We didn’t want everyone getting the idea that our trip has been all smiles and tropical cocktails, or that we’re not telling the whole story on our blog…so for a few months we’ve been meaning to share some of the “dark side” moments from our travels. And finally, here they are.

By the way, a number of months ago, I ACCIDENTALLY posted an early and incomplete version of this blog (who noticed? It was called “Swing and a Miss”).  Oops. Subsequently, the kids saw that  parents also receive  “consequences” occasionally.  Read on to hear about the darkness that rained down on me as a result…   WARNING:  regurgitation photos below!

In the beginning…

“Cancel the big trip” was the #2 item on Sydney’s Santa list at Xmas, even after our first month traveling in the US.  And way before that, when we told them about the trip in August, two of them cried.  The girls were very concerned we’d make them eat “yucky” food (which we did).

Sometimes the weather sucks!  Too cold, too hot, too stormy

We had great weather MOST of the way… but man oh man did we suffer at times!


The perfect storm.  We had MISERABLE (we’re talking really bad…worst weather of the entire trip) on the ONE day we had at DisneySea, the unique Disney Park in Tokyo. The pouring rain was blowing sideways and it was in the mid-30’s!  Joe wore pajama pants (!) as a base layer under his hiking pants.   The pj bottoms got soaked and dripped into his shoes as we walked around the park. We were forced to buy a 2nd umbrella (imagine!) and another rain poncho and we toughed it out. Could you imagine trying to drag Joe out of one of the world’s truly-unique Disney parks? Neither could I… rain and cold it was.

Unprepared for winter in Japan.  After a 1.5 hour bus ride to Shirakawa-go where we all know it’s cold and snowing hard, we discover the girls forgot their hats and gloves.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?  Of course, that didn’t deter them from playing in the snow. The kids didn’t learn a thing from our guide at this UNESCO World Heritage site — they were so excited and distracted by the snow, you’d have thought they’d never seen it before.  Everyone but Kristina (who had leather boots) ended up with cold, wet feet.

Vietnam Heat + Bike Ride = Worst day of Piper’s life:  Our 30km bike ride through villages and rice paddies starts at 8am. When it’s only, oh, 88 degrees. we know we’re in trouble when Piper starts whining just 20% of the way in while we are grouped with 20 other college students and adults. The whining crescendoed, but we refuse to let her quit. She falls once. Tears. We wonder if the faculty and staff along on the bike ride are going to think we are the cruelest parents ever, torturing an 8-year-old. (they didn’t!)

Piper yells multiple times, “This is the worst day of my life!” (and to her credit, she has stuck with that declaration throughout the trip and some other challenging times like climbing Table Mountain on another hot day with an insufficient amount of water).  Eventually,  FINALLY she finishes the ride. And in the end we were proud that– unlike some of the college students– Piper never quit and rode in the air-conditioned support van.

Dubai rainout: A rare, heavy rain falls on the one full day we’re in Dubai and our highly anticipated safari with 4x4s, camel rides and dinner in the desert is cancelled. The kids still list Dubai as a favorite destination even though we spent nearly the entire day in the 2nd largest shopping mall in the world.

Clean clothes are overrated: We all packed 1 pair of warm pants for the trip.  We each wear them 5 days in a row without washing them in Japan where it’s in the 30’s. We are quite excited to get back on the ship where we have additional clean clothes.  This pattern repeats itself in many countries.  Joe has worn the same pair of shorts for, what, 3 months straight?  I’m serious.. check the photos.

Adventures in Dining!

Meat... STORED IN THE BATHROOM! Ho Chi Minh City, VietnamGagging in Japan. Alexander (mushroom) and Piper (fish) gag on food we ask (OK,  force) them to try at our one fancy ryokan dinner in Japan. Sydney tears up after pulling the rare steak sushi out of her throat/mouth which she finds unable to chew. Sydney claims this is the worst day of her life.  Piper claims it as the 2nd-worst day of her life.

Don’t eat the meat! We order “well cooked beef” Pho at a “hole in the wall” restaurant in Ho Chi Minh city. When I take Sydney to the bathroom, we find a tub of beef soaking in water in a large bucket on the floor of the tiny and not-so-clean  bathroom.

Weight gain: The top button on Kristina’s jeans pops off and isn’t fixable.

Asleep at the table. We lost count of the times one or more of our exhausted kids fell asleep at a restaurant during dinner after a long day of sightseeing. Below, Piper fell asleep at the table after a long day on safari in South Africa.  In the second picture she fell asleep at Hutong (one of our favorite restaurants in the world) in Hong Kong despite dumplings which she loves and an incredible view of the city.


