2010 Travels: Worst Experience

by Chris on December 30, 2010

Getting sick in Mexico – by projectile vomiting in the Cancun airport – wins as my worst travel experience of 2010. What’s yours?

2010 may always be remembered as the year I couldn’t stop getting sick on the road.

There was the ER visit for altitude sickness in Aspen, where a blood oxygen level of 84% required me to sleep with a tank by my side. I saw Berlin’s Festival of Lights through a haze of cold medicine and snot-filled tissues. For sheer disgusting spectacle, though, nothing could top my projectile vomiting episode in the Cancun airport.

Cancun airport

How trite, I hear you saying. Doesn’t everyone gets sick in Mexico at one point or another? But this was no ordinary case of Montezuma’s revenge. No discreet trip to the ladies room. No, this was the type of sick where people around me shrieked in horror and pulled back in fear.


Contrary to what you might think, my sickness didn’t come from overindulgence, either in alcohol or other substances found on the Riviera Maya. While I can’t be sure what caused it, my stomach started grumbling shortly after eating at the breakfast buffet at an all-inclusive resort. Rumbles soon turned into spasms. And right before I jumped into a shuttle to go to the airport, I threw up in the bathroom of the resort lobby.

Shaky, I brushed my teeth and asked the front desk for a bottle of water – and a plastic bag for the 90-minute ride. My fellow bloggers in the van were concerned, and graciously gave me the front seat. I gained some strength back during the drive. When I got out of the shuttle at the airport, I felt confident my sickness was behind me.

Not so much. As I stood in line to check my bag, my stomach did a contortion worthy of a gymnastics gold medal. My knees buckled, I doubled over in pain – and I spewed all over the floor. Which happened to be the First Class Line at US Air.

I heard the gasps as people moved their luggage out of the way, but they felt far away. I couldn’t stop heaving. Still clutching the plastic bag from the resort, I aimed as well as I could. It wasn’t enough. My bag overflowed and vomit splashed across the floor. I weaved my way to a post for support, just as the emergency cleaning crew showed up. Realizing I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom, one of the workers handed me a black garbage bag – which came in handy when wave three began.

(If this sounds gross to read, pity poor Matt Long of LandLopers. , who witnessed the whole thing. He asked me if he could help but I was too sick to do anything but moan).

After the dry heaves stopped, I ran to the bathroom. Women eyed me suspiciously as I pulled myself together. When I walked back to the ticket line, people wouldn’t make eye contact. I felt like a pariah who just emerged from a hot zone.

One family did reach out. As I sat at the gate, miserably contemplating the six hour flight home, a Mexican family approached me. “Are you OK now? the woman asked. “We were worried about you,” her young daughter added.

My seatmate on the flight also ended up being sympathetic. A doctor on his way back from a medical conference, he gave me some medicine for my stomach that also made me drowsy. I endured the trip back woozy, drinking juice to replenish my electrolytes.

Here’s the thing: Despite my illness, I still had a great time on that trip. I met some awesome fellow bloggers, participated in a resort’s outstanding Twitter outreach program, took part in a temezcal and snorkeled in a cenote. “You’ll think twice about going back to Mexico, I bet,” my boss said, smirking, as I told him my tale. Ha.  It takes a lot more than a bout of food poisoning to keep me off the road. And I’d go back to Mexico in a heartbeat.

But I will be a little more skeptical of the buffet.

(Read more about my adventures in Mexico).

What was your worst travel experience in 2010? Share it in the comments – we promise not to laugh! (well, maybe just a little….)

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris (Amateur Traveler) December 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I traveled enough to get to premium status on both American and United, was away from home for 4 months but when I think back about worst experience the worst I can get is getting to a flight just after they shut the door because I did not leave for the airport early enough.

I still got home that night. What can I say, the universe likes me. :-)

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letitbe December 31, 2010 at 2:53 am

aaaahhhh….the all inclusive resorts buffet line.

