called a cab, and made my way to JFK.

When I got to JFK, I immediately checked in my suitcase and proceeded to security. The line was long and slow, so I decided to hit the bathroom before queuing up. In the bathroom, I realized it was quite cold in the airport, so I opened my bag to take out a light sweater I packed just in case.

As I was pulling the sweater out of my bag, I heard the very distinct sound of a small, metallic object hitting the bathroom stall floor. Then another one. Then another one.

I knew that sound. This couldn’t be good.

I looked down and saw several M16 rounds on the floor. Why? About a week before I traveled to Vegas, I was on a routine security mission as part of my military service. During the mission, some of the ammo probably made it into my bag. Another possibility is that this was a silly prank by some of my friends.

Regardless of how the ammo got there, here I was, in a JFK bathroom stall, with a backpack, that, while not being full of ammo, contained a nonzero number of very real, very live assault rifle bullets. This was only a few years after 9/11 and I’d already started imagining the nightmare (not to mention the probing I’d undergo) if airport security discovered them.

Let’s take a minute and pause the story, to consider the meaning of what I just described. The ammo made it all the way with me from Israel to Vegas, and then back to NYC, meaning it went undetected through no less than three (!) airport security checkpoints: TLV on the way to the US, JFK on the connection to Vegas, and LAS from Vegas to NYC. Don’t you feel safer now? Now, back to our story.

Since I wasn’t going to bet that I’d get lucky a fourth time, I had to get rid of them. But how? I couldn’t just get out of the booth, go to the closest trash can and dump them. What if people saw me? Also, what if people didn’t see me but a janitor or someone discovered the bullets? I didn’t want to be responsible for an airport panic. Not good karma.

So I stayed in the bathroom stall and flushed the bullets one by one. It took forever, because bullets take quite a long time to flush.

After demilitarizing my bag, I went through security and got back home safely. Phew!

Yuval Ariav


27. That Funny Little Feeling...

I was in Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2011 when the earthquake hit.

In the morning, I went into the city centre because it was a nice day and the buskers festival was on. Naturally, I wanted to watch. About 20 minutes before the earthquake happened I felt sick to my stomach. I just had this feeling like I might have left the oven on at my flat, so I went to catch the bus back. As soon as I got back home, the earthquake hit. Where I was standing at that buskers festival downtown... that is exactly where the cathedral tower fell.

It turns out I didn't leave the oven on.

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26. Tinder In Colombia

Medellin, Colombia. Her name was Laura and she was from Canada.

As the sun set over the bustling city our plans were set. I would walk the 10 minutes or so from my hostel to hers, pick her up, and walk her back to the main street which would give us our pick of bars and restaurants.

With the night just starting we found ourselves at a small bar at the far end of the main drag.

Drinks were cheap, we compared tattoos, and speculated on whether Colombian dogs were any more or less happy than dogs from other countries.

We were also scheming of ways to spend the night together, but with our hostels more secure than Fort Knox, we did the next best thing - we went looking for an empty park to spend some romantic alone time.

As 1am approached we found ourselves in a long stretch of park away from the main drag.

As we wandered over the grass looking for somewhere to sit, we passed a group of four men. I didn’t stop to think why four men would be standing in a dark and deserted park. Some might say that was my first mistake; others would say my first mistake was doing any of this at all.

One of the men stepped forward and spoke directly to me in Spanish.

With an evening’s worth of liquid courage fueling me, I rudely dismissed this guy out of hand despite having no idea what he was saying.

Taking Laura by the hand, we walked past them and, several minutes later, found a spot of our own.

With our bodies intertwined and her dress crumpled on the grass beside us, I heard an unforgettable noise. It was the sound of police sirens cutting the still air.

Laura quickly pulled her dress back on and we attempted to make ourselves as presentable as possible as two police bikes swerved from the road and roared across the grass towards us.

One of the cops jumped off his bike with his flashlight in hand and disappeared into the darkness. The other stood before me, a full foot shorter than me but in every other way more dominant, raised his flashlight to my face to trap me in blind confusion, and yelled that word you just don’t want to hear in South America: “GRINGO!”

