My Solo Travel Curse Continues in the Cook Islands

Viewpoint in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands

What is it with me and solo travel?

I mean, seriously. Sometimes it feels as though every time I kiss Dave goodbye and enter an airport, I immediately stumble headfirst into disaster.

As always, I was convinced the Cook Islands would be different.

In fact, as Dave drove me to the airport in Christchurch, I merrily announced that I was certain no bad luck would befall me. I’ve been travelling for the better part of five years now, with over a year of that spent alone. I have common sense now. Sort of. I have life experience. I know what I’m doing. I know what to expect from travel. From hostels. From airports. From anything related to travel. I’d meticulously researched the Cook Islands; I’d booked everything in advance.

How could anything possibly go wrong?

Muri Lagoon in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands!

I awoke on my first morning in Rarotonga to the sound of urgent whispers outside my jammed-open window.

“Yeah, he’s talking to the cop now,” a girl muttered. “I doubt they’ll be able to catch them, but…”

“You must have been so scared.”

“It all just happened so fast. I didn’t really have time to even think about what was happening. And then James started running after them.”

I sat bolt upright in bed and pulled my laptop towards me. I was filled with a sudden urge to live-tweet exactly what was happening. Except, a pop-up jumped all up in my screen to tell me that getting online would cost $10 per 100 mb, which is crazy-expensive. I closed my laptop back down, threw it in my daypack, padlocked it shut, and headed outside to see what had happened.

In the common room, I spotted a man in police uniform with a grave expression on his face. Beside him stood a guy in his thirties, gesturing wildly. I took a seat nearby and listened in on their conversation.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that a local had broken into their beach bungalow overnight and tried to steal their stuff. The guy had woken up and chased him down the beach, but failed to catch him. It had been happening a lot lately: petty thefts along the beach; local kids prying on drunk travellers in the hope they might leave their valuables unattended.

I eyed the sign offering the use of a locker for a $10 key deposit, then went in search of the owner.

“What?” he chuckled. “You don’t need a locker! You have a private room; your stuff is safe. Those guys were getting drunk on the beach and left their bungalow open. Stupid! You’ll be fine where you are.”

I didn’t know who to believe, so I returned to my room, tugged the curtains over my open window, slung my camera over my shoulder, and headed out to explore Rarotonga.

The main road in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands
The main road in Rarotonga

I had a plan: I’d stop in at the nearest store to grab some sunscreen and insect repellent, then spend the day wandering around Rarotonga’s main town of Avarua. There were a couple of museums I wanted to check out, and my Lonely Planet had mapped out a walking route I could take to see the main attractions.

So, I walked.

And I walked.

And I couldn’t stop walking.

Rarotonga was breathtakingly beautiful; so much more than I’d expected and, uh, there were no shops in sight. It was midday; the sun was scorching; and I still didn’t have any sunscreen. I could feel the skin on the back of my neck starting to tingle and I ceased taking photos to jog alongside the road.

If you’d asked me then, I’d tell you I walked for six hours until I found that rundown gas station, but my impending heatstroke had left me delirious. It was more like an hour before I spotted it. Right then, I should have taken the bus back to my hostel because I could tell my skin was burning, but this was my one full day in Rarotonga, so I couldn’t go back having seen nothing but the main road. I slapped four coats of sunscreen on my perspiring body and continued on.

Moments later, I stumbled upon my favourite viewpoint on the island.

Viewpoint in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands

An hour later, I lined up to get jetblasted: Rarotonga’s airport is mere metres from the ocean, and standing on the road as the planes roar above you, is a wild ride that leaves your ears ringing for the rest of the day.

Jetblasted at Rarotonga airport

I wandered around the picturesque harbour in Avarua.

The picturesque harbour in Rarotonga

Then grabbed lunch at one of the cheap beach huts in town.

Cheap eats in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands

After lunch, it hit me how exhausted I was. I was drenched in sweat, my feet were aching from the fifteen kilometres I’d walked that day, I could tell that my skin was getting more and more burnt, despite me applying sunscreen every twenty minutes, and I had zero desire to explore more of Avarua.

