Oh, Uber drivers.

You come across some crazy characters when traveling. You can learn a lot from people when you least expect it, if you only take a moment to listen. Everyone, even people you meet in passing, has a story to tell. I’ve met some of the most interesting people through ride-sharing. Here are the highlights.

Sonder – noun. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

The five Uber drivers you meet on the road and what you’ll learn from them.

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The Knights Templar Rocker in Bratislava

Flixbus Bratislava Flixbus Prague honest Flixbus Review is Flxbus reliable

You won’t remember a time when you’ve been more scared. You see him on the side of the road, across from the Bratislava bus station. You demand he pull up to meet you because you don’t want to cross a busy street. You immediately regret it.

He angrily u-turns. You can hear the heavy metal music when he’s still 200 feet away.  His bright red car might as well have been stained with the blood of his enemies. When he jumps out of the front seat, he’s way taller than you expected. He’s hefty. His dark gray hair is carved into spikes on the top of his head.

You ride without speaking. You’ll pretend it’s because of the language barrier. You don’t speak Slovak. But the metal he’s blasting is in English, which he clearly understands. You just don’t know what to say to this Uber driver. There’s a Templar cross hanging from his rearview mirror. You’ll convince yourself later that there was probably a sword in the trunk.

When he drops you off at the Most SNP bus stop in Bratislava, you leap from the car in relief, even if your new location is under a sketchy concrete bridge.

What you learn: Never demand anything from someone over the phone. Be polite. Ask nicely. Because they might have a sword in their trunk.

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The Despacito Repeater in Vienna

airline connections short connections tight connections

You’ve had a long day exploring Schönbrunn Palace. You hop in an Uber because your feet are swollen and the idea of walking all the way back to the S-Bahn station makes you want to cry. Despacito is playing. You think, “Oh, I love this song!” You and your friend even sing along.

I don’t know the words, so I sing poquito.

I don’t know the words, so I sing Dorito.

I don’t know the words, so I sing contingooooo.

The song fades out. Then sharply back in.

Come and move that in my direction…

Odd, you think. Maybe it’s just his phone playing the song again. But then it comes on again. In English. In French. In Arabic. In a language you don’t even recognize. By the time you arrive home, your ears are bleeding. “Never again,” you mumble. You hear Despacito rev up again as he drives away. You clammer into the building.

What you learn: The maximum time that a human being can listen to Despactio in one sitting is considerably less than eleven plays.

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The Lobbyist in DC

What was it like at Trump's inauguration how to get good inauguration tickets

Washington, DC. 5PM. Thursday, the day before Trump’s inauguration. You go to Georgetown in the middle of the afternoon because the dress rental company screwed up your order for the inaugural ball you’re due to attend and you’re desperate to find a replacement.

You struck out and are in near tears with nothing to wear and the fanciest event of your life starts in three hours. Then your fairy godfather appears. He offers to take you to CVS to buy some safety pins and suggests ways of pinning the dress up so it still looks nice. He takes shortcuts to try and beat the DC traffic and tells you stories of fun things to do in the area.

He asks you why you’re in town. For the inauguration, you say. There’s a lull in the conversation.

He takes a deep breath. “So, did you attend a lot of Trump’s rallies before coming up?”

“Omg no,” you immediately reply. “He’s the worst. I’m just here to report.”

The mood lightens up right away.

“Oh, I guess now I can speak freely.”

You learn his heart is really in data collection and communication. He’s poured his life savings and energy into a company that’s completely on hold because of the change in administrations. No one knows what Trump’s stances and priorities are.

Your ride is well over an hour because of DC traffic. The last quarter mile takes 30 minutes, but you don’t get out to walk. You’re invested in this conversation. This man is your friend now.

What you learn: You can get along with more people than you think if you’re actually brave enough to start a conversation. New friends are everywhere.

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The Mario Cart Racer in San Jose

travel burnout tired of traveling

Most of the Uber drivers you’ve had in your life can actually drive. But you’ve never been as distressed as when you hopped into this man’s tiny car in San Jose. Even Knights Templar rocker was able to stay on the road, so you’re in completely uncharted territory as you grip your seat, dodge bananas, and try to nab power ups on the Costa Rican highway.

You’re on your way to pick up your rental car, but the lack of solid addresses in the Costa Rican capital cause you to circle the block no less than four times. Your driver begins to get irritated because you don’t know where the buisness is. You try to explain that you’ve never been here before. This makes him madder.

You almost roll backwards into a ditch and run over a dog before finally spotting the rental car sign. You swear you can hear the Hallelujah Chorus. You’ve barely shut your door before he speeds away.

What you learn: Life is precious and can end at any time. There are also things scarier than being bitten by an iguana in Costa Rica.

