Close to death: Travelers share their scariest stories

Close to death: Travelers share their scariest stories

Adoration 4 Adventure’s collection of travelers’ scariest stories – “Close to death”.

This collection includes travelers’ most frightening experiences that occurred while traveling. Tales from Spain, India, Mongolia, Cambodia and the United Kingdom.

Want to avoid common travel blunders? Read my top 10 travel mistakes.

Rescued off a cliff face by emergency services

Chantell Collins

Until earlier this year I’d thought I was pretty educated about the dangers of hiking in the wilderness. Back in Australia, you often hear of people who wander off the track, get hopelessly lost and need to be rescued. However, this was the last thing in my mind when I decided to go on a hike in Mallorca, Spain.

My Couchsurfing host told me about a cave that had a hole in the roof called “Avenc de Son Pou”. He had been before and said it would be about an easy one hour hike each way. I invited another girl, Maggie, that I’d met through Couchsurfing to come along. She was visiting from Berlin and had never been hiking before.

We arrived at the entrance of the track, a little after 2:30 pm. We had come along with a small backpack with water, snacks, and our cameras (or camera phones). Everyone was in great spirits, chatting and laughing as we walked along the trail. In the first 15 minutes, we saw a beautiful waterfall that had us beaming with huge smiles.

After the waterfall, my host seemed a little confused about which path to take. He’d done the hike before but starting from a different entrance. Maggie and I were so relaxed and busy chatting to each other, that we let him make the decisions about which direction to go in. After all, he was the local and we were just visiting. We trusted his judgment.

Soon the path disappeared and we were climbing over rocks, heading towards a large mountainside. Maggie and I became a little concerned and made our thoughts known. My host responded that we should keep going in that direction, as the path was just over the hill and it would be quicker rather than go back the way we came. I remember joking “How do you know we aren’t going to come over the top of the hill and find ourselves on a cliff face?”.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. We scrambled our way along the side of the mountain and came over the ridge. It was very slippery and Maggie lost her footing a few times. It was starting to get a little scary but we kept trusting that our guide was leading us in the right direction. Once we came up over the top, the descent was very steep. There were many trees and bushes, so at first, it was hard to see exactly what was in front (or below) us. Our guide helped us climb down a small slope onto a ledge. The brush cleared and we could see that we were actually on the side of a cliff.

Did I mention that I am terrified of heights? I found myself sitting on a small ledge, looking down at a sharp drop. To go back up, would mean scrambling up a rocky ledge and putting ourselves in danger. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was also after 5:30 pm and already getting dark and cold. I could see that my host was really out of his depth but was trying to keep it together. At that point, Maggie announced that she could go no further and it was an emergency. I agreed with her.

The emergency service workers in Mallorca were incredible. They responded to our phone call immediately and told us not to move from our location. They continued to keep us updated via Whatsapp messages on the progress of the rescue workers. A team arrived by car and two experienced men climbed up to us and checked on condition first. Maggie had a few minor cuts and scrapes and was a little shook up. They gave us something sweet to eat to get sugar into our blood and made sure we had water.

The men used their flashlights to locate the best route down, which was back over the ridge. At this point, it was very dark and although we still were slipping over, it was far more safe than if we had of attempted to get down ourselves. Once we reached the path, we were greeted by the rest of the team including a police officer and firefighters. A few tears of relief and hugs were shared. The workers then pointed to an opening in the mountain and asked if we wanted to go in and see the cave that we had been searching for. Worn out and still in shock, I laughed and responded “proxima vez” (next time).

Close to death- rescued off a cliff face by emergency workers

A forced dip in the frozen river during Chadar Trek in India

Medhavi Davda

Chadar Trek is a frozen river trek on the river Zanskar in Ladakh, India. It is considered to be extremely difficult because one has to walk on the frozen river in winter when the temperature ranges between -15°C and -30°C. The ice on the river keeps forming and breaking and in such cases one has to take an alternate route through the snow-covered steep rocks. It can snow at any time and leave the trekker guessing if there is ice or water beneath the snow cover.

One of the days, I fell into this trap while I was walking on thin sheets of ice. My leg broke the thin layer of ice and made its way through to the water flowing beneath. The ice cold water numbed my leg and my brain together. I controlled the panic inside me and tried to lift up my leg only to realise that my other leg sunk in too. I was inside the flowing river chest-deep and my hands above the chadar. It was this moment when everything around me became blur and I sensed the rare possibility of my survival.