I carried on anyway, because when would I next be in the Cook Islands? I might never come back, so I wanted to see everything and take it all in. I’d regret it if I went back now.

Views of Rarotonga, the Cook Islands

I walked thirty-five kilometres that day, and when I returned to my room, I let out a whimper, because I felt like shit. I sat on the edge of my bed and wondered if I should be angry or disappointed in myself: I’ve received enough hate comments over the years to know that people believe my “incidents” are just me making stupid decisions and never learning from them. I’m not the unluckiest traveller in the world; I’m just an idiot. But after experiencing so much anxiety over the last year, I was trying to practice self-love and stop blaming myself when things go wrong. But when things only ever go wrong when I’m travelling alone, it’s hard not to take it out on myself.

I should have bought sunscreen at the airport. I should have gone back to my hostel when I started getting burnt. I should have headed out later in the day when the sun wasn’t as strong. I should have turned back around when I was over it all in Avarua. I should have taken the bus home, rather than trudging back in flip-flops under the burning sun. 

Better decisions only come to me in hindsight.

When someone put their hand through my window at 2 a.m. and touched my head, I’m certain that growling and slamming my laptop lid up and down in an awkward rage wasn’t the right thing to do, but that was something I hadn’t been prepared for.

Muri Lagoon was my favourite area of Rarotonga

My eyes remained pinned open as I sat upright in bed for the rest of the night, eventually dragging myself out of my daze half an hour before my airport transfer. As I half-heartedly pushed everything I owned back into my pack, all I could think about was how terrible I felt. Two minutes before I was due to leave, I bolted to the bathroom and filled it with the contents of my stomach

What was wrong with me?

I still maintain that returning to my room, finishing my packing, and getting in the pickup truck to the airport was one of the toughest mental challenges I’ve ever faced. I plastered an awkward smile on my face and chatted to the hostel owner as we drove around the island, hoping he couldn’t smell my breath. The lagoon was spinning around me as I battled to keep my food down. I had pins and needles in my eyeballs. I was heading to Aitutaki: paradise on earth, and I’d booked myself into a great-sounding guesthouse as a treat. I just had to make it there without throwing up again.

And, well, it’s not like I experience motion sickness on planes or anything…

Oh man, that guesthouse was a disappointment. The free Wi-Fi that was advertised turned out to be a ridiculous $10 for 150 mb and my room was like being in a sauna. The fan spun uselessly in the room, barely generating a breeze and opening the windows and doors did nothing, so the room remained so goddamn hot all the goddamn time. It was so unbearable at night that I ended up wrapping myself in sheets, showering under cold water, and then curling up on the floor beside the open freezer in an attempt to stop sweating. Damn it, this was supposed to be a treat for me. I was supposed to be having the time of my life.

Beautiful beach on Aitutaki, the Cook Islands!

Optimism until my death! I woke up convinced I was going to have an amazing day on Aitutaki.

That morning, I opted to hire a bicycle, utilising my common sense after walking around Rarotonga had left me so broken. I set off with the wind in my hair, unable to hide my grin. I felt so free and happy to be here. I had been dreaming of visiting Aitutaki for years and it was just as beautiful as I’d imagined.

I stopped at a grocery store to stock up on snacks, but it was closed. I stopped at another but it was also closed. As I continued to pedal my way around the island, I noticed that every building I passed was shuttered up. I would later come to discover that I’d chosen Sunday as my one day to explore to island — a day when the highly-religious Cook Islands shuts down to go to church. Everything I’d wanted to see was closed.

Imagine a bicycle with the worst suspension you’ve ever come across and then imagine riding that bicycle over pot-holed roads for several hours. The nerves in my hands were shot by the end of the day and remained tingling for days afterwards.


