Travel Tips

How I Survived My 5 Most Embarrassing Press Trip Moments

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I am a mascot magnet. Bonhomme, the mascot of the Quebec Winter Carnival, selected me to dance with him at a press conference. And that’s not even one of my most embarrassing moments.

Press trips. If you aren’t in the travel world, these are trips writers (and now sometimes influencers) take to learn about a new destination, often at the invitation of a tourism organization or a public relations firm representing a destination or property. Everyone who has ever been on one has a story about them. Here are a few of mine.

The universe seems to be pointing me toward revealing my authentic self.  An excellent recent Modern Love column in the New York Times coupled with advice from speakers at a conference last week are directing me to Be Authentic. An article in Psychology Today, “4 Ways to Be a More Authentic Person,” has this tip: Don’t be perfect. Well, I nailed that one a long time ago and pretty much practice being non-perfect on a daily basis.

The truth is my authentic self can feel like a barely contained ball of goofiness, which I do my best to constrain. But like my naturally frizzy hair I combat on a daily basis, sometimes the results of those efforts turn out better than others. Embarrassing incidents often ensue. And sometimes those occur on the road.

Here are my five most embarrassing moments from press trips. And these don’t even count fracturing my toe on a beach chair in Mexico. Or the time I smashed an entire bottle of red wine on top of a Bible in a hotel room in Vegas because I was too lazy to go down to the lobby to get a wine opener. Instead I watched a YouTube video on “How to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.” Much like all those gorgeous Pinterest craft projects, it didn’t turn out as planned.

Or the four times I’ve forgotten to pack underwear on a trip, most likely a record for a travel writer. During one of these, to a resort in Panama, my only option was a $15 barely there thong in the gift shop. I’d seen more cotton in an aspirin bottle, and figured I could make a similar product from my dental floss.

And it doesn’t count all my mascot encounters. If there is a mascot and it wants to draw a member of the audience into performing with it, despite my efforts to look away, I’m always chosen. That’s how I ended up doing high kicks in front of a room of people with Bonhomme, a 400-pound of compacted snow, the mascot of the Quebec Winter Carnival. I can’t ever get a bartender to notice me when I want a drink at a bar. I’m completely invisible then. But I am a mascot magnet.

So, in increasing order of how red my face turned and how much these memories burn, here are my five most embarrassing moments.

Gorges, an ancient village in France. Where I encountered a modern problem.
  • 1. Flushless in Provence

It was in an ancient village in France that I encountered a modern problem. We were on a tour of Provence, and made a brief stop in Gordes, a stunning 12th-century village built into cliffs. We climbed high up to take in the magnificent views and snap some photos.

On the way down, I stopped in a public restroom prior to boarding the bus. I’m used to various ways that toilets flush in other countries. (Or don’t flush in the case of holes in the floor encountered in some locations.) But despite looking high and low and pretty much covering every inch of the restroom, I could find nothing to push, pull or wave my hands over to make the toilet flush.

A knock on the door let me know someone was waiting, so my chance for an anonymous escape was gone. Finally, I had to admit defeat and leave. With plans to rush out past the person waiting with hopes it wasn’t someone in our group, I opened the door. And then I heard it. The toilet flushed.

2. Naked in North Carolina

As she showed us around the small cottage in Chimney Rock, North Carolina, the manager of the property was careful to point out the key hanging on a hook on the small outdoor deck, which was dominated by a hot tub.

“I’ve had to rescue several naked couples out here,” she said. “They come out here, lock themselves out and yell for help over the wall. So now we have a key on the outside.”

The hot tub was inviting, so later that night my husband and I slipped into it, often perching on the edge for a while as we got too warm. Or to pour ourselves a little more wine. The fence surrounding it was probably seven feet high, so we felt safe from being noticed as we hadn’t bothered to slip on bathing suits.

The next day I took a peek outside to make sure we hadn’t left anything. And that’s when I spotted it. The road on a hill about 40’ above the patio. With a clear view right down into our enclosed area. Our birthday suits had been on full display, by the light of the bright Carolina moon.

  • I took home a few souvenirs from a visit to this lovely home. But not the kind you want.


    3. Graceless in Georgia

I had just admired the eclectic décor of the third floor attic of a historic home in Cartersville, Georgia, (four disco balls, y’all!) when I took a step on the stairs to go down and wham! I landed hard on my left butt cheek and left forearm. My watch band broke, sending my watch scattering across the hardwood floor.

While a bit of alcohol had been imbibed prior to ascending the stairs, in this case I blame my new bought-on-sale gold Jack Rogers sandals. They looked cute and were comfortable, but had all the traction of an ice skating rink.

Luckily nothing was broken, but my left arm still sports a long green bruise – almost  three weeks later. And my butt? I developed a giant deep purple bruise, the shape and size of a mini football, which made sitting down over the next few days a true balancing act. As it healed I became strangely fascinated by its ever-evolving colors, looking like something out of the solar system.

Apparently I made my love of these cute little beauties obvious.
  • 4. Toasted in Texas

That was one of the worst layovers in my life. It was more than ten years ago, returning from a trip to San Antonio.  It was the only time before or since I overimbibed on a press trip – which can be surprisingly easy when alcohol flows freely than the Bellagio fountains.

The day of our departure, my fellow writers were giving me sly smiles and handing me tiny bottles of Grand Marnier. It was a nice gesture, but I had no idea why.

The night before we had been given these cute mini bottles. Apparently, I had not only professed my passionate love for the bitter orange liqueur, but proceeded to demonstrate it by downing several of them, leaving a wake of empty miniatures behind me. And prompting my fellow writers to shower me with many more bottles. Which of course were the last things I wanted to see the next day.

Rather than “Remember the Alamo,” for me it’s “Remember the Grand Marnier” when I’m tempted for that one last drink.

The tray on my plane had about three times this many glasses of Champagne. But not for long.
  • 5. Mistakes on a Plane

Unless I was hiking, I hadn’t really used a backpack since college. But on a trip to Southwest England last year, I opted to try one out. As I boarded the plane I headed to the far aisle towards my seat. As I turned the corner, a flight attendant came barreling towards me. I had no place to go, so I stepped back. Into a tray of freshly poured Champagne glasses.

As they tipped over, breaking and spilling in an avalanche of bubbles, I uttered my apologies, then quickly made my way back to my coach seat. It was the only time I was happy to be at the back of the plane. I slipped on my glasses and slunk  down in my seat, trying to remain unnoticed for the duration of the nine-hour flight.

So here’s my travel tip for you. Go ahead and be yourself. Be authentic. Chances are, you’ll do better than me.

You have any stories to share? Add them to the comments below. Don’t you want to be authentic along with me?


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