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The Silent Type in Amsterdam

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

It’s 3:30AM. The woman in your dorm has been snoring at top speed for nearly six straight hours. You are covered in bedbug bites. Your flight to London is at 7:00AM, but you decide to leave for the airport now because this is one of the most uncomfortable sleeping situations you’ve ever been in.

You use the remnants of the hostel wifi to call your ride. It’s only September, but Amsterdam is freezing in the middle of the night. As you stand next to the canal, shivering, itchy, and exhausted, your ride arrives.

It’s warm in the car. He’s softly playing classical music. He greets you with a smile, puts your suitcase in the trunk, and then doesn’t speak to you again for the entirety of the ride.

You slip into a blissful 20 minute nap, so when you arrive at Schipol, all is well.

You:

Your Uber Driver:

You:

Your Uber Driver:

You: 5 stars!!

He’s one of your favorite Uber drivers ever.

What you learn: sometimes not talking at all is the best way to bless someone.

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2017 in review. Wow. 2017 was a big year for me! I quit a job a hated. I quit a job I actually liked, but took too much time away from my writing. I started eating better. I stopped eating better. I went on a lot of trips.

In 2016, I paid off my student loans and explored the States in depth. In 2017, I went on my first solo trip abroad and almost died a few times. All in good fun!

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States visited: Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas.

Countries visited: USA, Costa Rica, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Switzerland.

Here’s how it went:

Went to Boston on a Week’s Notice to Surprise my College Bestie

friends in Boston

Friends in Boston. Brittney, the surprisee, is in the middle.

I started off the year by flying to Boston to surprise one of my best friends from college. I got some frantic texts from her sister the last week of December letting me know the entire squad was meeting up in Boston and could I come too? 

I don’t really make good financial choices, so I went! And boy, was she surprised.

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Witnessed a Historic Weekend in Washington DC

Unimpressed at the Inauguration

Unimpressed at the Inauguration

I went to an inaugural ball, Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, AND got some free mimosas from the Hungarian embassy all over the course of one long weekend. It was wild and emotionally draining, but I’m glad I went.

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Hunted for Pancake, the 1st Puppy of Texas, in Austin

Texas House of Representatives

Looking for Pancake in the Texas House of Representatives

My brother in law graduated as a Texas State Trooper in February, so we all went to Austin for the ceremony. It was pretty cool. But I was more interested in finding Pancake, Governor Abbot’s dog. I didn’t find her.

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Failed at Finding Bluebonnets in Fredericksburg

bluebonnets texas hill country

The biggest cluster we could find.

Texas Bluebonnets are legends, so my mom and I went on a hunt for them over spring break. I had visions of twirling in a field brimming with tall blue flowers. I just knew my Instas were gonna be bangin.

But I got the photo above instead. This part of my 2017 in review is a pretty great representation of my life, actually.  The Texas Hill Country is still pretty though, so I couldn’t be too mad.

Visited Chip and Jo in Waco

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

Enjoy a Cinnamon Roll courtesy of Joanna Gaines

I got my braces off on May 1st, so Waco was one of my favorite trips in 2017 because I could finally smile for photos with no more metal mouth. My mom, sister, and I went to Magnolia Market and the Dr. Pepper Museum — and managed not to join a cult in the process.

Caught up with my College Pals at my Mount Holyoke Reunion

mount holyoke college 2 year reunion

We want to recreate this photo at each reunion.

Mount Holyoke does a two year reunion so that you can come back and watch your “little sister” class graduate. Two years is actually the perfect amount of time for a college reunion because no one has actually accomplished anything yet, so there’s a lot of commiserating and not a lot of bragging. I left really looking forward to my 5 year.

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Went Househunting in Newport

newport rhode island

The Breakers

I literally have no idea what I’m going to do if I don’t end up crazy rich later in life. Case in point: casually touring the likes of The Breakers and Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island and thinking, “Yeah. I can totally see myself here.” I mean, what’s a couple billion dollars to a hustler like me?

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Got Bitten by an Iguana in Costa Rica

Iguana Hotel El faro

My little amigo who would later betray me

My trip to Costa Rica in May was a hot mess. I got bitten by an Iguana. My friend Smoky and I got lost in the rain (and not in a romantic way) more times that I care to admit. I saw a man peeing in the jungle. I somehow survived.

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Herded Children in Nashville

parthenon model nashville

Inside the Parthenon model in Nashville

Somehow I pass as an adult out there in the world and was placed in charge of the health and safety of a group of teenagers as we traveled from Houston to Nashville and back again for a week of service work in July. They all survived and I got to eat a lot of ice cream and visit the Grand Ole Opry, so I’d say it was a great trip.

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Got Bedbugs (and had a blast!) in Europe

Sober at Oktoberfest Oktoberfest drinks other than beer Not drinking at Oktoberfest

Me and Smoky at Oktoberfest!