I booked myself on a lagoon cruise for the next day, excited to explore Aitutaki from the water, but nervous about my seasickness. I brought my optimism back around after reading glowing reviews online and convinced myself that I was going to have an incredible day. And despite experiencing seasickness, it was an incredible day. I made friends, I snorkelled with giant glowing clams and swam with giant trevellies. I love travel, I thought to myself over and over until I felt as though my heart might explode.

Of course, this is me and not even my lagoon cruise was free of incidents. Most notably, I showed everybody on my tour my vagina when I forgot how to enter the water from the boat. More on that later this week.

The cruise drew to a close and then our boat broke down. In my head, I was all like, are you fucking kidding me? Of course the boat had broken down. Of course it had broken down in the middle of the lagoon under the steaming hot sun, rocking us from side to side until I was on the verge of throwing up. We sat for two hours and waited to be rescued.

The lagoon in Aitutaki, the Cook Islands. It definitely has to be the prettiest place I've ever visited

A few days later, I had switched guesthouses and stocked up on food — which, in the Cook Islands usually means tinned food and chips. Everything I’d bought had been stale apart from the baked beans, so that was my dinner on my final night in the Cook Islands. I sat on my bed, watching episodes of Nashville, eating lukewarm baked beans out of a saucepan.

And then I thought to myself: when I’d been at home planning my trip of a lifetime, did I ever picture it would look anything like this?

I left the Cook Islands a few days later, having had an amazing but disastrous time. At Rarotonga Airport, about to fly to French Polynesia, an older guy approached me in the terminal and began to ask me a series of probing questions. Little did I know that he’d been following me all over Aitutaki, was on the same flight as me to Tahiti, and was staying in the same hostel that I’d booked there. Little did I know that I was about to start feeling very uncomfortable.

Oh, and little did I know that my bank had just blocked my card.

I went back and forth a few dozen times about publishing this post, and it’s part of the reason why my incidents page has been lean of new content for several years. I don’t want it to seem like I’m whining and complaining about what, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that big of a deal. So I had a few crappy experiences — I got to have them in one of the prettiest places in the world. My life isn’t hard; my experiences weren’t traumatising. There are so many people who have it worse off. People are dying; I’m just showing everyone my vagina.

But I decided to hit publish because I think it’s important to share the realities of my life on the road, regardless of how insignificant my incidents are to other people. My life isn’t perfect, my travels are far from it, and my pretty Instagram photos only share so much of the story. Sometimes travel can suck, sometimes you’ll have such a ridiculous string of bad luck that you’ll wonder why on earth you don’t just fly home, but it all works out in the end. I’m still alive, I’m still in love with exploring the world, I’m still wondering why I seem to be the unluckiest traveller I’ve ever met.

Coming up this week: a detailed account of my lagoon cruise in Aitutaki — the prettiest place I’ve ever been, even with the disasters! — and another incident post about the time I flashed my tour group!

Related Articles on the Cook Islands

🇨🇰 What’s it Like to Travel in the Cook Islands?
💰 How to Travel the Cook Islands on a Budget (2022): It’s Possible!
🏝 You Have to Take a Lagoon Cruise in Aitutaki
🏖 How to Plan a Budget Trip to the South Pacific


  1. Alexandria
    March 8, 2016

    I just started following your blog (and your facebook!) not too long ago, but I really enjoy it! I’ve hardly traveled in my life, but I’ll tell you what – on my second flight ever last week, I threw up on the plane. Add that with my airsickness, it was a nightmare. So don’t feel bad about your luck because I’m pretty sure it follows me around, too. I really enjoy your incidents posts and you have a great storytelling ability which makes them funny & relatable, even if none of us are ever in the same situation as you were! It’s great to go back and make fun of yourself especially when you have anxiety (I have it too!) because then it makes the reality of it a little less harsh.

    Long story short – love the incidents posts and your blog in general! :)

    Have fun & safe travels!


  2. March 8, 2016

    Hi Lauren,
    So sorry to hear about the misadventures!
    But your pictures are just SO beautiful! You make me want to pack up and go!
    Keep up with your inspiring articles, I can’t wait to read more!

