Top 5 of My Weirdest Travel Experiences
1. Getting Proposed to in Tokyo
A few friends and I were exploring through Tokyo, Japan, mainly shopping and eating a ton of sweets. My personal favorite? the matcha crepe in the Harajuku district. I still dream about it. Something to note is that there are hundreds constantly in this main part of Tokyo, and in the Harajuku district everyone is typically dressed up like anime characters. It was a sight to see for sure, where "cute culture" surrounds you at every corner. Makes you want to buy things you don't need, I say from personal experience obviously.
I was finishing up my crepe when some of my friends went into a store nearby, ogling the section that was filled with all things pink and 90s themed, right down to the plaid skirts. A man walked up to me. He looked to be around 30 years old, maybe slightly younger. Hair sticking up, covered in gel, but dressed head-to-toe in a formal suit. His eyes and smile were very happy the entire conversation. That's important to note. He proceeded to ask me a few questions:
"Are you from America?" he asked.
"Yes!" I replied, looking unsure so my eyes caught on two of my friends,
who immediately joined me.
"Do you like it here?"
"Yes it's very nice! Love the culture."
"Do you want to marry me?" he asked. I looked confused. "Marry me?" he said again.
"No, thank you"
"Shut the f*** up" was his reply, smiling and laughing the whole time.
The thing is, this would normally be considered a joke. Ha-ha, and we move on right? But the way he said it, it was pretty eerie, almost like a creepy clown. Laughing even though theres no humor in his voice. He looked serious for a second after and that's what honestly made us get a little freaked. We raced into the store, they made sure he would leave before I came back out. I contemplated getting some sort of pepper spray...
And that is how I got my first marriage proposal. Romantic, right?
2. Hitchhiking After Visiting the Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is still to this day one of my favorite travel experiences. I look back and feel so grateful for the people I went with and that we made it out alive. To experience this landmark at sunset was our goal, we didn't really realize that it would close off at a certain point. We were young and naive, since this was only our second country out of twelve on our Semester at Sea. We were dancing, running up and down the stairs to keep warm, drinking our beers as we watched the sun move down in a golden glow. I accidentally dropped my beer and it went skidding down one of the sections. I ran after it and that became a game...just running up and down since no one else was around at this point. That, and it was completely freezing during this time of year.
We did pretty much the whole section that we had been walking on, which took us about half the day. So looking back, was another long section to trudge through. That wasn't our first choice at this point, when we realized we couldn't see a single soul in sight. Our friend saw a staircase nearby heading down to what would hopefully be a shortcut down. Sweet.
The staircase took us to what looked like an abandoned part of the "Great Wall experience" there were bears locked in an outdoor setting that we could see, but everything else was torn and ravaged through almost like a circus that was run down. Walking through there was no one around still and we all had to use the restroom pretty badly at this point. We kept walking a bit and found something at least, no toilet paper, but it would do. When we all came back out some guy was there yelling at us in Chinese. He looked more like he was saying "stupid Americans" than anything like "I'm gonna kidnap you" though so we started following him out. He waved over his officer friend, who looked very serious and smelled like cigarette smoke.
This officer had google translate on his phone, so the conversation that followed went something like: (to the best of my knowledge)
"How far until the main road?"
"You are very far, miles away"
"Is there a bus or anything that comes here?"
"No, you are too far away"
"Is there a way you can take us to a train or bus?"
"I can take you..$$?"
"Will you take 500 CNY (roughly 60-70 USD)"
He ended up taking us for what would roughly be about $80 USD, we were definitely extorted and that's kind of what we were worried about on the ride back to the main area of Beijing. But also pretty sure we got off easily for what we did...On the ride, we were all very silent. One of our friends, usually very nonchalant in settings like this since he's traveled so much, was silent and a bit worried. That's what made us all hyperaware. My body stiff the entire ride back, just focusing on where we were going.
We ended up back to our hotel safe and sound though, with a good story to tell.
3. Seeing a Fortune Teller in France
I was running around solo along the coast of France when I hit a little old town area next to the downtown center of Nice. A woman was out doing fortunes for some of the tourists, I rolled my eyes and thought nothing of it. Here's my thing about stuff like that: I might believe in the idea of it, but I can never bring myself to waste money on all of it. There's something impersonal and scammy about it all when someone asks for money for what they tell you, good or bad. It feels fake. So I've never really been into it all. Don't get me wrong though, I am also a spiritual person and love looking up horoscopes, as well as any other spiritual/religious ideas out there. I find all of it kind of like mythology, fascinating, and interesting factors that most likely reflect major parts of your personality. It's also a way to connect with others around you, which I love.
