10 Real Travel Disasters That Could Happen to You
The world is an amazing place, and travelling is a great way to expand your horizons. But these vacations went truly sour after unfortunate encounters with pirates, volcanoes and flesh-eating bacteria. Here are 10 real-life travel disasters that could happen to you.
1. You’re Kidnapped By Pirates
In 2009, British couple Rachel and Paul Chandler set off on their yacht for a relaxing around-the-world vacation. Not on their itinerary? Being kidnapped at gunpoint by Somali pirates while cruising in the Seychelles archipelago. Their captors held the pair separately for more than a year until family paid a $750,000 ransom in November 2010. Despite their disturbing ordeal, the seafaring couple resumed their aborted sail around the globe in the fall of 2012. Hopefully your trip won’t feature violent interlopers…or a rescue by Navy SEALS!
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2. A Volcano Grounds Your Flight
When Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in the spring of 2010, thousands of flights were grounded for weeks. Among the throngs of stranded air travellers was Anne Muir of Ajax, Ontario. Her week in the U.K. was extended indefinitely. “At one point I wondered if I would have to come back by boat,” she says. “Two weeks later when the ash cleared, I was bussed six hours north of London to catch a plane from one of the only airports that was open—only to be flown into a different Canadian city than I was heading to.”
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3. You Catch the Norovirus on a Cruise
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 15 reports of widespread sickness on cruise ships. Norovirus, a pesky bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea, was to blame for 12 of the 15 cruise disruptions. Feeling nauseous yet? Three cruise ships—the Queen Mary 2, the Crown Princess and the Emerald Princess—reported norovirus attacks within the same week in December 2012. If you’re planning a ship-bound holiday, be sure to pack anti-bacterial wipes, diarrhea medication and plenty of soap for hand washing—it’s better to be safe than sorry.
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4. A Tsunami Unleashes Holiday Terror
On December 26, 2004, beach goers in Thailand had their holiday in paradise turn into hell on earth when an underwater earthquake in the Indian Ocean created one of the world’s deadliest tsunamis. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the energy released by the quake was the equivalent of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. Giant waves crashed violently into the shores of Thailand and 11 other Indian Ocean countries, leaving more than 150,000 people either dead or unaccounted for.
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5. Your Diplomatic Status is Revoked
In 1988, Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri lost his European residential papers, and was booted off a London-bound flight in Paris. Without citizenship or official papers, Nasseri was a man without a country. He couldn’t be deported, nor could he leave the airport. Mired in red tape while authorities dealt with his situation, Nasseri called Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle Airport home for 17 years. His quirky story influenced Steven Spielberg’s 2004 Hollywood hit The Terminal starring Tom Hanks.
6. You’re Seated Near a Drunk
During an Icelandic Air flight to New York City in January, Gudmundur Karl Arthorsson drank excessively, transforming into a violent, sputtering nuisance. According to fellow passengers, this traveller from hell tried to grope several women, attempted to choke a male seated nearby, and screamed that the plane was plummeting to the ground. Quick-thinking passengers and flight attendants employed duct tape to bound, gag and tie down the pest to his seat. No amount of frequent flyer miles is worth sitting near this in-flight menace.
7. You Experience a Real Midnight Express
Here’s an important travel lesson: don’t make misguided (and illegal) decisions when visiting foreign lands. For American student Billy Hayes, his 1970 attempt at smuggling drugs out of Turkey earned him a chilling souvenir—a traumatic stint in prison. Originally sentenced to four years and two months, Hayes’ penalty was increased to 30 years. After several years locked up in various Turkish jails and an insane asylum, he successfully escaped in 1975. Hayes’ biography Midnight Express detailing his harrowing time behind bars was made into a 1978 film written by Oliver Stone and directed by Alan Parker.
8. Your Outdoor Adventure Leads to Tragedy
In the spring of 2012, 24-year-old Aimee Copeland from Georgia was enjoying a zip line adventure 50 miles outside of Atlanta. Carefree fun turned to horror when the line broke, tossing Copeland to the ground where she suffered a calf gash that required 22 staples to close. A few days later reeling from unbearable pain, Copeland was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis—a flesh eating disease. Surgeons removed Copeland’s hands, a leg and her remaining foot in order to save her life. During her fall in the woods, Copeland’s wound probably picked up the Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria. Commonly found in the environment, the bacteria rarely causes the flesh eating disease—the U.S. sees less than 250 cases each year.
9. Your Airline Folds
After months spent penny-pinching, the trip of your lifetime has finally arrived! Unfortunately, your airline wasn’t as financially vigilant. In August 2008, a bankruptcy declaration grounded Zoom Airlines, and many of its passengers on both sides of the Atlantic. Blaming rising fuel prices and hungry creditors for its economic downfall, the doomed airline ceased all operations with zero notice. Disgruntled travellers were blindsided, and had to scramble for alternative flights in order to salvage their holidays.
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10. You Break a Law Without Realizing It
If you want to avoid a hefty fine or a jail sentence, it pays to study the laws of your holiday destination. In 2009, a British couple faced a $500 fine, and a month in prison after being caught kissing in public during a trip to Dubai. The amorous tourists didn’t realize that public displays of affection are frowned upon in the United Arab Emirates. Years later, public smooching is still sending people to the slammer—in December 2012, a local Indian-Filipino couple were sentenced to a year in jail for the same offense.