    • March 9, 2016

      Thanks so much, Aurelie! I highly recommend the Cook Islands, even with all of my disasters :-)

  3. March 8, 2016

    Ahhh, Lauren. Thanks for sharing your post. I love that you are so real. You have never come across as phony or stuck-up, just sharing your real world travel experiences and I love that you do. So, I’m sorry that others feel they have to belittle you or complain to you. This is your website and you can write what you want. Also, I think we can all relate to your travel mishaps in some way or another. Once I was in Morocco and it was during Ramadan, so my perfect Moroccan meal turned into junk from a convenience store b/c all the restaurants were closed. Not what I pictured!

  4. Casey
    March 8, 2016

    Hey! I love your blog, keep it up!

    How exactly did you expose yourself while on the boat?? Lolll

    • March 9, 2016

      It involved a rusty metal hook and me sliding onto it.

      • Karen
        January 30, 2021

        Just love reading your experiences, we’ve been to the island’s every year for year’s, rare twice and was bout to go back
        But covid struck, beautiful island, my favorite out of all would have to be Vanuatu, we got married there, the people there are so beautiful

  5. March 8, 2016

    Oh no! I am really sorry to hear that Lauren! And no, it might not be the world’s worst problem, but it still really sucks! I don’t think you are whining at all, I love how you give an honest picture about traveling. Because it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and those stories need to be told too!

    • March 15, 2016

      Thanks so much, Lotte! :-)

  6. Lu
    March 8, 2016

    Wait, so who’s the guy following you? And what happened to your card?

    • March 8, 2016

      You’ll find out when I start writing about French Polynesia :-)

  7. March 8, 2016

    Oh man what a bummer!!! Honestly, I had similar luck in the cook islands. I was there for my honeymoon and both my husband and I got food poisoning and spent a good 36 hours hating life, hahaha. But at least it’s a stunningly beautiful place to have some travel misfortunes :-)

    • March 9, 2016

      No way! That sucks. And true — it’s one of the best places to be cursed :-)

  8. March 8, 2016

    Oh man, this line: “People are dying; I’m just showing everyone my vagina.” Laughed my ass off, very funny. Sorry about your string of bad luck, just consider it new material for a forthcoming book. Beautiful photos as well!

    • March 9, 2016

      Haha, true! For a long time, I was worried I’d never build up enough material for a sequel, but it turns out I just need to travel alone for a bit. Glad I could make you laugh! :-D

  9. March 8, 2016

    Please keep sharing Lauren, not enough people share the bad along with the good. I had quite a lot of bad luck during my three months in SE Asia recently but it also didn’t spoil my trip and it can always be worse.

    • March 8, 2016

      Ahh another kiwi travel blogger! I love finding successful kiwi bloggers because it gives me hope that I too can do it! x

      • March 15, 2016

        Dave is a kiwi blogger, too :-)

    • March 15, 2016

      Absolutely! I’m still alive :-)

  10. Shannon
    March 8, 2016

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for being honest about travel! My sister and I did a 6 week backpacking trip and I would write daily emails to a list of friends and family back home. My sister remarked at the emails that it seemed like we had a picture perfect trip, but I wasn’t including the many annoyances and incidents that piled up making some days quite stressful. It seemed wrong at the time to complain about the blister covering my ENTIRE foot or the nose bleed that lasted for almost an hour because the air pollution was so bad or dozens of other little things, when I was traveling somewhere that people back home only dreamed about. Now I appreciate reading about good and bad instances because it’s so much more real, helpful, interesting.

    Best wishes from Florida :)

    Also, I loved your book!

  11. Siobhan Tomkinson
    March 8, 2016

    wow, the light in those pics looks amazing, the colours are glorious. Very envious!

  12. March 8, 2016

    Thanks so much for re-affirming that travel is not just about the cool, exciting, and wonderful things you get to see and people you get to meet. Its also about being able to laugh at the little hiccups along the way.

    I’m writing this as I spend my 5th day recovering from a stomach bug in my hostel in Bangalore. ug… One day I’ll laugh about this, I know it!