I didn’t have the money to pay for a huge fine, and Laura was beside herself with nerves, tears welling up in her eyes. “I’ll handle this” I told her, and took a step forward to try and have a conversation with the irate Colombian cop.

He shone a torch in my face and I straight up begged him to let us go. “I’m so sorry mate, please just let us go, it’ll never happen again. Just let us go back to our hostels please."

My eyes kept darting off into the darkness to see where his partner had gone, turning around to check on Laura, the red and blue glare of their police lights still silently flashing in my eyes.

Still, the policeman kept barking at me in Spanish.

I had no idea what he was trying to say. He kept spitting out the word “gringo” with emphasis. I honestly didn’t know what he wanted me to say so I cracked, “Yes, Gringo, Australia. I’m from Australia."

He repeated my words, but with a subtle questioning inflection, as if he was asking me to confirm I was a tourist and that I was Australian. “Si, Si, Australian,” I stammered back.

He nodded, put his torch down and I started to breathe again. I tried to walk away but he still wouldn’t let me, he shook his head and kept speaking in Spanish.

But thanks to my man Steve Jobs we found a solution. He got his iPhone out and opened Google translate.

He tapped away on the screen, waiting a moment for the words to switch to English for my benefit, before showing me the result. The words rolled across my vision… WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS FINE… BUT NOT HERE.

Once again, his head dropped to add text …THESE MEN…

“These men?” I thought to myself, what was he talking about, I was the only bloke here.

As I processed what he was writing his partner came back, walking slowly and purposefully, and he wasn’t alone. Before him he led 4 men. The very same 4 men who I had rudely dismissed earlier. They walked in front of him and away from us towards his parked police bike.

The total Google translate message read: “WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS FINE, BUT NOT HERE, THESE MEN KILL YOU.”

These policemen had not come screaming through the darkness to punish us, but protect us.

The hour after that was a blur. I can remember being escorted back to Laura’s hostel, then my own, the policeman ensuring we went home right away and separately. I sat on a hammock in an empty courtyard of my hostel and sipped slowly on a bottle of coke I found in the fridge. Looking down, my hand was shaking, and I’m glad it was.

I was very lucky to survive being that stupid.

Alexander Porter

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25. Unfair Fare

Bangkok, Thailand. October, 2016. A taxi driver held me "hostage" for an absurd fare. He wanted me to pay $120 for a 15 minute ride. I told him to keep dreaming and he claimed he would take me right to the police station and have me arrested big time. He kept driving so fast that I couldn't open the door and jump out. Thankfully, he let me go after some harsh negotiations and yelling myself hoarse.

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24. A Bar Too Far

My four friends and I were in college a few years ago and went on a holiday trip to Cyprus for the summer. It was our second day and we had a few too many drinks after spending the day at the beach. So we decided to go into town and look for some fun.

We found a bar that said "open late" outside. We were young and stupid decided to stop by for a few drinks. It was dark and there were no windows. Although there were plenty of attractive women, none of them were dancing on the stage.

The barman approached us and sweetly said, "My friends! What is it you want? Where are you from?" He picked out two gorgeous women from the back and sat them down with us. I expected a dance, but no -- instead they just sat. We spoke with them about mundane things and I noticed the girl next to me had suspicious marks on her arm.

My friend said that the barman told him we should buy two drinks for the women; if we bought a bottle, they would do a dance for us. I asked the girl and she looked perplexed . "You vant dancing before?" At that point, it didn't take a genius to realize she wasn't just a dancer.

I whispered to my friends about what I’d discovered; looking around, we suddenly realized how seedy the other customers were.

We all just got up slowly, so as not to attract attention. But the barman blocked us at the door saying, "80 Euros my friends." This clearly wasn't the place to start arguing. We gave 20 euros each and my friend said, "Oh we're 20 Euros short." He tried to laugh it off. The barman stopped smiling, counted the money and pressed his palm against my friend's chest.

I’ll never forget this moment as the whole bar just went silent. Everyone started looking at us. I thought we were dead.