Y’all. My feet about fell off on my grand tour of Europe. I’m not exaggerating. My toes literally started to separate from my body. I also was the proud owner of 70+ bedbug bites and jet leg to beat the band. But I still had a blast! I promise. I braved my first international solo trip and crossed quite a view experiences off my bucket list.

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Got in a Bus Accident in San Antonio

2017 in review

My Texas-sized breakfast at the hotel that morning.

Just imagine your bus breaking down and waiting on the side of the road for two hours while looking after 50+ students. Then imagine getting sideswiped by a guy who fell asleep at the wheel about 90 seconds after you finally got to reboard the bus and having to get off again and wait another two hours in the parking lot to be rescued by a second bus.

At least I got to meet a hot fireman who was working the crash.

Had the Best View in Austin

Hilton in downtown Austin View

Can you spot Willie? He’s there, I promise.

I went to Austin to watch my two baby cousins while their parents attended a Christmas party. We went full on Eloise at the Plaza and spent our evening at the Hilton in downtown Austin eating chocolate covered pretzels, calling the front desk, and admiring the massive Willie Nelson mural we could see from our window. The horses on 6th Street put on a pretty great show as well.

Took my Mom to “Prague”

czech cultural center la grange texas

Just as pretty as the real Prague….right?

My sister went to Prague in 2013 and hasn’t stopped gushing about it. I went in October and became equally obsessed. So now my mom really wants to visit. Prague was still inaccessible the last time she was in mainland Europe in 1978, so she missed it during her grand tour, and I couldn’t quite afford to fly her over — so I did the next best thing. I took her to Prague, Texas!

There are many, many Czechs in Texas (known as HOT (heart of Texas) Czechs) and so the Prague here is basically the same. Basically.

“Moved” my Sister to Corpus Christi

Selena Memorial Corpus Christi

The Queen and I

When I say moved, I really mean came to Corpus Christi over New Years to pay my respects to Selena and took a conveniently timed nap when the moving truck arrived so I wouldn’t have to help unload anything. I’m the worst.

My 2017 in review was full of great adventures! Here’s what is in store for 2018:

January

Fort Worth to see the famous stockyards and hopefully pet a longhorn.

March

Taking a great Southwest road trip with my mom to include the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley so that I can run, Forrest, run.

May

Moving to Australia on a Work and Holiday visa.

August 

I’d love to go to Fiji for my birthday, as well we Bali while I’m on that side of the world. I hope it works out!

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2017 year in review

 

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My recent girls’ trip to Costa Rica was a beautiful disaster.

It was my first time traveling to a non-European country as an adult and was the perfect storm of just enough under-planning, language barriers, physical weakness, and random accidents.

But I still had the time of my life.

Here’s everything that can go wrong in Costa Rica (but hopefully won’t for you):

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San Jose Costa Rica Traffic

Waiting for our Airbnb host in the monsoon.

Your friend Smoky could have a family friend who doesn’t speak much English who graciously picks you up at the airport, but then you get stuck in traffic and roast in the car and when you finally break free from the gridlock and arrive at your Airbnb, your GPS actually can’t find it and leads you in circles around the block for nearly an hour.

Your AirBNB host might be super gracious and come out to meet you to lead you to the apartment, but as soon as she steps outside there is a surprise monsoon and she gets soaked and you get soaked and Smoky’s family friends get soaked and no one is really happy about it.

San Jose Rainy Season

Soaked, but at least glad to know where we were staying.

Your AirBNB host might let you check in early even though you made her essentially take an extra shower, but as she’s finishing up the preparations you hear her mutter “Hay agua en mis zapatos” and it takes a second to register, but you figure out she’s got water in her shoes and you later find out she recently received them as a birthday gift.

You might have some shoe troubles of your own and wear a new pair of Birkenstocks that were supposed to be comfortable walking shoes, but you didn’t break them in well enough, so you rub your feet raw on the arches and toes and tops on day one of a walking-intensive trip and have to soak them in a plastic container you found under the sink and hope for the best.

San Jose Art Musuem

Peep the shoes that would betray me

You might have to pee so badly on the drive to Arenal that you pull over at a little bodega that’s essentially in a cave, but it’s raining again, so you can’t tell if you’ve wet yourself or if it’s just the rain and then end up peeing into a toilet with no seat for legitimately 47 seconds while rain pours through gaps in the ceiling.

When you get to Arenal, Smoky’s phone might have no service and it’s getting dark and starting to rain and when you arrive at what looks like Costa Rica Sky Adventures there’s no hotel in sight, so you drive helplessly up and down a really steep hill for like 30 minutes and nearly back into a ditch and you’re almost in tears, but then you spot a security guard, but he doesn’t speak English and once again another kind Costa Rican is getting drenched by a sudden onset monsoon trying to help you find your Airbnb. Only to find out that the little house you’ve been driving past for this entire time is where you were supposed to be all along.

