It’s unavoidable that when you travel things will go wrong. Sometimes things go really wrong. Other times, things happen that are clearly not the end of the world, but still make you think, “Aw, man!”

Here’s a quick list of a few of those “Aw, man!” moments I experienced in the first three weeks of my South America trip.

The backpack – My backpack has this really wonderful pocket in the top flap. I love to use it to keep small things I might need to grab quickly later — guidebook pages, alarm clock, etc. — or things I need to keep separated, such as a still-damp towel. Apparently I loved and used this pocket a bit too much, and one night in Salta when I was zipping it closed, the entire zipper part came out of the fabric. The pocket now has a gaping hole where half the zipper used to be sewn in and is thus unusable. It was quite a sad day.

(To my Gregory Jade backpack’s credit, it had already lasted a couple years of being dragged across Europe, Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia.)

The watch – I bought a (cheap, I’ll admit it) watch at Target the week before I left for my trip. Apparently, the watch and Bolivia didn’t get along. Maybe it’s the altitude? I’m not sure. All I know is, on  my first day out of San Pedro, as I crossed the border into Bolivia, I looked down at my watch (which had been working earlier that morning) and it was blank. Nothing but a little circle at the top. I fussed with the buttons, yelled at it, banged it around, then gave up and stuffed it in a bag. I looked at it at various times throughout the day and still nothing worked.

The next morning I checked it and voila! It was working. I reset the time, strapped it on, and 20 minutes later I looked at it and half the dial was blank. Half the numbers still were there. Five minutes later, the dial was blank again. One last time it showed promise of working, then the clock disappeared again and it let out this terrible high pitched beeping noise for about a half hour, then died again. I ended up buying a watch for a little less than $6 from a guy on the street before I boarded my bus to Sucre, and it has served me well so far. (Though it isn’t digital so it takes me twice as long to figure out the time, and now I just have to try to guess at the dates again.)

The alarm clock – I guess timepieces in general don’t like me. After the watch incident that first night in Bolivia, my alarm clock was fine. I set it for the next morning, but when I looked at it ten minutes later the time and alarm had reset themselves to 1 a.m. I’ve about given up on the alarm clock, as it has given me nothing but problems from day one. In Salta we nearly missed our early morning bus to Cafayate because the alarm didn’t go off — we were just lucky that I woke up about a half hour before the bus and looked at the time!

The llama steak that ruined my jeans!

The llama steak that ruined my jeans!

The jeans – The most recent incident. I was in a cafe in Sucre, where I ordered lunch and was using the wifi to Skype with Oscar. I had ordered a llama steak and when I got it, it was this gigantic steak with vegetables and a huge bowl of fries. I tried to tilt the computer to show Oscar, but he couldn’t see. So I lifted the plate of steak to tilt it to show him (stupid move on my part!), not seeing that the entire plate was a pool of grease — which proceeded to splash all over my jeans. (And favorite green tank top!) I guess I’m lucky it didn’t go on the laptop?

For the next couple weeks it looks like I will just be wearing grease-stained jeans everyday, because they are the only pants I have (besides my North Face khakis which I can’t bring myself to wear in cities and normal places where I’m not hiking/trekking. All those people walking around cities in their big hobo pants from Asia or South America just make me cringe!) Not to mention decent jeans here cost more than $100. Oh, well. I just hope it’s not too obvious. No one has said anything to me yet. I will just pretend it’s the newest fad 😉

These are the main things I can think of at the moment. Of course, there have been moments like the night bus to Potosí/Sucre, the day in Tigre, and other things like that, but I’ve shared all those stories! These are the stories that don’t get told, but which every traveler has. It wouldn’t be travel without things broken, lost, and generally gone wrong!