My hand was in my back jean pocket and by God’s good grace, I found a crumpled 10. I never leave money in my back jean pocket, and this was the first time I had ever done so and had forgotten about. I handed the note to the guy, he looked at it for a second, then smiled. "Come again, my friends," he said. We all smiled reluctantly and walked the out of there as quickly as we dared.


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23. Oh, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

In Cambodia, it's a common thing for army guys to offer tourists the opportunity to fire "surplus" (i.e. stolen from the army) AK-47s and RPGs out deep in the middle of nowhere outside of Phnom Penh. My buddy really wanted to do this so I said sure, why not. $400 cash was exchanged and we all piled into a 40-year-old truck to head out to the "range". Whole thing was super sketchy... these guys spoke practically no English and were half in the bag, but whatever, we were down for a good time.

We get there after an hour or so driving into the absolute middle of nowhere and they hand my buddy an RPG launcher and show him how to hold it on his shoulder and where to aim. None of us are sure exactly what happened next, but somehow he had aimed his RPG too low - so when he pulled the trigger, the thing flew on a downward trajectory only about 25-30 feet before blowing up almost instantly. Debris was flying everywhere. One of the Cambodian dudes dove on top of me and pushed me to the ground, and we were all just kind of laying there in complete shock.

All of us were okay, but I remember thinking that if any of us had been injured, I was pretty sure they weren't the type of dudes to call 911 and wait for an ambulance to arrive. My guess is we would have each been double-tapped in the back of the head and dumped in the jungle.

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22. Fit To Burst

My wife's appendix decided to burst while we were in Hanoi, about 4 hours before we were due to catch an overnight train to the middle of nowhere.

Being unable to speak Vietnamese was a nightmare, but luckily the people working at our hotel were amazing and got us to a hospital that catered to upper government officials, meaning the gear and training was better than the standard public health care in Australia.

The ladies from the hotel even came by every day to check on my wife and speak to the staff for us (there were only two English speakers working in the entire hospital), and refused money for their help.

It was amazing, as was the level of care she received. Paying cash for medical expenses was a weird experience, but the travel insurance reimbursed us and we got credit for the cancelled half of our tour.

Plus the hospital had an amazing restaurant and bar and kept me full and happy in our private suite until we could fly back to Sydney.

10/10 would rupture my wife's appendix again.

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21. Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

I got a pound of... let's just say illegal stuff... shoved into my hands right before police arrived. I was on holiday in France (with my parents), hanging out with some local dudes, and we were going to smoke it. We were in the process of crumbling it up when a police car came up. The locals stuffed the stuff into my hands and dashed off into the nearby cornfield.

The thought of being in a foreign jail cell, having to explain this to my parents was quite the horror.

As soon as I realized what was going on, I tossed all of the stuff over a small garden wall and also dashed into the cornfield. The police car stopped, since our bikes were just beside the road. They probably figured what was going on and after a bunch of shouting the locals decided to give it up and stepped out of the field. I did the same.

The police asked them a bunch of questions, tried to ask me a bunch of questions (my French was as bad as their English) and then they just left.

Explaining to the locals that their pound of fun was now scattered in someone's backyard didn't fly well either, but I guess it beats going to French jail...


20. Stranger Danger In Istanbul

I was in Istanbul, staying at a wonderful little boutique hotel in the Sultanahmet district, which is near the Blue Mosque and most of the old, traditional mosques and sites of the city. It was evening and, after a long day of walking and visiting the sites around me, I wanted to have a relaxing evening.

I was walking down the street when suddenly a friendly guy comes up to me and starts up a conversation in perfect English.

He was with a friend and after a few minutes of chatting, I felt I could trust them. They told me they knew this great place where we could listen to some authentic Turkish folk music. They could drive me there. I was feeling great! Isn't this the ideal situation when you are traveling alone?!

We got in the car and drove and wound up in a neighborhood where there were no tourists. We walked downstairs and opened the door and I found myself in a disco. There was music playing and lights flashing. It wasn't my idea of a folk scene, and to make matters worse I was the only customer there.