I somehow gathered my senses and waved my trekking pole and called for help. There were locals on the trek carrying food items and other necessary camping equipment on the sledges. They saw me and ran towards me. They pulled me out alive and took me away from that trail and made me rest on the sledges to let me catch my breath. They even helped me change into fresh clothes soon. My boots were filled with ice. Socks, double layer of pants, down jacket, gloves, camera, everything was frozen, rock hard. Luckily I had clothes waterproofed in my backpack. And the only way to warm myself again was to start hiking again. I remember how happy I was to have experienced this “FORCED DIP” in chadar and survived too!

Medhavi Davda

Don’t Trust the Mongolian Horse Meat

Meg Atteberry

My eyes opened slowly, the scene gently falling into focus. Where am I and what on earth is that music? Some barley-English rendition of Celine Dion’s “I Will Always Love You” was coming from beyond the headboard. I groaned and tried to roll over. Tubes. Needles. Monitors everywhere. So that wasn’t a dream? I mused. I glanced around the dark room, listening to the soft beep of the machines. I looked at the clock 2:30 am. I didn’t have the effort for much else, so I succumbed to the sounds of karaoke and passed out again.

Flashback to 8 hours earlier. The 4×4 was bouncing along through the gates of the city of Ulaan Bator. The sudden influx of cars, people, and pollution overcame me quickly after spending a week out in the remote steppe of Mongolia. My stomach started to churn, and I had a headache. My newfound road warrior buddies and I arrived back at the hostel.

“I’m going to lay down and get some rest, I’m not feeling well. Amy, would you mind taking my wallet and picking up some camel felt slippers for my brother while you guys are shopping?”

“Sure thing.” She replied. Without thinking I handed her my travel “wallet” which consisted of a bag with handful of cash, my credit card and passport.

“I’ll see you guys in a couple of hours.” Wrong. What ensued over the next several hours I can only describe as the most violent illness that has ever overcome me. I’ll spare you the details. But between vomit sessions and bathroom trips, I managed to get the attention of the hostel owner.

“I think you’ve been poisoned!” She exclaimed. Rather quickly my situation deteriorated and I could no longer stand. Before long I couldn’t feel my face, arms, legs, or even open my eyes. Things were getting pretty dire. A Peacecorps worker phoned the hospital and the embassy. It turns out Mongolia has only two western hospitals in the entire country – and they needed to open one for me.

“Western doctors take a long time to get ready. Do you mind if I use traditional medicine?” The owner asked. She could have told me that she was lopping off a limb with a rusty saw and I would have agreed. A few pin pricks to my knuckles later and the acupuncture was done. Suddenly, my stomach felt some relief as the indescribable pain subsided. But it was too late – I had lost too many fluids – I needed an IV and fast. Before I knew it the doctor was ready and I was holding on for dear life en route to the hospital.

That’s the story about my first real solo trip to Asia. Upon my arrival to the hospital, I was treated despite having no ID and no cash. My new found travel friends showed up a few hours later – wallet in tow. Both of them stayed late to take care of me in the coming days and make sure I made it home safely. It took me nearly 2 months to fully recover.

Don't Trust the Mongolian Horse Meat - Meg Atteberry

Fighting with dengue fever in Cambodia

Karin Ardila

I never thought I would ever be the one to catch a tropical disease; I had all my vaccines in check and besides, those things only happen to the other people, right? I was so convinced of this that when high fever struck me in Cambodia, I attributed it to the common flu or a food poisoning. I could not have been more wrong!

Along with serious pain and temperature at almost 40°C, I had to run (better say, crawl) to the bathroom every few minutes. Still, I wouldn’t go to the hospital – I did feel bad (I never felt so much pain in my life before or after) but for some reason, I believed a dengue would hurt more.

After three days of sweating and shaking in my hotel room, I finally gave up and decided to seek a doctor. I was barely able to walk – fortunately, my travel buddy helped me downstairs, loaded me into a tuk-tuk and dealt with all our luggage.
At the hospital, I found out that not only I did have dengue fever, but I also contracted a nasty kidney inflammation. My immune system wasn’t able to deal with it as it was struck with the virus and as the doctor informed me, would I have waited more, it could have caused me lifelong consequences.

