Budget Airlines, Couchsurfing, and Sketchy (SKETCHY) Campgrounds. What Could Go Wrong?

Who loves a good travel story where everything went right? Well, most of us do. We follow them obsessively on all types of social media.

Many of us also like a good story where something went hilariously wrong.

What about when things just went… wrong?

I managed to pack three of these stories into the month of March. Here goes.

Something going right. Killer picture from Zion, NP

What Went Wrong With… Couchsurfing?

If you read my recent blog post, you saw that I recommend Couchsurfing as a great (free) way to meet locals and get to know a place while you’re traveling. Unsurprisingly, not every experience is awesome. This story is, I will admit, a little bit funny.

My travel companion this spring had never used Couchsurfing. I selected our hosts and made the reservation. The house was centrally located, our hosts were friendly, and we even had out own room.

When you’re staying in a stranger’s home, in a socially interactive setting such as a Couchsurfing locale, you should be prepared to be a part of (or at least accidentally privy to) your host’s engagements. In this case, it was a meeting of a BDSM group.

No, no, nobody was getting naked in the living room. They were just discussing logistics for the group. Nothing for or against BDSM, but it is uncomfortable to be unexpectedly sharing a living room with strangers having an intense conversation about the subject.

What Went Wrong With… Budget Airlines?

This one genuinely isn’t funny. I had a month-long trip to Europe booked, in which I was going to visit friends in Germany and then meet up with my best friend in Iceland.

The airline went out of business.

Yeah, if anyone has been following international airline news lately, I had a ticket booked with WOWair, an Icelandic budget airline I’d had my eye on for years. Iceland has been on my list for ages, and I had been just waiting for the right time to make it happen. This seemed like it.

I guess it wasn’t. WOWair ceased operations without a word. I found out via a CNN article forwarded to me by the friend I was to be traveling with. I filed a claim with my travel insurance to recoup the lost cost of my trip. They denied the claim. So I don’t even have good advice for you about travel insurance. It was a waste of my money in this case.*

*Fun fact: buy travel insurance.

Yes, I definitely still recommend buying travel insurance. There’s a lot that it DOES cover, and in my case, the potential risk of needing medical help for an allergic reaction always prompts me to buy insurance. If you’re buying travel insurance for a medical reason, be sure to look into it in detail. In many cases you’ll pay more to cover pre-existing conditions, so make sure your situation is covered!

So that’s the end of the story: I canceled my trip and didn’t get a refund.

(See, not funny.)

What Went Wrong With… Sketchy (SKETCHY) Campgrounds?

A secluded and NOT sketchy campground.

This is a good one to end on, because although not funny, it does have a happy ending.

My friend and I were planning to wrap up our month of van life just outside of Las Vegas, climbing at Red Rock Canyon, one of my favorite places in the world. To avoid the crowding (and fees) at the established campground, we were planning to camp at Mt. Charleston, about 45 minutes outside Vegas. I shared this information with a friendly store clerk, who informed me that there had been recent gang activity (including gruesome murders) in that area recently. Holy smokes!

Now, generally I feel extremely safe camping on public land. Furthermore, I trust my gut to let me know if a place is sketchy, and in this case I’m grateful for the sequence of events that led me to this information. However, it wasn’t as if we were about to walk into a slaughterhouse. When we looked into the issue, we discovered several mitigating factors. Still, the prudent (sane) van-dweller avoids known sketchy campsites, so we headed out.

This is where the good part of the story comes in. We left Red Rock without climbing a single route, which was upsetting. However, through a bit of poking around online, I located another awesome sport climbing area and we were able to reroute our itinerary to check it out. It was AMAZING. Easy free camping, quiet, minimal approach, great quality of rock… everything a climber dreams of. In the interest of not broadcasting all the remaining quiet places on Earth to the internet, I’m not going to name it right now. But if you’re a climber and you want to check it out, send me a message and we can chat!

Leading my favorite climb, Caustic, at Red Rock in 2015

The takeaway is these things happen when you travel! This was a lot for one month, it’s true. But usually these events are more spread out, or are funny, or have a silver lining. Sometimes something happens that appears to be a pure bummer. Even so, you never know what’s going to come out of it. When my flight fell through, it felt like one more thing in what has been a pretty tough year. I had a miniature identity crisis while I wondered if the nomadic life really is for me, or if I should give up all this travel stuff and stay put for a bit. The self-examination that followed led me to a completely unexpected plan for the spring.

I’ve been hinting at it for a while now. If you want to know where I am, what I’m doing, and why, tune in at the end of the month for the next blog post. Be sure to catch it by joining the email list here.

You can also catch pictures of the climbing and a host of other adventures by following me on Instagram and Facebook.  If you’re planning a road trip or want to incorporate extended road-life into your lifestyle, maybe I can help you make it a reality!


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