We sat down at a big corner booth and immediately afterwards three beautiful women sat down with us. Meanwhile champagne was ordered. That first bottle quickly got consumed and another one arrived right after it, and one after that...

I didn't drink that much but my mind was cloudy. It wasn't enough to knock me out, but it was enough to make me confused.

After about 45 minutes, the bill came. And you know who it got placed in front of. I looked at it and saw the total amount of 9,380 Turkish lire, (which equaled about US$3,075). But because of my confused mind I did the wrong math in my head and interpreted the final amount as US$375. I thought that was quite high but chalked it up to a 'night on the town'.

When the club manager tried to take US$3,075 out of my account, my bank saw that it was a large request coming from a high-risk area of the world, and refused payment on it. The manager came back to me and told me the bank would not accept it. He then told me that there was an ATM machine outside and I could take the money out of it there.

Still thinking that the bill was $375, we went outside to the ATM machine. For safety reasons I had put a $300 maximum withdrawal on my account. So I got the $300 out of the machine and turned it over to them.

They said it wasn't enough. When traveling overseas I always keep my credit cards in the safe in my room at the hotel.

So now I had to convince them that my credit cards were locked up in the safe in my room at the hotel, and that I could go get them and pay them the remaining $75, though in their eyes I still owed them $2,725! In the end he agreed, and my two 'friends', plus a driver, took me in their car back to my hotel.

It was half-way to my hotel, which was a 20-25 minute ride, when one of my 'friends' told me that I didn't owe the manager $75 - that I owed him $2,725! That's when I finally realized how badly I was being scammed and how foolish I'd been.

When we arrived at the hotel, I told them I would get the card and be right back.

When I got inside, I explained my predicament to the people behind the front desk. The manager told me to go upstairs to my room and he would take care of it. I didn't want to use the elevator as it would show which floor I got off at, so I walked up the 4 flights stairs to my room. I kept my lights off and my door cracked open, so I could hear if there was a scuffle downstairs.

Fifteen minutes later I received a call from the manager. The guy who was standing outside had come in when I didn't return and wanted to come upstairs. But the manager was perfect. He let the guy know that he would call the police and that he had to leave now.

It's too bad that happened because I absolutely love Istanbul. It is one of my favorite cities, and I would certainly return. I have had a lot of time to reflect on what happened, and curse myself for things that maybe I could have prevented, and accept my good fortune with some things that happened, and which, very likely, could have saved the situation from becoming much worse.

Jeremy White

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19. For The Dogs

I got chased around a Portuguese mountain by a bunch of stray dogs.

Basically the Portuguese equivalent of Versailles is called Sintra; it's a bunch of crazy-huge castles and palaces, but they built them all up a mountain to keep them cool in the summer. The rest of the mountain they turned into amazing parks and gardens with a crazy amount of verticality. 200% recommend it despite this; I'm told the dog thing was pretty rare.

Anyway, was wandering around one of the hillside parks, heard a bunch of growling, looked around and saw three or four stray dogs looking a bit annoyed. Started walking away slowly but apparently not slowly enough because one of them went for me and the rest started chasing me too. They weren't huge but getting dog bites treated is never fun; never gone down a hillside faster.

They stopped after a bit, guess I must have gotten out of their territory. In hindsight they probably weren't especially dangerous but I guess there's something inherently scary about getting chased through woods by animals.



18. In The Lion's Den

I was walking through the bush in West Africa and we were tracking an Elephant to a watering hole, I noticed a set of tracks in the dirt in front of me that looked distinctly feline. I pointed it out to the ranger and he confirmed it was a lion and that it was close by. It was four of us and one man with a gun on foot with tall grass and bushes everywhere, we were basically in its hunting grounds. Needless to say I was much more vigilant for the rest of the afternoon.


17. Very Funny, Officer

We had this guy invite us to go smoke some stuff in Morocco. He takes us to the backroom of a closed restaurant, and in walks the police. They start screaming at us, and one pulls out a gun and slams it on the table.... they then started laughing hysterically and told us they wanted to join in.

