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My bad trip – I wanted a romantic jaunt. I got a kidnapping and a breakup | Travel

My bad trip – I wanted a romantic jaunt. I got a kidnapping and a breakup | Travel

When I was 21, my older boyfriend suggested it might be “cool” to backpack around South America. I naively jumped at the chance of a romantic trip. Getting kidnapped, robbed and dumped wasn’t exactly what I envisioned.

In my youthful arrogance, I hadn’t done much planning, nor learned the language. I figured we’d just work out the details together as we went. Then he decided that, as the higher earner, he could afford a longer trip. He headed off and I was to follow, solo, a month later.

In Chile, the airport was chaotic. I recalled the one fact I’d gleaned from the guidebook I’d only cracked open for the first time on the flight – beware of scammers at Santiago airport. As taxi drivers thronged around me, I was on high alert but embarassingly underprepared, stammering “No hablos español”. “No un poco?” (not even a little?!) came their derisive response.

To my relief, a friendly, uniformed man appeared, flashing an official-looking ID and ushering me, in English, towards a taxi, aided by a man who appeared out of nowhere to help with my bags. It was only as I jumped into the backseat that I realised something was up – both men hopped in too, flanking me, and the driver took off rapidly.

“What is happening?” I yelled, but the three men only laughed and joked to each other in Spanish. Trapped, I sat frozen, fearing the worst. We eventually pulled up at a gas station ATM and I was instructed to empty my bank account if I wished to be returned safely to the city. Having handed over the cash, I was dropped, tearful, in the suburbs. On foot, it took me five hours to find my hostel, where the kind-hearted staff helped me get money transferred from home.

The next leg of my trip was Bolivia, where I would reunite with my boyfriend.

Immediately after I landed in La Paz, my boyfriend semi-sheepishly announced he’d met another woman, making the 13-hour bus ride together to our next destination rather awkward. He flew off to rejoin her and I checked into a hostel, crying every night in the shower.

I was drowning my sorrows with pisco sours in a bar one evening, when a charming woman approached me. Soon we were spinning around the dancefloor. She leaned in and kissed me. For a moment I hoped my heartache was over … but as quickly as she’d appeared, she melted away into the crowd. It turned out she hadn’t come into my life to relieve my…

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