Based on my legal name, the Clean & Clear oil sheets I use, and the amount of times I have to pluck my unibrow throughout the year, one could probably surmise that I’ve done a decent amount of international travel throughout my lifetime. A lot of my friends haven’t had the pleasure of using a passport, some just haven’t had the opportunity while others would rather get their foreign fix from Masala Wok and episodes of 90 Day Fiancé. Here are some of my best, worst, and weirdest experiences I’ve had traveling overseas.
The Good: Los Roof Ryders (Quito, Ecuador)
When I was about 13 years old, I hopped on a plane with my buddy, Diego to stay with his family in Ecuador for the summer. I didn’t speak any Spanish at all, but I guess the whole point of the trip was to force me to learn a new language, and it worked, but learning Spanish meant absolutely nothing to me at the time. All I cared about was the Big Tymers, Big Pun’s new album Yeeeah Baby, Cruel Intentions 2, and the And1 Mixtape Vol. 3. Not a lot of kids in Ecuador played basketball, it was literally like their first time playing more often than not, but we forced them to play with us and took advantage of them by using it as an opportunity to practice moves we stole from Hot Sauce and ½ Man ½ Amazing.
I don’t know why this was a thing, but during that same summer Quito was having their first ever cash prize 3 on 3 streetball tournament at a popular park in the city. So, naturally, Diego & I reached out to the only other American we’d met, Francisco (a smooth kid from Miami who was better than both of us), and entered the contest. Each team had to come up with a name and, since we were unoriginal and Eve’s debut album just came out, we unanimously agreed to call ourselves the Ruff Ryders. From that day forward, we were known as “Los Roof Ryders,” the prepubescent teens that dominated the courts of downtown Quito.
Mind you we weren’t that good, especially me. I’d say I either shot 3’s or turned the ball over trying to do trick plays 83% of the time. But we were destroying guys that were much older than us because they didn’t understand the rules, but a win is a win. We made it all the way to the championship game but unfortunately had to forfeit because we had to fly back to the US before game day. Either way, being a member of Los Roof Ryders is one of my greatest childhood memories that I’ll always remember.
The Bad: Tossing Sticks (Casablanca, Morocco)
My Mom used to send me to Morocco to visit family, see my Dad, and get wisdom teeth pulled every now and then when I was growing up. I was an only child and didn’t have many relatives my age to hang with, so when the adults had to go work or do whatever it is they do, I’d have to find ways to keep myself busy. One time I was by myself hanging out at a beach house my Dad used to own and desperately looking for anything to occupy my time with. I’d already been to the beach about three times that day, but was so starved for entertainment that I put on my bathing suit and figured a fourth time might do the trick. The weather was perfect, the sand was smooth, water was clear; I was actually really enjoying myself.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I notice a brown stick just floating in the water. Any guy reading this knows there’s nothing more enjoyable than tossing a stick as far as you can into the ocean’s abyss, especially at the tender age of 11. So I swam over to it hoping it’d be the right kind of stick, not too heavy, yet still sturdy enough to carry some distance. Once I got to it, I picked it up from the bottom and immediately noticed it felt differently than other sticks I’ve thrown in the past. Hoping it wasn’t an animal or something, I turned to my hand to take a closer look and noticed a distinct green, leafy, half-digested piece of lettuce sticking out the side. Turns out I was holding a piece of human sh*t.
This wasn’t just any piece of human sh*t. It was a cylindrical, fully-intact, fresh turd that was perfectly stationed on top of the water waiting for me like a booby trap. Needless to say, I’d had about enough of the ocean and stick tossing for one summer.
The Foreign: The Subrosa (Istanbul, Turkey)
About 3 years ago, my girlfriend and I took a trip to Istanbul to celebrate a friend’s wedding. She was in charge of booking the flights while I was in charge of the hotel which, of course, I screwed up.
According to Booking.com, the Subrosa hotel is a “safe, elegantly-designed, very good [8.6 overall]” hotel with non-smoking, soundproof rooms available for stay. That sounds like a pretty good place to me, so I put down a non-refundable deposit of a little over $800 and booked our stay for the trip at this hotel
The only problem was that the Subrosa Hotel was not a hotel, it was an apartment owned by two guys who rent out the bedrooms while they smoke cigarettes, joke around and fart in their living room.
When we first landed in Turkey we had a tough time finding the spot and after asking travel/tour guide bases, other hotels, locals restaurant workers who’d never heard of it, we thought we’d been bamboozled. But nobody had heard of it because it was hidden away, deep down an alley that was completely unlit. When we eventually found the alleyway, I’d assumed one of us was going to be sexually assaulted but continued on, cautiously approaching the wide-open front door that lead to a dark “lobby.” When I say dark, I don’t mean mood-lighting or romantically lit by candles, I mean it was pitch black. This was something I paid for. We slowly walked up the staircase, hoping that someway, somehow this would eventually get better and start to make sense. “Hello?” I shouted up the staircase. No response. I tried again, “Hello!?!?” then I heard *flush*, footsteps, a door open up and a mysterious voice say “….this way.”
When we stepped into the hallway that this guy opened up for us we walked into a living room where he was joined by another guy sitting at a desk, smoking a cigarette. No lobby, no nothing, just a smokey, living room with two couches that these guys hang out in. We told him who we were and he lead us to our room which was directly next to the living room. I don’t mean a couple feet down the hallway, I mean it was right next to their hangout spot.
One of the guys who owned the place (assuming these two gentlemen did) just finished using our bathroom before he came to greet us because the bathroom reeked and there were fresh, brown skid marks on the bottom of the toilet. We sat down on our bed and would’ve laid there in frustrated silence, but the silence was broken by the two guys screaming in Turkish at a televised soccer game 5 feet away from us. These two guys eventually left after a few hours and I slept with one eye open that night.
The next night we decided to eat the cash, leave and find a new hotel. When we stopped by to pick up our luggage, there was a man I had never seen before sleeping on the couch in the living room with one shoe on. Pretty sure he was homeless, or a bellhop or both. In summation, Turkey’s a fine country, but consider using TripAdvisor.com or a hotel with a name you’re familiar with if you ever plan on visiting.