I used to work at an (high end) all-inclusive resort. and yeah…well…the thing about the buffet line is that the food is in containers sitting on ice out in 80degree air.

stop and take a moment to think how long those things sit out there (on the buffet line)

so say for instance a potato salad containing eggs, mayo etc. You may be feeling spritely and are the first one out there to fill your plate…lucky you.

The guy who gets to the same bowl of potato salad just half an hour later is basically risking his life (or at least the rest of his vacation) dipping into that mess, as the only part that may not be germ ridden is the part that is sitting at the bottom of the bowl -nearest to the ice. and who’s gonna think to dig for that

food for thought—pun intended.

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Chris December 31, 2010 at 11:54 am

@letibe Ugggggghhh….I was already scared off, and now you’ve clinched it!

I have nothing against all-inclusive resorts. I think they are a great holiday choice for lots of people. But as I wrote earlier this year, I don’t think they are for me. People should think about what kind of vacation they want and decide based on their traveling style.

So let me ask you this – knowing what you know about them, do you stay at all-inclusive resorts when you travel?

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letitbe December 31, 2010 at 6:07 pm

oph dear god no…dont get me wrong i loved my years working there. Lots of perks especially as a manager.

But personally all-inclusive resorts (and for that matter mega cruise ships…you know the kind thats basically a floating country?) are a big no for me

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Chris January 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm

@Letibe – I’m with you on the big cruise ships. I understand why some people do them, and I think they are great for families and multi-generational travelers. But I much prefer small ship cruising. I went on two tall ships in the Caribbean last year and hope to make it to Alaska this year.

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Kara December 31, 2010 at 8:06 pm

OMG Chris – what a nightmare.

I will tell you this, you told the story beautifully. I felt like I was right next to you, as you, um, upchucked.

On another note, all the best to you in 2011, and I look forward to following your travels, as always!

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Chris January 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm

@Kara – Yeah, it wasn’t my finest hour. Oh well. Here’s to illness-free travel in 2011!

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Suzy January 4, 2011 at 11:17 am

Sounds like travel hell, being sick in an airport. My Dad once flew home from Europe with the stomach flu. They had to shut the airplane bathroom down with a condemned sign I believe.

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Chris January 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm

@Suzy You know, it’s funny. One of my friends asked me why the airline let me on the plane if I had been that sick at the counter. It’s a good question. Maybe Mexico ticket agents are more used to seeing people getting sick? Who knows.

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J.D. Ricks January 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Sorry, I have nothing to even compare. The worst that we had was self-inflicted. We, 4 adults and 3 small children, showed up in Cancun 4 days before New Year’s Day 2010 with no hotel reservations. After one night in a HOSTEL, which was spartan but clean, my son-in-law rented the last van on the Mayan Riviera and we went looking. We spent about half a day in Playa del Carmen getting those “are you freakin’ nuts?” looks from hotel receptionists and finally found a nice place for a reasonable price. TRAVEL TIP ALERT! Hotels near highway construction may be having a hard time filling rooms due to traffic access problems. Hey, it worked for us, but by that evening even they had a “don’t even bother asking” sign on the door.

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Chris January 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm

J.D. – New Year’s Eve without reservations? You are brave. ;) The only time I’ve done that recently was in Arizona’s Navajo country where we decided on a whim to head up to Monument Valley. We ended up staying in a room that felt like a bunker in a smelly Holiday Inn. It was just one night, though, and the park was gorgeous.

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JD Ricks January 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Next time you come to AZ contact me. We have an extra room heree in Mesa.

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Jaime January 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm

This sounds like one of my travel nightmares! My fiance and I just recently went to Paris on a group tour and pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did: My luggage was lost at the airport, I got sick and ended up in the hospital for two days, and we missed going to the eiffel tower. It reminded me of the movie White Wedding except their road trip gone wrong is actually hilarious. There’s even a goat that ends up tagging along in the car. I would recommend watching it. It will definitely make you feel better.

http://www.whiteweddingmovie.com/

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