When you travel to over 20 countries in 18 months, there are bound to be plenty of memorable experiences. It’s an opportunity to connect to places in a personal way, meet interesting people from around the world, and if you’re lucky, experience scenes that could have jumped right out of National Geographic magazine. But then there are other times…
I think we can both agree that our travels to date have been overwhelmingly positive. Whether we stayed at an Airbnb or a hostel, people have been warm and welcoming. I sensed they wanted us to love their country as much as they do.
I remember precious moments like when we were leaving the family-run hotel in Cusco. As we were waiting for the taxi, one of the owners ran upstairs and returned with brass llama figurines for every member of our family. It was an unexpected and wonderful gesture that made us want to return even more.
I keep thinking about that foundation director in Sangolqui, Ecuador who gifted us with jewelry made by indigenous women. When we tried to pay her, she explained that this type of gift can only be given as a token of friendship. And when it comes to gift-giving, our students in China could not have been more loving and generous to their visiting facilitators. We love our traveling pandas.
Unfortunately, as we both know, not everyone looks at foreigners that way. It seems like no matter how much I work on my Spanish, I will inevitably be viewed as the gringo. That means many taxi drivers only see dollar signs when we get in a cab.
It’s nice that Quito airport has a preset taxi pricing policy. But when our driver demanded a higher fare at the end of the ride, using some lame excuse about tolls, he really pissed me off!
It seems like we had a few incidents of toxic taxi drivers. I hate to pick on Quito, but that was also where the taxi driver misrepresented himself as the one we had hired to give us a ride to the airport.
The actual driver was on his way, driving from his home one hour away. Once we realized we had the wrong taxi, we felt like he was holding us hostage and we basically had to jump out of the taxi to escape.
Then there were the rumored threats of street crime, in particular, the pickpockets throughout South America. How ironic that it was in a “safe neighborhood” in Poland where our electronics were stolen from our apartment.
Not a happy day! The apartment owners were really upset and said this had never happened before. The police came, questioned us for hours, and even dusted us for fingerprints. And after it was all said and done, no one was caught.
Yeah, the only witnesses were a couple of guys lingering across the street who seemed to be always there to “keep the neighborhood safe.” Coincidentally, they claimed they left before the incident and didn’t see a thing. Hmmm…
We hope all your travels are good ones. But please let us know if you have stories to share, warnings to heed, or more tales of treacherous taxi rides!
by: Mike & Eileen Brill-Wagner