    • March 15, 2016

      Argh! That sounds awful. Stomach bugs nearly always have me wanting to book a ticket home! Hope you’re feeling better now!

  13. Kate
    March 9, 2016

    Vulva! Not vagina. Unless you actually, you know, invited everyone inside for a tour :p

    • March 9, 2016

      Haha, I know, I know. But vulva sounds so clinical. Personal preference, I guess. I know vagina is technically incorrect, but I think its meaning has evolved over time to become a colloquial term referring to the general area. Next time, I’ll go back to my British roots and call it a fanny :-)

  14. March 9, 2016

    I love hearing about your incidents :) The thing with the old man seems really creepy though! At least you don’t let it out you off travelling! Love your blog and the pictures are gorgeous :)

    • March 9, 2016

      I’ve had enough incidents by now that I don’t let it affect my travels — I’ve learned that the good times will always outweigh the bad! :-)

  15. March 9, 2016

    That line ‘my pretty Instagram photos only share so much of the story’, that is exactly why I love your blog. There is always so much more to a pretty photo and I love how honest you are about all of your adventures, good and bad. It doesn’t matter if the incidents seem small compared to others, it’s the fact there is something to tell that makes it worth telling.

    I can’t wait to read more about your trip and your incidents!

    • March 20, 2016

      Thanks so much, Jodie! I’m looking forward to sharing more soon :-)

  16. March 9, 2016

    ” Sometimes travel can suck, sometimes you’ll have such a ridiculous string of bad luck that you’ll wonder why on earth you don’t just fly home, but it all works out in the end. I’m still alive, I’m still in love with exploring the world…”
    This, above all else, is the important message you send. Thank you!!

    • March 9, 2016

      Thank you, Gayla! That’s so kind of you to say :-)

  17. March 9, 2016

    I honestly appreciate that you’re always keeping it real! Sometimes I think that too many blogs only ever talk about the good sides of travel and don’t really disclose that life is happening at the same time – and life just means that we’ll have bad experiences every once in a while as well! I think it’s great that you spread the message that travel is awesome even when not everything is going perfectly! :)

    • March 10, 2016

      Thank you so much, Melanie! That’s exactly it: just because I travel, it doesn’t mean that I don’t go through the same hardships as everyone else. I used to beat myself up when I first started travelling because every travel blog I read only focused on the good times — I felt like I was doing something wrong whenever anything bad happened!

  18. Sita
    March 9, 2016

    On the plus side, you’re out there living your dreams! :)

    • March 9, 2016

      Of course.

  19. Ann
    March 10, 2016

    Really appreciate the details you offer which aren’t so evident elsewhere,
    I’ve been looking for a tropical location near the sea to live and work ( will need to connect with a good service project) or develop one) for a 6th month sabbatical. Will have to live on half my regular American salary so need a place that is affordable.
    Have been researching the Cook Islands and thinking it could work. Love what I read about the people, and the beauty and have read elsewhere that with the currency diff especially, living there can be affordable.
    Your account is sobering. Hard to imagine managing without wifi or greens for that long. And not so affordable after all…

    • March 10, 2016

      The Wi-Fi situation is likely to be different if you’re living there. In New Zealand, for example, one hostel charged $18 for six hours of use! And 40 out of the 45 hostels we stayed in charged $10+/day for very slow Wi-Fi. It seemed like it was crazy-expensive for Internet, but when you live there, it’s not the case. The Internet works well and it costs around $50 a month for a connection.

      If you’ll be renting a place in the Cook Islands while you’re living there, rather than staying in a hotel/guesthouse/hostel, you’ll likely have a dedicated connection so won’t be paying for Zenbu, etc. And with the vegetables, you can pick those up at markets — there just weren’t any on or accessible to me while I was staying there.

      I actually found the Cook Islands to be a lot more affordable than I was expecting. You can eat out for $10 a meal, and dorm rooms in hostels start at $20 a night. I found a really nice apartment in Rarotonga for $50 a night and the room was great! Big balcony, loads of work space, a well-equipped kitchen, lots of places to sit and relax… six month rates should be very affordable.