Take your shirt off now!  At dinner one night at our safari camp, we were watching a very hairy caterpillar walk up the front of Alexander’s shirt when the wait staff ran at him with a knife to flick it off.  Afterwards, they insisted he take his shirt off IMMEDIATELY!

Apparently, that particular type of caterpillar can cause severe itching, and it can be quite difficult to remove the caterpillar hairs from a person’s skin.

Barfing, the Saga

BarfCon 1:  Sydney barfs in our brand new minivan rental.  Joe uses Aunt Nancy’s hose to spray out the car.

Barfcon 1.  Just 15 minutes from Nancy's house in Florida.

BarfCon 2:  Piper barfs (a little one) in Charleston after smelling too much horse poop.  The picture below was taken 20 seconds before she ran across the street to relieve herself…very thoughtful of her to not barf next to the horse.

Charleston carriage ride: BARFCON 2.  Piper loses it right here.

Our most challenging food yet.. MOPANE WORMS!

BarfCon 3:  Piper misses the toilet in our hotel in the middle of the night in China.  Joe practiced the ancient art of “MOUTH-EXCLUSIVE-BREATHING” during the extensive clean up.

BarfCon 4:  Piper throws up back on the ship (thankfully in a toilet) after a day in Yangon.

BarfCon 5 & 6: Piper & Kristina both hurl in Myanmar. Kristina misses out on a day of touring. Alexander gets diarrhea.

BarfCon 7: Piper just can’t keep her 3rd mopane worm down in Cape Town. The kids asked if we’d buy them gelato if they each ate 3, and we said yes. We didn’t make Piper re-eat the 3rd worm. 🙂

BarfCon 8:
Piper spends most of the night in mommy & daddy’s room on the ship and barfs multiple times throughout the night.

Barfcon 10 ... then 11 ... in Madrid.

BarfCon 9 & 10:  Alexander barfs up an entire chocolate ice cream cone in the very crowded Plaza Mayor in Madrid, 30 feet from where people are dining outdoors.  Thankfully he makes it to a toilet for the second one.

BarfCon 11:  Piper is unable to keep down the escargot (snail) we ask her to try in Paris.

BarfCon 12:  Sam Tippett, 10 yr old family friend who joined us in Provence, France, joined the BarfCon team after experiencing Joe’s driving on windy roads.

Illness, injury and other medical issues

Diarrhea: Joe and Piper get diarrhea and have to miss out on the tour to the City of Refuge school and orphanage in Ghana.

Ouch!: Joe develops painful esophagitis from the antibiotic we’re taking as a malaria prophylaxis. For a week, every time he swallows it HURTS. (Sadly for all of us, it didn’t hurt when he talked. 😁)

5-week sinus infection: Kristina fights an energy-draining sinus infection for over a month (Japan -> Myanmar)!  It finally goes away after trying a second antibiotic.

Mommy, my head is really itchy!: I ignored these complaints for several days while we were on the ship and just had Piper use Head & Shoulders shampoo.  To my dismay, her head was still itchy, and I mean really itchy.  I checked her hair carefully, but in hindsight I didn’t know what to look for.  A week after her first complaint, I finally had her checked by the ship’s doctor, who tell us she has LICE.

LICE!? Are you kidding me?!  She’s sharing a bed with Sydney.  We’re on a SHIP with 600 other people and she plays with other younger kids and hangs out with college students all the time.  Luckily the doctor didn’t find any lice in my hair or Sydney’s but recommends we treat ourselves with medicated shampoo anyway.  Thankfully, a ship-wide announcement wasn’t necessary and in the end no one else got it.  (Well, none that we know of…) However, it was rather difficult to eliminate… Housekeeping took all our linens, clothes, even Piper’s blankie– and wash them in super hot water several different days. We end up buying out the ship’s supply of lice treatment.. but that turns out to be ineffective. SO… in Morocco, we visit 5 different pharmacies and are unable to find the specific, stronger brand of treatment recommended by the doc after we’re unable to get rid of it after a week.  Thankfully, an OTC brand we bought on shore ended up working after we left it in all night with Piper’s head wrapped in a plastic shower cap.  I can comfortably add lice treatment expertise to my resume.

Dysentery: Piper has dysentery and requires antibiotics after Ghana.  After some debate, we’ve decided to leave out these photos.. but as a public service message, we will inform all of you that the symptom to watch for which indicates it’s DYSENTERY instead of TRAVELER’S DIARRHEA is “blood in the stool.”

