South America Living

Stupid Things Travel Writers Do While Traveling

by Molly McHugh, Former Editor/Publisher of South America Living.     About the Author

Let me rephrase that title: “Stupid Things This Travel Writer Did While Traveling”. After ten plus years of roaming the planet (four continents, 26 countries) you would think I’d know better than to:

Mistake #1 – Share a cab with strangers.
Mistake #2 – Hand-over $160 USD to a ‘luggage helper’ at a border to buy our bus tickets.

You’d think.

Not only did I do both the above, it was at a border crossing (Yacuiba, Bolivia to Salvador Mazza, Argentina) in the dark, pre-dawn hours of early morning. Stupid? Very.

I hadn’t slept much the night before (Bolivian busses aren’t noted for comfort) yet was alert after arriving from Tarija, standing guard over our luggage as my son walked our two dogs. The border was 15 minutes away we were told and ventured to the curb to grab a cab.

While luggage and kennels were being lifted into a trunk. my son walked up, “Can I have 7 bolivianos Mom? Quick!”. “What for” plus “I don’t have anymore change” said as I glanced over to check on our belongings and noticed two passengers in the back seat – a man and toddler. Getting a little flustered I said, “The cab is ready to go!” hoping my son would stop pestering me and get into the car.

To his credit, my son now surveyed the scene as well and balked at sharing a cab with others. “It’s Ok.” I said. “Come on, let’s go” Were we in any real rush that prevented taking a minute to remove our things and transfer to a new cab? Of course not. Did I? No. Stupid? Very.

As my instincts, luck or travel Gods shining down on us that morning would have it… we arrived at the border without incident and a cheap fare. In reality we could have been robbed, assaulted or worse.

And the stupid, I mean story, does not end there. In the next hour, after being befriended by yet another luggage helper, I handed over $160 USD in cash (still pitch black out) who promptly disspeared into the darkness to give to a bus driver.

It took my son and I about 2 minutes to register what we had done (we were still trying to figure out if this was the best bus deal to get us to Buenos Aires) whereafter we frantically scanned the area – me almost crying as it was all the cash I had – searching for our new friend.

Lucky again, he was a few feet away making the deal with the bus driver who we later learned he worked for. I got on the bus as sober as I’d been in years, processing just how incredibly stupid I’d been in both situations, and how fortunate.

Lesson #1 – NEVER get into a cab with others. It is the travel equivalent to being told as a child “never get into a car with strangers”, and just as dangerous.
Lesson #2 – Not necessary. I know you would never be THAT stupid.




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