While it is almost impossible to completely avoid dengue fever in hot and humid regions, recognizing the symptoms would have made me seek medical help a bit earlier. I spent three more days in the hospital bed and a week more sleeping day and night and barely walking, however, it took many months until a somewhat complete recovery.

Hopefully, you won´t have to deal with the same problem, however, knowing a little bit about the symptoms of local illnesses is always helpful – and so is traveling with an insurance.


Missed airplane landing

Joanna Davis

“10 minutes until landing!” the captain announced, while the big bird was descending slowly from 36000 feet. After 12 hours in the enclosed metallic tube, crossing the Atlantic, I was happy at the thought that I would be with my feet on the ground again, back in control. Even if I travel very often, I am an extremely nervous flyer and I go through a million emotions at every takeoff. Landing is usually very comforting.

As the plane approached, I could see Heathrow airport and the runaway underneath us. The flight data on my screen was showing an altitude of 25 feet. A few seconds and we would be on the ground. But all of a sudden I could hear the engines roaring and in a fraction of a second the angle of the plane changed and we were going back up. I was violently pushed into the chair by the force of gravity and all I could see was the airport getting smaller and smaller. A few seconds more and we were back into the thick grey clouds, at 6500 feet.

I freaked out. I grabbed the hand of the woman sitting next to me and squeezed it hard. My heart was going 2000 miles per hour, my eyes were watery, my entire body was trembling and all I could think about was that we are going to crash and I am going to die. The woman next to me was trying to comfort me but I felt like I was in my worst nightmare.

It was another 10 minutes until the pilot talked again. He said that we didn’t receive landing permission and that we will try the approach again. By now, I was terrified. No permission to land? Why where we 25 feet from the runway then? Why did we almost land? Was there another plane in front of us? Did the pilot go back up so rapidly to avoid a crash?

I guess I’ll never know….

The World In My Pocket Joanna

Pin it for the next adventure!

Adoration 4 Adventure’s collection of travelers' scariest stories - "Close to death". Including tales from all over the world. 

Have you had a scary travel experience? Tell us about it below!

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.

10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them

10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them

Adoration 4 Adventure’s top 10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them.

When traveling, something is bound to go wrong at some point. It happens to everyone. The following are mistakes that I have made during my travels and ways they can be avoided.

Want to avoid major travel blunders? Check out a collection of travelers’ scariest stories – “Close to death”.

10. Miscommunication

One of the best things about traveling is experiencing different cultures. With that often comes different languages which can be truly interesting but also challenging. On a recent outing in the north of Spain, I was having lunch with some friends and wanted to ask for some olive oil to have with my bread. I bravely attempted to ask the waiter but instead of saying the Spanish word for “oil”, I said the word for “sprain”. Needless to say, the waiter was very confused and my friends were laughing hysterically.

How to avoid: Try to learn at least a few words of the native language for the country that you are visiting. Don’t assume that everyone will speak English, carry a phrase book or have access to a translating app while you travel.

9. Painful Sunburn

A gorgeous day on the beach can often lead you to forget all your worries, including reapplying sunscreen. During my backpacking trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, I made this exact mistake and ended up painfully sunburned. For the rest of my time, I had to stay covered up and out of the sun which is not something you want to do on a beach holiday.

How to avoid: Don’t scrimp on the sunscreen. Apply every day before you go out into the sun and reapply as directed. It’s not worth the cost of spending the rest of your trip in the shade.


8. Border Crossing Confusion

Border crossings can be confusing enough and with the added challenge of a foreign language, it is easy to make mistakes. I am embarrassed to admit that I paid for my tourist visa twice when I entered into Cambodia. In my defense I was extremely sleep deprived after a big night out. That extra $20 USD would have gone a long way in a country that sells fifty cent beers.

How to avoid: Read about the border crossing process from other travelers online by googling “border crossing in ___”. This will give you a sense of what to expect and what you will need to do so you can avoid making mistakes.

7. No place to stay

Traveling without a plan can be fun and very freeing. However it also means that transport and accommodation can be booked up before you’ve had a chance to secure your place. Recently I took a last minute trip to the south of Germany. It wasn’t until after I booked the ticket that I found out there was no hostels in the town I was visiting and that the hotels were all quite expensive. Luckily, I managed to find a Couchsurfing host at the last minute, which totally saved my trip.

