Weird trip, man.

Fellow travel writer Randall Shirley (he's the guy) and I were talking about our weirdest travel experiences. So we each came up with our top five and have posted them on our respective sites.  

Anne's 5 Weirdest

1. Castrating bulls and branding cattle.
I did this at a cowgirl ranch in Kansas. The conversation as we worked was priceless. After we tied the offending elastic bands around the relevant bits the poor creatures went and lay down in the field. Can you blame them? Kansas offers holidays at many working ranches  while Moore Longhorn Ranch offers cowgirls a chance to leave their cowboys at home.

2.Fly-fishing/ear piercing 

OK I'll admit this was only meant to be a fly fishing trip on the Flathead River  in Montana (scene of A River Runs Through It) but try telling my friend whose ear I accidentally hooked while casting. I did manage to catch something else at the end of the day, though. (evidence above)


Dolly Parton is the biggest employer in Tennessee (no pun intended) and her theme park is not as tacky as you might imagine. What the heck. I love this stuff. One particular memory - a band of gospel singers who asked, Who here believes Jesus is coming back? before they began a song. We were the only folks not to put up our hands. oops.

4. Sleeping with the Amish
 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Yes this was a B&B run by a nice Amish couple. Basic facilities. (I'm talking nylon bedspreads) Fascinating lifestyle. Weirdest moment? When our host Amos invited us to see his buggies and when he and his wife sang a mournful dirge at breakfast. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

5. Worshipping Levon Helm: 
Woodstock village green 

No trip to Woodstock, New York State would be complete without tracing some of the places Bob Dylan and the Band used to hang out. (if you're an old hippy like me) We visited the Big Pink, where they recorded the album and actually met Levon briefly. Some trip, man.
But my weirdest trip of all has to be emigrating to good old Montreal. It just keeps on getting stranger. Meanwhile....

Randall Shirley’s (5faves) 5 Weirdest: 
  1. Drinking Cobra Venom in Taipei’s Snake Alley. I couldn’t believe what I was doing…I mean, cobra venom is seriously poisonous. But the proprietor of Snake Alley’s fanciest snake restaurant assured me not only would the alcohol-laced venom not kill me, it might actually be good for me. So I knocked a shot of the stuff back. And then he ordered me a second round…this time of his premium venom…4x more potent than the original taste, and selling at $70 for a small bottle. Well…I’m still here. But Mr. Wu’s restaurant may not be for long: alas, modern animal rights activism, a bum economy, and even Viagara are killing the industry.
  2. Sleeping on Buffalo Shit, Jungle near Coimbatore, India. While researching a piece for my university alumni magazine, I stayed with the “richest” family in a quite remote Indian jungle village. Their three-room shelter had a concrete pad for its floor, and each morning the women spread fresh buffalo shit all over the floor—the same floor where I slept on a thin bamboo mat at night. They allowed it to dry completely, then swept it away, claiming it is one of nature’s disinfectants. They also used dry dung as fuel for their small stove.
  3. Jack the Ripper Tour in London. A walking tour of London, in the dark of a rainy misty night, to the major spots where Jack committed his crimes. It was plenty creepy, and I couldn’t help wondering why hundreds of tourists each year are fascinated by visiting the spots where a serial murderer committed crimes. I mean, will people one day go on tours essentially celebrating the crimes of our modern-day serial rapists and murderers? God forbid.

    Glass coffin holding remains of St. Francis Xavier, Goa, India

    Glass coffin holding remains of St. Francis Xavier, Goa, India, Image courtesy Ben Bromley/Wikicommons
  4. Seeing the Remains of St. Francis Xavier in Goa, India. Most Westerners don’t know this, but Goa, on the tropical southwest coast of India, is a major Catholic enclave. My visit there was strange enough—seeing loads of Indian women dressed in nuns’ habits. But seeing the remains of Xavier in a glass coffin set high above an alter…well bizarre. They claim he’s miraculously naturally preserved, but that when pilgrims from far-away parishes started chopping off fingers and such to take back to their parishes god wasn’t happy and Xavier has decomposed a bit since. Ack.
  5. Staying with Kathy Bates character from the movie MiseryOk, not quite that bad, but on one of my many trips to NYC stayed in a private apartment room I found on Craiglist. Turned out to be a one-bedroom apartment, and the woman who lived there rented out the master bedroom and she slept on the couch with her cats. Upon arrival, she told me to enjoy NYC and that she would never bother me. Turned out she was waiting by the door every time I walked in, ready to talk, talk, talk. I found her a bit “stalker-ish,” but it all ended fine. And yes, I still stay in Craigslist and other apartments.

For more top five travel lists and to add your own weird trips go to or leave a comment below with your weirdest ever trip.


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