JBLISTERS from the marathon, walking... still not healed.  :(oe’s feet:  We get to listen to Joe complain about his blisters after run-walking a marathon on the ship off the coast of Ghana… and later we get to hear him whine about his big toe nail which will be falling off soon.

Book a dental appointment. Sydney chips two front teeth over 3 days in Portugal – one on a trampoline and one on a slide.  She will NOT let us take a photo for the blog.  Sorry…

Fevers!  Both Piper & Alexander have fevers the day we have to drive 6+ ours from France to Switzerland.  We are fearful (Joe was hopeful) that Piper’s fever + upset stomach will take us to Barfcon 13 … but it doesn’t.   We force the kids to walk and explore (vs. more extensive uphill hike which was originally planned) in the Swiss mountains in spite of running a temperature.  Yay Tylenol!

Trip to the hospital.  Sydney falls rollerblading in Paris and breaks her arm.  We finally have it x-rayed 2 days later and she is diagnosed with a fracture.  Lucky for us, all she needs is a Velcro brace which we find going door-to-door to pharmacies in Paris.  Thankfully, it didn’t limit her rides at Paris Disneyland 10 days later.  And it didn’t happen in Ghana or Myanmar…

 AirBnB:  a Love/Hate relationship.

We stayed in around 10 AirBnBs over the course of our trip… and while some were great we found the overall experience to be a little, uh, uneven.

DSC07594-blog.jpgWhere’s the heat?  The kids slept in 3 LAYERS OF JACKETS WITH HOODS on our first night in Tokyo in January. We arrived to a freezing cold house at 9:30pm after an 8.5 hr flight, 1 hr train ride,  and then a taxi ride. The kids were exhausted and hungry as we entered our Airbnb. The heat had been turned off, there were windows open upstairs and the temp outside was in the 30s. The 3 kids ended up snuggling up together in a king bed upstairs in the clothes they were wearing which included 3 jackets and 2 hoods for Sydney.

No showers for 3 daysThe hot water tank at our London AirBnb broke and wasn’t replaced for 3 days.  The kids who aren’t fond of bathing, don’t mind at all.  But we got to hear my mom, who was staying with us, complain about it every day.

WP_20160503_08_27_40_Rich.jpgJackhammers pounding on the outer wall of our Airbnb in Seville woke us way too early every morning.  Apparently some pipes needed to be replaced and the construction was scheduled while we were there.  Alexander was the lucky beneficiary of a bed-on-the-other-side of this wall.

Can someone reset the breaker again?  At our Airbnb in Moriara, the breaker switch would trip whenever we had more than a couple laptops and phones plugged in and the lights were on.  Which, you know, for us was just about always.

BathSELRES_698e94e8-3c35-4525-9f4e-bcaa36b12d5aSELRES_379e86ba-8283-4adb-be34-bb2efd5bd292SELRES_a3c5f8d2-e040-4404-b573-479d866ba311SELRES_7c7a5241-a18e-4abb-9fd0-3bf7f92f07f0roSELRES_7c7a5241-a18e-4abb-9fd0-3bf7f92f07f0SELRES_a3c5f8d2-e040-4404-b573-479d866ba311SELRES_379e86ba-8283-4adb-be34-bb2efd5bd292SELRES_698e94e8-3c35-4525-9f4e-bcaa36b12d5aom challenges

Kristina’s cell phone breaks.  Kristina drops and breaks her Lumia 950 phone in a Japan train toilet while trying to take a picture of an unusual toilet.  I just had to take a picture of it after realizing I had told Sydney to use it backwards.  (no picture available since it’s on the broken phone)

Speaking of bath-rooms…  in Japan, we stayed at a ryokan (traditional inn) and all the kids were a little challenged by the casual nudity in the baths.  Alexander was particularly embarrassed when Joe was trying to fit-in with the natives by sitting in-the-buff on an upside-down wooden bucket on a stool while washing himself off… when he loudly tumbled to the ground and everyone turned to look.

Exactly how is a woman supposed to use this toilet?  Women & girls were directed to the bathroom pictured below in Ghana.  Can you tell me how we’re expected to use this toilet (see below)?  I did go back out to clarify that this was not the boys bathroom.


It’s frustrating when plans fall apart!

Missing luggage.  Sydney’s suitcase doesn’t arrive with us in Atlanta (the first flight of our adventure) and goes missing for 3 days.  We fear this is an omen for lost luggage all over the world.  Luckily, it wasn’t.