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16. "Stick" With Us

When I was 13, my parents took me and my 3 younger siblings on a tour of Mexico. We were driving in a rental car one night on a highway through the state of Guanajuato, when I noticed a large Chevy van was following us. I begged my dad to let him pass, because I became frightened. My father pulled over to let the van pass us, but the van also pulled to the shoulder behind us,  and the driver turned on the high beams and got out of the van, walking toward us, carrying a "stick." My father told us to duck down into the seats and he peeled out and drove like a madman toward the nearest town, which was 5 miles down the road.

The van quickly caught up to us,  but this time without any headlights on. The poor Buick we were in gave us its all, and we made it to a hotel. My father began honking the car horn up the driveway, and the van backed off and drove away.

Explaining our ordeal to the hotel clerks, my parents were told of local area kidnappings, in which a vehicle would turn off the headlights, run a car off the road, and kidnap the occupants at gunpoint. My dad later told me the man's "stick" was a rifle.

Marilyn Gee

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15. Lost In The Outback

I went on a trip with some coworkers to Western Australia. We drove a camper van around a few towns up north. Anyone familiar with the northwestern corner of Australia knows that "town" is a generous term for most of these places, and there's a whole lot of absolutely nothing in between them.

One night, we pull over in the middle of some of that absolutely nothing to camp out in a rest spot. We're the only ones there, and the only traffic is the occasional road train. We're set, though - we've got food, drinks, herb, and a place to sleep. We do the usual "sit around a campfire and get messed up" for a few hours before one of us decides there are too many trees and we need to go for a walk to get a better look at the sky.

It wasn't hard to find a good spot -- the only trees around were nestled between the hills, hiding from the sun and sucking up any water that flowed their way. Go a few feet uphill, and you can see for miles. The first hill was nice and wide open, but it gave us a great view of some better ones. Hammered and optimistic as hell, we headed for the next peak over.

It was glorious. The milky way was so bright and deep it felt like you were falling into it. We sat and drank in the galaxy and told whatever stories came to mind. We were tiny specks in an immense universe and everything was perfect.

And then it was time to go. We all stood up, and as one, the four dudes I'm with start walking.

In the wrong direction.

It's not hard to understand why. Every hill looked the same from up on top of our glorious mound of rocks and dirt. Every little valley was choked with brush. The road was obscured from view, and it curved gently away from us in both directions anyway. There were no landmarks. And we were all out of our gourds.

So there's me, 5 foot nothing and foreign, pointing back the way we came while the guys gently mocked my lack of directional senses. Me insisting, while they brush it off and walk away. Me shouting, while the four of them are baffled as to why I'm so upset about this because they all KNOW where they're going.

I looked up this rest area later on Google Earth. Had we gone in any direction other than directly back to the road, it would have been over 120 miles before we hit any signs of civilization -- if we were very, very lucky. 120 miles of Australian outback, with no water, food, or tools.

My certainty meant nothing to them in the face of their own. So I stopped fighting. Instead, I turned around and headed back for camp. They panicked, pleaded, and finally decided to "humor" me. Every step of the way, they pointed out how unfamiliar everything was, how it couldn't possibly be the way we came.

They laughed at me, right up until we stepped out of a ditch and into the parking lot with our camper.

And that's the story of why I don't hike with people who have been drinking anymore.

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14. The Poorest Lose The Most

Summer 2011. I was on a Scouting project with 4 friends in Dakar, Senegal. I was 19 at the time. After 2 years' preparation, we went there for a month to help with the building of new classrooms for the local church's school, along with providing free animations for the local kids.

A few weeks in, the big event arrives. End of the construction ? Nope. A wrestling match between the two most famous wrestler sof the country (who happen to come from two neighbouring... neighbourhoods of Dakar). After 5 hours (!) of pre-fight rituals and wrestling matches between the protégés, the big fight comes. It lasts a whole 15 seconds before our neighbourhood's champion wins.

Fast-forward a couple hours. We're sitting in a taxi to go to a party, or "bégué" as they call it. Our group of 8 (3 Senegalese and 5 French) is separated in two taxis. While theirs drop them off in front of the place we were headed to, ours drops us off at the gas station about 300 yards  down the road. In our group: 3 French (A, F and me), one Senegalese (B).