  20. March 10, 2016

    Well despite the bad that happened your pictures look beautiful. I can’t wait to read more.

    • March 10, 2016

      Thanks, Heather! New post going up later on today :-)

  21. March 10, 2016

    I think it’s great that you include the shitty aspects of travelling along with the good ones! Lots of people feel guilty when they aren’t enjoying themselves for every second of every day on a trip. You have good and bad days at home; your geographical location won’t change that! To be honest you’re probably not that unlucky a traveller – it’s just that you’re very honest about the bad times in a way that a lot of people aren’t.

    • March 18, 2016

      That’s what I try to explain to people — just because I’m travelling, it doesn’t mean that everything is suddenly just sunshine and rainbows. Social media doesn’t help with the portrayal of travel being exactly that though…

  22. Maggie
    March 10, 2016

    Beautiful Pictures!!! Loved all your Pictures in the article. Wish I’d get a chance to visit these Islands soon…

    • March 15, 2016

      Thanks, Maggie! :-)

  23. March 11, 2016

    you are soooo not alone. your disaster stories are the stories of travel. many may not publish about the incessant hacking of phlegm into the vomit bag by the guy next to you on the airplane or the complete, measurable and reportable breakdown of any rational system for transfers in Beijing’s airport, but they do happen to all of us who are on the road. :)

    in no small part these seedy circumstances and shady characters are our raison d’etre for travel, no?

    • March 15, 2016

      Well, it’s because of the terrible things that happen to me that I got a book deal, so I can’t complain :-) Although I would prefer some incident-free travels for a while now!

  24. March 11, 2016

    The Cook Islands look amazing, although I have heard the food can be expensive if you want to eat out. Nevertheless, they are next on my list as I have just moved to NZ so they are now so close!

    • March 15, 2016

      I did find myself eating vegetarian meals at times to save money — they work out to be $10 per dinner rather than the $25+ for fish or meat dishes. There are also some food trucks in Rarotonga with meals for around $10 that helped to keep the costs down.

      Exciting to hear that the Cook Islands is next on your list! It’s so beautiful there :-) And flights from New Zealand are super-cheap!

  25. March 12, 2016

    I think you should keep these posts coming! There are so many blogs which only show us the beauty of travel. I’ve taken so many pictures of beautiful locations, but i couldn’t wait to tell people how much it sucked to get there (hiking when you’re not in shape, eugh :) ) In my recent post, I could’ve left out how I backed the rental car into a wall and had to pay 565 USD for the excess but that was the reality of that day :) That having been said I can’t wait for more pictures of the Cook Islands, it looks beautiful!

    • March 18, 2016

      I’ve definitely done my fair share of out-of-shape hiking and I was also miserable for a lot of it! The bad times always help to make the good times shine brighter, though :-)

  26. Tamara
    March 12, 2016

    The Cook Islands look like such a beautiful place! And as for you continplating doing this post I love them! Just like you said you’re just posting the reality of being a full time traveler and it’s nice to see the amazing and the not so amazing aspects of it. I love the more personal posts and think it really brings you down to Earth! Keep up the amazing content and much love from Canada!

    • March 15, 2016

      That’s so great to hear, Tamara! Thank you so much! :-)

  27. March 13, 2016

    I’m glad you posted this even though you weren’t certain. The photos you took are just stunning, the colors beautiful!
    I’ve been dreaming of visiting the Cook Islands for years, but I never thought of some of the incidents that happened to you, occurring.

    I hope the rest of your trip turned out better!

    • March 15, 2016

      It absolutely did! :-)

  28. Tiina
    March 14, 2016

    I love your blog and I still find it very refreshing that you are so honest about everything. Traveling is amazing, sometimes mind-blowing. And sometimes it is beans and tv alone in your hostel room.

    Best wishes from Finland!