I'd been shopping around for some gifts for family members and friends, I found lots of cooking spices and artwork. I turned around, to find a crystal shop though so I went in, and let my hands hover over the beautiful colors, inhaling the sage and lavender aromas. When I felt like I'd found something, I was about to turn the corner to pay when suddenly the fortune teller was in front of me. She had long, grey hair and was dressed in a flow-y dress that was stunning on her. She also notably smelled like peppermint. Not sure why, but smells really stick with me if you hadn't noticed yet.
She smiled and asked if I'd like a fortune told. I smiled and said I appreciated that but I was okay without one. She gently took my hand and said "Don't worry, it is free."
Not sure if she felt my emotions toward fortune telling or what, but I think my hand kind of laxed when she said that and I gave in. She ended up tracing my hand and telling me that I was just out of a relationship and that I would find confidence in myself, that this was a turning point in my life. The woman also told me that I would continue to travel and see the world, but a relationship will be not be so easy for some time. "As not many understand what you've seen and been through" but it would come in time.
I have to say I left this meeting a little freaked out, because whelp.. its true obviously and some of the details she brought up are things you probably wouldn't know from just looking at me. This was a turning point in my life that I look back on, after a toxic relationship it was my first real trip solo. It's what started that fire in me that says I can do anything on my own, I don't have to be scared of it.
4. No Bathroom? No Problem!
This one is a funny one, and fairly short too.
Basically I was on a school trip in high school where we went on this large bus around Spain to Madrid and Barcelona. There wasn't a bathroom on this bus however, and I had been waiting patiently for a few hours at this point. Now, mind you, this is before I was the avid traveler I am today. Back then, I had never peed over a hole in China, or went without toilet paper. I kept asking the guide that was with us if we were close yet, and made sure he understood I was about to pee my pants. It was a severe situation. He made the bus driver stop in an area with a viewpoint where there were known to be a couple of restrooms. They were out of order. Just my luck.
So I look at my friends, grab my backpack, and head into the tree clearing nearby, I find a good bush that was close to some leaves. And as I am there, I laugh just knowing that everyone on the bus is waiting for me. And yes, it was mortifying at this age, but now I don't care as much anymore.
Anyways I find out once I get back to the bus that some others needed to go as well, and I end up starting a trend. A line of people start molding outside of this tree clearing. The guide told me that there wouldn't be another for miles, so "its good you went while you could." C'mon Barcelona.
5. Hostel experience in Beijing...
My friends and I got to Beijing with no plan whatsoever, which is kinda the best way to travel sometimes in my opinion. But we were looking up hostels, when my friend found one for a great price that looked okay to us so we walked over to find it. Once we got there...
You know in the scary movies where there's a meat locker and those clear flaps of plastic cover the doorways and stuff? That is what we first saw walking in. We checked in with a man and he then proceeded to take us to a sketchy looking beaten-up metal elevator where I was sure this is where I would die. Especially when I thought I saw a blood stain on the floor.
Believe it or not, we aren't even to the worst part yet. He hands us off to a woman who then says that in order to get to our rooms she's going to need our passports. We said okay can you give it right back to us? We can wait here. She replied no, wait in your rooms it will take an hour or so.
Already we were looking at each other like, should we do this? Is it okay? Are we going to get kidnapped here? We let her take them, which looking back on probably isn't always the best move. But you know, desperate times and all.
We get to our room and one by one we all get comfy, wash up and play some drinking games to pass the time. (We did get our passports back at this point, don't worry). And right before we all turn in, my friend looks above her bed and sees someone's writing on the wall.
"Run run run, they will get you" was written quickly in pencil. Immediately she freaks out and we all kind of feel uneasy about it but we stuck the two guys by the door so if anything happened, they'd protect us. I put in my earphones and slipped on my eye mask and immediately fell asleep. I get made fun of for this all the time, yes I can sleep no matter the situation if I'm exhausted...it's a blessing and a curse.
All in all we got some weird vibes from this hostel, if I could remember the name I would mention it but I honestly couldn't tell you. It was just strange all around and from that point on we did a lot more research on where we would stay. Just grateful nothing really happened to us, although in the middle of the night one girl got up to use the restroom and ended up thinking the wrong bed was hers. So we did all wake up to a scream in the middle of the night. Just not exactly what we thought it would be!