Two guys appeared out of nowhere and tackled B. A and I immediately react and try to get them off when I hear A tell me to stop, sounding quite panicked. I stop, only to realize one of the two guys had pulled out a machete.

A third guy then comes out and starts searching us. He takes my bag (which contained a bit of medication, the key to our room, and some water. That's it.) A isn't carrying anything of value. They take B's wallet. F has been laying low the whole time and they somehow completely forget to search him, which was extremely lucky. He was carrying our two credit cards, a cheque book and his passport. In his wallet, B was carrying a month's worth of salary for a local. Out of all of us, he's the one that had the least, and lost the most.

All of this happened in a street where a lot of people were passing by. Not one soul to help.

Needless to say, the mood wasn't quite there for the party, and we didn't stay long.

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13. Truly Terrifying

Me (male) and my husband were on holiday in Turkey not too long ago. He had never been but I had visited a few times and so I was aware of how locals would try to get you into their shops in an attempt to sell you 20 pairs of counterfeit Gucci sunglasses. Well, such a local approaches my husband and in his kind, somewhat naive nature, he took to browsing his wares as if the guy was a merchant selling legendary relics.

As I pulled my husband away, the guy starts shouting, "GAY!" at the top of his lungs. Only a few days earlier a transgender man had been attacked and burned not too far away and there has been a lot of violence against the LGBT community in Turkey.

We walked away but he continued to follow and shout. I started to become aware of the attention he was drawing and the spectacle the whole thing had become. All the possible scenarios began to play out in my head, so we quickened our pace and tried to stay calm.

Luckily, we lost him before the situation escalated any further. Needless to say, we avoided that part of town for a while.

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12. Power Trip

I had to deal with very eager immigration officer at JFK. She was somehow convinced I had come to the US to do something bad, so she latched on to every word I said and tried to spin every answer to make me sound somehow nefarious. Every time I denied what she asked me, she gave me this very long, disapproving look. I started getting nervous as I expected they'd probably pull me into some kind of a questioning room. But eventually she let me go without saying anything, just handed me my passport back.

I know US Customs officers are famously ill-tempered, but I've been in the country several times and that was the most suspicious officer I've met so far. I was really worried she might deny me entry or detain me for absolutely no reason. No idea what her problem was.

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11. Stuck In The Middle With You

We were visiting my husband's family in Rio de Janeiro. My brother in law was driving us to a mall. We were in the left lane on a three lane street when suddenly traffic slows down a lot. My brother in law switches to the far right hand lane without apparent reason and this probably saved our butts. A group of favelados (criminals from the slums) on motorcycles had blocked the left lane and robbed every passing car in the middle lane while sticking guns through the windows of the cars.

We were incredibly lucky that he switched lanes right away, but I have still never felt more helpless in my life.


10. The Fake Refugee

I was inter-railing last year in Europe and I nearly got mugged by someone posing as a Syrian refugee.

On the train from Vienna to Budapest, I didn't have a seat booked and I was travelling by myself, so I was seated on a kind of short staircase down to platform level between two seating areas on two separate carriages. Therefore I was completely out of sight of anyone else on the train.

This guy came up to me, explained that he was a Syrian refugee, and asked if I had any money for food or whatever. I genuinely didn't so I said no, and then he suddenly became really aggressive. He basically cornered me in this staircase, raised his fists to me and asked again.

At this point I was crapping myself because had been a lot of attacks on trains in Europe, particularly around Germany, where criminals had pretended to be Syrian refugees and then used weapons on passengers. So remembering that, at this point I was pretty scared.

Luckily, I managed to move past him despite the fact I was cornered on the staircase. I just kind of ran off down the carriage before explaining to a member of staff what had happened. The train was immediately stopped at the next station and he was kicked off.


9. The Drowsy Coffee

Tetouan, Morocco.