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Arenal Airbnb Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Our Airbnb in Arenal! At Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Costa Rica Sky Adventures

The Jurassic Park View

When you collect yourself emotionally you might want to go get dinner, but the place your host recommended is closed, so as your pull into what you thought to be an abandoned driveway to turn around, your headlights illuminate a man peeing and you obviously startle him so he panics and starts trying to hide, but he can’t stop peeing so it’s just going everywhere and the stream is swinging back and forth as he looks for a hiding spot and you might urge your friend to drive faster and desperately call “Lo siento!” out the window at him as you speed away.

Costa Rica Weather

She wasn’t a fan of getting constantly soaked

When you get back to your room you might forget you put your phone charger in the front pocket of your bag and panic when you “can’t find it” so you send Smoky out to the car to search for it cause you’re not dressed, but she can’t find it either and makes multiple trips and then starts panicking herself because she can’t find HER other charger (even though she didn’t even bring it) all the while putting her life at risk because there’s some sort of animal out there and it legit sounds like the Chubacabra.

Costa Rica Zipline Costa Rica Sky Adventures

Soarrrrin Flyyyyin

(and the power might go out in the middle of the night because of the rain, so when the air conditioner reboots it might start beeping and flashing a bright white light for like EVER so it’s a good thing you don’t have epilepsy)

The next morning, you might sign up for zip lining, but you might do what Smoky did and only mentally prepare yourself for one 20MPH swing 500 feet above the Costa Rican rain forest with Costa Rican Sky Adventures, but when you suddenly have to do five more, you panic and feel like you’re gonna pass out midair.

Costa Rica Arenal Lake View

On the hike we took after ziplining. It was her jam. I was dying.

It might take you over 3 ½ hours to drive from Arenal to Monte Verde (even though they are only 13 miles apart) cause Costa Rican roads are low key insane and it could have been raining so you have to dodge hella landslides and eventually you’re basically off-roading on a rocky path in your little two wheel drive and you’re high up in the mountains and it’s so foggy it looks like the planet where Luke Skywalker finds Yoda and you might become so emotionally attached to the car in front of you for pointing out the potholes, that after driving behind it for a good 90 minutes you might shed a little tear when it turns off the path.

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Costa Rican Roads

Views on the way to Monteverde

When you get to Monteverde, you might be excited about staying in your super cool and chic refurbished shipping container, only to find out that it’s like 1000000 degrees inside because you can’t open any windows because it’s like the planet of the moths outside and there are tons of bugs inside too and the wifi doesn’t really work because it’s literally a metal box.

Monteverde Sky Forest

Not as cloudy as I hoped

When you go on the local coffee tour, you might misunderstand the guide and think she said it starts “one kilometer from the parking lot” when in reality it’s more like one mile, so you’re walking down a dirt road into some freaky thick mist and cars of other tourists are driving past looking at you like you’re an idiot.

Then after the tour, there might be another sudden onset monsoon and you’re trapped in the visitor center for like an hour after you wanted to leave because you need a ride to your car.

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Don Juan Coffee Tour

Covfefe in the rainforest

When you get to Manuel Antonio, you might get upgraded to a room with a view and everything might seem to good to be true, but if you’re like Smoky it’s your actual worst nightmare because the hotel literally has an iguana infestation and they’re constantly scampering all over the place and one might even bite you because you tried to feed it a banana.

el faro beach hotel

My little Amigo

El faro beach hotel

Before the betrayal

You might forget to put on sunscreen the day you spend the whole day at the beach, but it doesn’t really LOOK like your getting burned because your skin is still its usual milky white, but then all of a sudden you can’t even bend your legs anymore because they are TOAST and your shoulders are practically burned shut and everything hurts. Even looking at photos of the ocean might make you feel sick.

El Faro Beach Hotel View

EL Faro Beach Hotel has a GREAT view of the Pacific

Playa Manuel Antonio

Posing on Playa Manuel Antonio

Costa Rica is really hilly, so you might keep forgetting to take the parking break off and wondering why the car shakes and shudders when you try to back it out and when you finally return it, you have to take an Uber to your Airbnb by the airport and since there are no addresses in Costa Rica you have no idea where you’re actually supposed to go, so you’re left to fend for yourself and end up walking in ankle deep mud alongside a railroad track with a girl who speaks no English looking for it.

And when you finally find it, you’re so freaking tired that you crack and eat at Denny’s.

BONUS: since Costa Rica is one of the only countries my dad has been to…

Costa Rica Fishing

Dad’s photos that actually turned out

You might be my dad and be down near the Nicaraguan border on a fishing trip in the 80s and you can see some super sketchy government activity going on, so you try to take photos of it every time your boat passes, but when you develop your film expecting to expose a conspiracy, it turns out you faced the camera the wrong way and you just have a bunch of photos of your armpit.

The dress I’m wearing is from Dress Barn. 

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