Don't Even Go There—Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

Even if the world is your oyster, you can still chip a tooth on its shell. While travel magazines feature exotic locales of breathtaking beauty, we expose sites so depressing that no traveler this side of Edgar Allan Poe would venture there without a tub-load of tranquilizers. Take Las Vegas (please) and the $5.99 all-you-can-eat buffet line at Sam’s Town. That's the world we explore at Don’t Even Go There.

On this site, we tell of places we’ve visited but wish we hadn’t. We reveal vacation plans gone awry and relate horror stories from the road best abandoned. These true stories reflect where we’ve chosen to go. We only have ourselves to blame. We rarely needed to exaggerate—the truth really is stranger than a Dan Brown novel.

Don’t Even Go There: travel tips for those of us who aren’t escorted by security guards, pampered by wealthy benefactors, or provided a generous per diem. This blog is for seasoned travelers and armchair tourists who want the real world first-hand and head-on, with all its drama, horror, and humor. You’ll laugh at us, cry with us, and decide to stay home more often.

29 January 2012

Embarrassing Travel Moment of the Month

Back in October 2010, we introduced a feature we called Embarrassing Travel Moment of the Month. While we intended to post a story every month, we have obviously failed. Miserably. Sorry. So you’ll have to settle for the occasional embarrassing travel moment of the month. You can read these short posts in between working at the mill and planning your escape, which we’re sure will lead to your own embarrassing travel moments. —MB & JS
--

For some unknown reason—wait, we know the reason: language—this story, like our previous Embarrassing Travel Moment, occurred in Europe. In Germany, to be precise, where they speak a dialect of English that can sometimes be difficult to understand. Actually, we thought we had a perfunctory grasp of the German language. We could speak well enough to point to something we wanted.

One day, we decided to hitchhike the Autobahn from Munich to Hamburg. It seemed like a good idea at the time, since we were used to hitchhiking throughout Europe and Hamburg was a destination we had never before attempted.

So we packed light (a backpack) and set out. When you hitchhike the Autobahn, you can’t just pick a nice spot on the side of the road. No, you have to hitchhike either from entrance ramps or from Tankstellen or gas stations, which are like rest stops right off the highway.

We made decent time in the morning (thanks to an uncharacteristically early start), but the further north we got, the colder it got. Of course, it was November, but had been pleasant in Munich and we were optimists. (Perhaps you have your own word for it.) In any case, by early afternoon, the weather was downright frigid.

We were stuck in a gas station/rest area. Sure, we could have sought shelter in the restaurant, but we wouldn’t have made much progress that way, so we decided to stick it out and rely on the kindness of strangers.

Now, we have two strategies when hitchhiking. One is to always have some form of luggage, whether it’s a suitcase or a backpack. We like drivers to know we’re not homeless. We have stuff. Our other strategy is to always carry cardboard and a marker to create a simple sign with our destination on it. We like drivers to know we’re actually trying to get somewhere.

On occasion, however, when we’re stuck or trying to be entertaining (at least for own amusement), we write other things on the cardboard. For example, once while hitchhiking in the States, we wrote: “A long way from home.” We’re not sure it worked, but we flashed that sign from coast to coast.

In our current predicament, freezing our gonads off in a foreign land, we once again decided to get creative. So we whipped out a spare piece of cardboard and wrote, in large block letters: “Ich bin kalt,” which translates word-for-word as “I am cold,” which we wrote only because we didn't know the German words for “I am frickin freezing my gonads off.”

We held up that sign, along with the one that said “Hamburg” for another hour. (OK, maybe it wasn’t that long, but even ten minutes in that cold seemed like a lifetime.) At last, a car stopped for us, a car full of giggling German 20-somethings. “Ausländer?” they asked. “Foreigners?”

“Americaner.”

After we piled into the car, they gave us a language lesson. As we discovered, if you want to say you’re cold in German, you say, “Mir ist kalt,” which translates to “To me, it is cold.” So what did “Ich bin kalt” mean? What had we written and advertised to every passing car?

It means: “I am frigid,” you know, in the sexual sense. We really had frozen our gonads off.