We were staying in a crappy hotel when we realized that the door wouldn't lock so we decided to go out and look for a screwdriver. We walked through the Medina (the old town) and it was the most medieval looking place I'd ever seen -- a family walking at fast pace carrying a coffin, goats waiting around, meat hanging with flies buzzing around...

This guy came up to us and kept talking to us. We told him we were looking for a screwdriver and he said he'd lead us to one, we apprehensively followed him when we realized he wanted to go into some dark alley where three guys were waiting. We said ''no, no, no'' and he said, ''You want pharmacy ?! Here pharmarcy!'' We walked away and he followed us all the way out of the Medina.

Tangier, Morocco.

We were looking for the cafe the Rolling Stones stayed at in 1967(?) and this guy showed us the way. We thanked him and said we'd buy him a coffee, but he insisted he would himself get the coffee. As soon as we drank the coffee we started feeling dizzy. We sat down on some steps when another random guy sat next to us not saying anything. All of a sudden, he plunged his hand in my pocket and took everything. We ran after him, got hold of him and took back what was mine, all the while feeling very sleepy. We walked away as a crowd began to gather around us.

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8. Cave Of Blunders

I once found myself in a cave, along with eight or nine other people. It was the middle of the Pennsylvania wilderness, and the only entrance was a small hole in the ground. To enter, you had to sit on your butt, grab a tree root, and drop about seven feet down a steep wall to the floor. We all dropped in, and spent at least half an hour exploring this cave.

Then my friend Dan taps me on the shoulder and whispers, "Dude, don't panic. Just look at the ceiling." The ceiling was just high enough above our heads to hide the thousands of spiders crawling around on it. We tried to keep quiet about it, because we didn't want anyone to flip out, but there was no stopping it. Just seconds later the whole group noticed them. Everyone wet silent, and you could actually hear the spiders crawling on the surface of the stone.

It was an extra nerve-wracking situation... because the only way to exit the cave... was to basically jump up and pull yourself out of a hole surrounded by spiders. Two of the girls with us were terrified, and refused to climb out. They just couldn't muster the courage to put their faces next to a giant spider nest. They came around though, and everyone got out safe.

I had the honor of being the last one to exit. Alone in a dark cave filled with spiders, and nobody around to give me a boost. Fortunately, Dan was brave enough to reach down in and give me a hand.

When we first discovered that cave, we were all like, "I can't believe we've never heard of this place." Now I know why. That cave sucks. A few months later, I found out the cave is off limits in the fall... because of the rattle snakes.

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7. Slight Change Of Plans

I went to visit Ukraine with my parents because they wanted to see the small villages where their parents were born. We have no family in the area so we hired a guide to take us around since the country can be a bit corrupt. As we were driving around on a highway we suddenly were stopped in traffic (literally middle of nowhere). The guide gets out of the car and takes a look, then quickly jumps back into the car, does a U-Turn and drives off telling my mom we can't go to her mom's village. We ask why and he says that was some kind of Russian military roadblock. This was during the whole Crimea invasion.


6. The Bag Man

I was traveling across Europe with my girlfriend and snapping lots of pictures along the drive as we went through various EU borderless countries. While entering Italy, my girlfriend noticed the "Welcome to Italy" sign and wanted a cliche couples photo. Naturally, I agreed and we got out of the vehicle, took our cringe selfie, and drove into Italy.

20 minutes into the drive we noticed that my girlfriends purse was missing. To contextualize the story, we had been carrying every important legal document we had while we were traveling in case something went wrong and we were stopped by police/TSA. This included our passports, citizenship cards, birth certificates, and drivers licenses. Essentially, this was everything that proved we were who we said we were and there were absolutely no other records of our existence elsewhere. All of these documents were in my girlfriend's purse that was now lost.

We realized we had left them at the "Welcome to Italy" sign and I quickly turned the car around and drove as fast as I legally could (I had no drivers license) back to the border. By some miracle, nobody had grabbed the purse and we got al our documents back.


5. Going Off The Rails

I traveled by bus across Java solo when I was 21. At night time, driving in heavy traffic, the bus pulled onto a railroad crossing in gridlock. You guessed it: the lights start flashing and the barriers come down in front and behind the bus. We can't go forwards or backwards and we can see the light from a fast approaching train coming towards us.