How to avoid: Consider booking at least a few days ahead, especially if it is the high season and there is a high demand in the city. In some locations you will have no problem with finding accommodation last-minute, however, make sure you have a couple of backup options and a general idea of where they are located. Read our top 6 tips for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

6. Over-packing

It can be difficult to know what to pack for a new location and all too easy to over-pack. On my first trip to the U.S.A., I over-packed and then had to suffer the consequences of lugging my bulging bag around for two months.

How to avoid: It is always better to under-pack then over-pack. Ideally, traveling with a carry on sized bag will make it easier to cart your stuff around with the added bonus of avoiding checking a bag. For packing tips with a carry-on bag, check out my packing lists for cold weather travel and warm weather travel.


5. Getting sick

After months of planning and saving, it can be exhilarating to finally go on that trip that you have been waiting for. It is so tempting to go out each night with those great people you met at the hostel or on the free walking tour. But be careful that you don’t burn yourself out. Whilst on a group tour, I made the mistake of staying out late every single night. Then the following mornings, having to drag my sorry self onto the tour bus. Inevitably I got sick and was bed bound for two days, unable to use my pre-purchased ticket for Universal Studios.

How to avoid: Don’t go too hard too fast. Have the mentally that it is a marathon, not a sprint. After all, you can drink in your home town anytime but you won’t have the same opportunity to go to Universal Studios. Also if you are traveling where there local water is not safe to drink, make sure that you are purchasing pure bottled water. For more remote destinations consider investing in a water filter or iodine tablets.

4. Injuries

Getting injured sucks. Getting injured while oversees can be an absolute nightmare. Last year I hurt myself twice whilst traveling. Once I fell backwards while climbing up some rocks of a ruin. Luckily, I avoided a serious injury. Then on my trip to Anchorage, Alaska I slipped on ice and badly hurt the index finger on my right hand.

How to avoid: Take it slow and steady. Watch where you are walking. If you are going on a trip that includes hiking or climbing ruins, make sure to pack appropriate footwear. Beware of slippery surfaces and hold the handrail when taking stairs in icy climates.

3. Missing a flight

When it comes to taking transportation, travelers can be divided into two groups: punctual and tardy. However it is not always in a backpacker’s control and often transport delays can lead to missed connections. I fall into the tardy travel category, which I like to believe is because I am an optimist. During my recent backpacking trip around Europe, I missed many buses and trains due to oversleeping or just poor judgement of the time it would take to get there. The most costly of my mistakes, was when I missed my flight from New York City to Edinburgh.

How to avoid: Don’t be a tardy traveler (like me). Research the time it will take you to get from your current location to the airport, bus or train station. Include plenty of time for delays, traffic, queues and border control.


2. Losing a passport

A passport is one of the most valuable things that a traveler will carry with them. Losing a passport can mean being stranded in a country until an emergency passport is issued. This also leads to additional costs for the replacement passport and travel disruption. Whilst living in New York city, I was out on the town using my passport as identification and lost it. I applied for a replacement passport at the Australian Consulate-General which involved a hefty fee and a ton of paperwork. I also had to cancel my upcoming trips to Toronto and Montreal with no refund.

How to avoid: Keep your passport in a secure place at all times and avoid taking it out with you. Most countries will accept a foreign license as identification, however check for that specific country what their requirements are as it can vary from country to country.

1. Being robbed

Even the most seasoned travelers will either know someone who has been robbed or been robbed them-self at some point during their travels. Depending on what is taken, the repercussions could be as little as a financial loss or much more serious. I had my bag stolen once during a beach party at Coney Island, New York and my wallet stolen in my own home city of Brisbane, Australia. Both times I was not paying attention and let my guard down.

How to avoid: It is so important to remain on alert and conscious of your surroundings at all times. Take the time to research your destination to become familiar with any known tourist scams or frequent crime areas. Consider getting a wallet with a chain attached to your bag.


All photos in this article, except the feature image, are the were sourced from Pixabay and are free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.

Pin it for the next adventure!

Adoration 4 Adventure’s top 10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them. When traveling, something is bound to go wrong at some point. It happens to everyone.

What are some of your biggest travel mistakes? Tell us about it below! 

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.