    • March 15, 2016

      Awww, thanks, Tina! I hope to spend a lot of time in Finland later this year :-)

  29. March 17, 2016

    I am also an idiot traveler who is forever having “incidents” that are sometimes my fault, sometimes not. But when they are not, they are always on days where they just add to other things that were my fault. I have one BAD DAY on every trip I take. I also get backlash because of this. I was once told that I am the reason all Italians hate Americans because my hotel that advertised WiFi, did not have WiFi and that makes me stupid. You really cannot beat yourself up over people having an odd reaction to a complete stranger having issues. Like…I had a bad day. I recapped it. Other people getting upset by it is just confusing and I don’t care enough to try and figure it out.

    • March 18, 2016

      Yes, yes, yes! Exactly. I don’t think I’ve ever had an incident-free trip and I’m not sure I ever will! Even when I’m basing myself somewhere and trying to get work done, I’ll end up slicing my hand open with a knife or the oven will explode or I’ll get food poisoning or someone will try and scam me when I step outside!

  30. March 20, 2016

    Whether you’re unlucky or a so-called idiot traveler, it basically boils down to incidents on the road aka shit happens. Everyone makes stupid decisions or doesn’t really think about what they’re doing once in a while. Don’t beat up yourself about it!
    You have a way of describing your incidents in a hilarious way, so yeah, the day itself might not have been all peachy, but in the end, it all made for some pretty good articles on your blog and your very own book ;-)

    • March 20, 2016

      Oh, I agree! I think it’s tough not to, though, when something like this happens to me almost every single day. In the month since writing this article, I’ve been knocked down by two ear infections, a sinus infection, a bladder infection, and a kidney infection. The latter is currently in danger of ruining my dad’s 60th birthday if I have to spend our planned trip together next week in pain (or in hospital!). I’ve crashed a bike. My guesthouse owner forgot I was arriving and I ended up stranded on a French Polynesian island with no way of getting anywhere; I eventually found my way to the guesthouse and discovered they were fully booked. My bank blocked my card on the day I was flying to an island that doesn’t have ATMs. A gas oven incident in Mexico was scarily close to killing both me and Dave. I was attacked by a dog. I got food poisoning.

      So while bad stuff happens to everyone on the road, for me, it feels like it’s never ending, and it’s hard not to beat yourself up over it when it doesn’t seem to happen with such frequency to any other travellers.

      Edit: and yes, I am feeling unusually pessimistic today!

      • March 29, 2016

        Oh my, Lauren, that really sucks! Hope you’re feeling better by now!
        You know what I like best (man, that sounds just wrong…) about all your incidents and general bad luck on the road? You don’t let it stop you from traveling!
        I’m sure many people would have crawled home in tears after a couple of your catastrophes, and yet you are still there, even letting everybody and their grandma know about your mishaps.
        Stay that way :-)

  31. Amanda
    March 26, 2016

    Hi Lauren,
    I came upon your book by chance, I am currently travelling in NZ and have had no real disasters, just my travelling agency that is very incompetent especially with realizing that they are 12 hours behind NZ in time. My son is backpacking NZ, I will surely buy your book for him. He wants to travel to Thailand end of April – your parents must be very strong people indeed because I have such a hard time trying to not sound concerned for him, he is fighting any shows of emotion like it is pinning him to the ground…you should really also cover the plight of the parent when kids go walkabout! Looking forward to reading your book when I get home. Amanda

  32. April 3, 2016

    The colours in your photos are insanely vibrant, it looks like an awesome place. Don’t stop blogging about your incidents, it’s great that you show the less glamourous side of travel.

  33. May 24, 2016

    I’m so glad you keep writing these posts. I don’t think they come off as whiney- just honest. If not a little hilarious. We all have bad days on the road, yours just seem to be a lot more regular! At least your photos are super amazing!

    • May 27, 2016

      Oh, thanks, Britt! I think I’d read a few bad reviews of my book as I wrote this and was feeling down about all of the things that go wrong for me when I travel.