Everyone started screaming and ran to the front door, banging on the glass and begging the driver to open the door. He either couldn't or wouldn't, and the train was closing in on us. It was the longest couple of minutes of my life.

I decided the front of the bus was certain death, so I went right to the back instead. I was contemplating at which moment I should start kicking the window out when someone said, "The train is on the other track." There was a moment where we all held our breath... and then the train passed inches from the driver's window in front of us on the other set of tracks.

Afterwards, everyone sat down and started laughing like it was totally normal and we drove on. I was sitting in my seat with eyes the size of saucers no doubt! Stayed with me, that one.


4. Old Foghorn

I was on a flight from Atlanta to Pensacola. As we made our final approach, the pilot announced that we may have to turn back because of fog. Apparently he changed his mind and decided to try landing anyway. I was sitting there by the window watching the when the fog finally broke. We were barely above the tree tops and I could see the runway was about 500 yards to the right side. The plane suddenly starting climbing HARD and we turned around and flew back to Atlanta.

That was a close one.

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3. Camping In A War Zone

I was staying in Tayrona, Colombia. I am a wildlife buff and decided to get up really early and see if I could find any wildlife to photograph. My friends were still asleep so I left on my own. I was having a great time walking through the jungle, I saw cotton top tamarins, howler monkeys, an anteater and leaf cutter ants.

I heard something rustle behind some leaves and went closer to investigate. A man emerges, full camouflage, face paint and a grenade launcher and just stares at me. Then about 20 other men the same emerged from behind the vegetation. I froze and for what seemed like forever we just stared at each other.

All sorts of thoughts ran through my head: "I am getting kidnapped", "I didn't tell anyone where I am going", "I am so stupid", "I am dead". Then the one closest to me started walking towards me. He said "buenos dias" and kept walking. The others followed and also greeted me. When I was closer, I noticed the word "Ejercito" (Army) on their uniforms. I greeted them back and then went on my way.

I was so lucky that they were the good guys. Later, I found that there had been a number of kidnappings near there which is why the army was patrolling.

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2. You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave

A couple of friends and I rented a house in the south of Spain which turned out to be in a neighborhood of super friendly people.

We became friendly with a group of locals and within a week were tied into the local scene waaaaaaaay too much. We got taken into peoples' homes for lunches, shown cool local fresh water springs, taught how to make awesome gaspacho, invited to a wedding, you name it. It was cool for a while and then suddenly it all got weird.

Without going in to a huge story, we had a guy creeping outside our window in the middle of the night. We mentioned it to another person who then threatened the suspected creeper's with a knife. Turns out there was beef there anyhow. Because apparently, the neighborhood we were in was some sort of nexus for...smuggling! That wedding I mentioned was thrown by a local cartel family.

Then a local girl who had a crush on my friend kept getting weepy because he politely declined her. He was in an eight-year relationship, so we figured she'd understand. Then four of her ten brothers swing by and remind us that it was inadvisable to mess with their family, the Gitanas. "You don't mess a Gitana and then leave town," was the statement I best remember.

Now, none of us had so much as kissed a Gitana, but at this point we figured we were about 24 hours away from seeing our buddy get shotgun married in the middle of a gang war we had inadvertently provoked. So we packed up and split in the middle of the night, and drove to the coast.

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1. High And Dry

I was travelling around Zambia on a three-month holiday on my own when I suddenly fell deathly ill while at a backpacker's joint out in the bush. I was throwing up bile and could barely move until someone found me after almost a day and got me to the hospital in Lusaka which was an hour's drive.

Apparently, I was severely dehydrated to the point that my skin was malleable like clay. The doctor had to hydrate me through a drip because I'd throw up anything I tried to drink or eat. Honestly it's incredible how much I've appreciated water since that event. The memories are all a little hazy from the event but I recall being in my hospital bed and all I could think about was a tall glass of frosty water. Moral of the story is when travelling alone, be careful.

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