No Angkor Wat for us: Due to weather, our ship arrives in Vietnam a day later than planned. Hence, our 5 day excursion is reduced to 3.5 days and the Cambodia/Angkor Wat part of our tour is eliminated.  We were quite disappointed…Angkor Wat was one of the places we were most excited about visiting on our SAS  trip.

Jaipur cancelled: We wake at 3:30am – yes, UP AT 3:30AM–  for a very early flight and are informed 45 minutes later (after we’re dressed, packed and ready to leave) at our group meeting on the ship that our flight is delayed 4 hours. As a result, we miss our connecting flight in Mumbai and our afternoon tour of Jaipur is cancelled.

No, that’s not the car we rented!  Eurocar tries to give us a car which is smaller (way too small for the 5 of us + our luggage) than what we booked online for our month-long adventure through Portugal and Spain.  We waste hours waiting for the car we booked.

I guess we won’t have breakfast at the Reichstag.  We wake up early and rush to the Reichstag Building in Berlin– Germany’s spectacular capitol and the #1 thing our friends the Carrs recommended we BOOK EARLY.  I was feeling smug, because after researching, I figured out I could make a breakfast reservation at their Garden Terrace restaurant and get access to the famous dome (all the dome tickets online had been sold out for weeks).  When we arrive at security, we discover our reservation was the previous morning and they don’t have room for us.

Turn that frown upside down!
NO MORE PHOTOS!!!  The Peak, Hong Kong

NO MORE PHOTOS!!! The Peak, Hong Kong

No more pictures!  At times the kids are sick of posing for pictures and refuse to smile.  Of course this drives Joe bananas, especially when he thinks he has a great shot at a place we may never visit again.

Consequences…not just for kids.  Joe removes me as an Administrator on our blog and changes me to a Contributor (needing his approval to post anything!) after I prematurely post the initial draft of this blog.  I think the kids secretly enjoy seeing a parent receive “consequences.”

What, you really forgot Valentine’s Day?  Joe forgets to give Kristina a Valentine’s Day card/gift. And the dark chocolate Kristina bought for Joe in Japan turns out to be cooking chocolate (tastes horrible).

Are you serious?  There are “No ladies allowed” signs inside a couple pagodas in Myanmar.  The twins are indignant — their first experience suffering personally of gender inequality.  Using this as a teaching moment, you can see in the second picture where I introduce the girls to a new term – “BULLSHIT!”

Bird poop x3!  A bird poops on Joe’s head while visiting Agra Fort in India, another bird poops on Piper’s arm in Dubai and Alexander is tagged on the head in Austria while eating an ice cream cone  (picture below).   Pro tip:  If a bird poops on your hair, let it dry out completely.  Afterwards, you can easily brush the dried flakes out.


Disgusting mass crusted on the bottom of a backpack.  OOOOooow.  Look at the photo below!    Now get your mind out of the gutter– that’s not what you thought it was! Piper forgot about the chocolate which had melted and solidified in her full backpack while traveling through very warm Croatia.


Not cool!  And even as we are ending our trip… Joe farts on our completely full airplane on the flight home and tells me to be quiet when I call him on it and ask, “What did you eat?”


Of course…  this isn’t a comprehensive list of challenges we faced during our nine months of travel, but it should definitely give you a sense that we weren’t smiling and laughing all the time.   Thankfully, we’re pretty good about going with the flow and just playing the cards we’re dealt.

If nothing else, the trip helped us all continue to see the good in everything and let the bad slide off our shoulders just like bird poop does.  🙂

5 thoughts on “The Dark Side

  1. I did see the early post and it made me SO happy and gave me hope that our familial infighting was normal. So thank you for this last one, as well as the inadvertent one.

    I also will share our Miksovsky Barfcon story, incase you hadn’t heard it. When we were arriving in Amsterdam 6 years ago, we took the subway from the airport to the city center. As we disembark the train, Liya starts complaining. We tell her to hold on, gather our bags, and join the hoards heading down the platform toward the escalator. Liya continues to feel sick and let us know. Half way down the escalator, she throws up–all over bags and the floor managing to splatter me or Jan but thankfully no strangers–remember the escalator is rush-hour *packed*! The vomit rides the rest of the way down and gets stuck in those teeth at the bottom of the escalator. Jan & I hurry off, manage to get Liya to a trash can for round 2, and nonchalantly pretend nothing happen as hoards descend, notice the ick at the bottom, and leap like flailing fish out of the way. We couldn’t even try to clean up without getting trampled so we didn’t. 😬


  2. Loved it! Thanks for keeping it real! Piper is a lot like my Owen. I can’t believe all the arrangements you made – and only 1 scheduled mishap!


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