  34. Chris
    August 9, 2016

    “But I decided to hit publish because I think it’s important to share the realities of my life on the road, regardless of how insignificant my incidents are to other people.”

    Well, thank you so much for hitting publish, Lauren. I think it’s so important for people to hear that this kind of travel is not just sunshine and roses all the time. Sometimes its sunstroke and having unwanted hands touch your head in the middle of the night!

    But seriously, blog posts like this one will help countless people (like myself) who go through the similar feeling of “this kind of stuff only happens to me” or “why am I so cursed” when they look at all the other perfect bloggers and instagramers who have nothing but spectacular, perfectly planned, magical experiences (or so they want us to believe). Blog posts like this are *so* needed when there are so many other blogs telling us that travel is 100% great all the time.

    “Right then, I should have taken the bus back to my hostel because I could tell my skin was burning, but this was my one full day in Rarotonga, so I couldn’t go back having seen nothing but the main road.”

    I empathize with you so much. I am exactly like this, constantly pushing myself beyond my limits because “I just have one day here” or some excuse like that. I don’t know what the answer is. I broke down one afternoon in Paris, torn between “wasting the day” and knowing that I was too exhausted to continue. That day, I found listening to my body, going back to my hostel and sleeping for 2 hours was totally the right call. Sure, I missed 2 hours in Paris, but the few hours I had after that I enjoyed so much more.

    I write that like I’m so wise, but I still get hit with the same dilemma every time I travel, so I guess I haven’t really learned anything. :)

  35. Maggie
    August 20, 2016

    I love your honestly about travel and the bad experiences, because I think a lot of travel bloggers make it look nothing but perfect and romantic – and that isn’t real. I’m sorry if you get flak for this. But honestly, you are so much stronger and better at coping at that stuff than I would ever be. I would have had a breakdown over any single one of the things you suffered and I greatly admire your sense of optimism and determination to enjoy things despite the bad stuff.

    (And frankly, we are all capable of making bad decisions when we are in the middle of a situation – we often don’t know they are bad decisions, either, until later, when we see how things turned out. So don’t kick youself – or let commenters get you down. I also admire you working on self-love and self-care. So important. Thank you again for sharing.)

  36. Jen
    November 28, 2016

    Hi Lauren,

    I just stumbled upon this post while researching about the Cook Islands. Your post made me laugh and made me sad and made me shake my head in disbelief.
    So I thought I would send you a quick note as I’m a traveler too.
    First of all, your photos are absolutely gorgeous! I want to ask you – as many have already – to please keep sharing because you clearly have an eye for photography and everything that happens to you can happen to other people. Sharing is caring eh!?
    Second of all, I don’t believe in bad luck but I believe in lack of planning. When travelling to a place that you’ve never been before, even if you wing it on the day with regards to activities and what to do, it’s important to research the cultural differences that we don’t think about when we’re back home (like being in the Caribbean on a Sunday lol). I get it because I made the exact same mistake years ago and visited a city on a long holiday weekend … the streets were literally empty haha!
    Finally my last advice (but I guess this also depends on personality traits) would be that the level of terrible-ness that the “bad luck” or problems coming up on your trip will be depends on your reaction to them. I admired your optimism on this post and I think that’s the way to go. Whatever happens, it could be worse, you are in a beautiful location and you have the freedom to actually make those mistakes and survive them!
    And finally (bis) when you travel, always remember that your most treasured possession is yourself, take care of yourself, make sure you have food, water, sun-cream (!!) wherever you go.
    Happy travels! :)

    • Jen
      November 28, 2016

      PS: you have a new follower in me! :)
      My Insta @LRJennn

  37. Melinda
    July 12, 2017

    THANK YOU for sharing your story! Going to visit the Cook island in November and I’ll definitely book a bike to explore the island ? Made me laugh because it’s so relatable. It’s not always fun and i also push myself to get the most out of every trip, which results in exhaustion, blisters and a self guilt-trip.

    Safe travels ✌

    • July 18, 2017

      Hope you have an amazing trip, Melinda!