5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible

Generally, having a bad vacation means getting in a fight with Mom at Cracker Barrel, finding bed bugs in the B&B, pooping yourself at a national monument, or watching a Band-Aid float toward you in a water park. It doesn't usually mean getting stabbed by a prison gang or being conscripted into a foreign army. Notice we said "usually" ...

A Honeymooning Couple Gets Caught In Six Different Natural Disasters

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
Dax Castor/Wiki Commons

Swedish lovebirds (laftborks?) Stefan and Erika Svanstrom set off on their honeymoon in 2011 to Cairns, Australia with their infant daughter in tow. Not every honeymoon goes according to plan, but the Svanstrom's trip was like a game of Whack-a-Mole with various catastrophes. These people had such absurdly bad luck that we can only assume they broke a bunch of mirrors over an Indian burial ground.

First, their flight to Australia was held up by an epic snowstorm, which stranded the Svanstroms in a German airport. So far, not bad. Weather messes up flights all the time, and seeing as how Erika previously survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, this was practically a cakewalk.


No, seriously. Why does God hate their rec time so hard?

The Svanstroms got another flight, but when they finally made it to Cairns, a massive cyclone struck the city and the couple was forced to hide out in a shopping mall for 24 hours. They planned to head to Brisbane, but then that city was promptly hit by a massive flood. Instead, they went to Perth. Perth, of course, immediately burst into flames.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
Tasnim News Agency

It was the safest the city had been in years.

Australia wasn't going so great, so they headed off to New Zealand -- a peaceful land of sheep, hobbits, and quirky film characters. Unfortunately, their intended destination, Christchurch, was heavily damaged in an earthquake and the resulting floods. The Svanstroms finally decided to give up on that continent and head to Japan. In February. Of 2011.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
William Saito/American Association for the Advancement of Science

That's right. Just in time for the Fukushima Godzilla attack.

We've changed our minds. The Svanstroms surely found a cursed monkey's paw at some point. This has "wish gone ironically wrong" written all over it.

A Chicago Resident Is Drafted By Saddam Hussein

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
US Army

The U.S. Army never disclosed this poor unfortunate soul's name, and he's probably not eager to be associated with this ordeal, so we'll call him Darnit. On August 2, 1990, Chicago-based college student Darnit was visiting family in his native Baghdad when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Before Darnit could get out of the country, he was caught up in the slapdash mass drafting of Iraqi men and sent off to war. Shockingly, Hussein did not accept "I'm only here on vacation" as a legitimate get-out-of-army card.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
Iraqi Armed Forces

Vacation, don't care you wanted
Vacation, you are here to stay

Fast-forward six months, and the American armed forces are in Kuwait beating the Iraqi Army like the first level of Pac-Man. The U.S. Navy and Air Force bombarded the everloving shit out of the occupied Kuwaiti Island of Qurah, and then sent some Navy SEALs ashore to mop up. Darnit became one of the first POWs of the Gulf War when he ran up to those Navy SEALs (while literally wearing a T-shirt and Bermuda shorts) and said, "Where have you guys been? We've been waiting for you!" in a heavy Chicago accent.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
Buster7/Wiki Commons

To further represent him, here's a photo of Wrigley Field.

After checking their GPS a few times to make sure they'd landed in the right place, they sent Darnit to an American prison camp, which is where he ran into a sergeant he knew from Illinois. They had the most awkward "What have you been up to" conversation in history. It's unclear what ultimately happened to Darnit, but this whole "war in the Middle East" thing has gone so smoothly, so we're sure he's fine.

An Army Veteran Is Put On The No-Fly List And Has To Illegally Immigrate Back To America

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
US Navy

The no-fly list has its faults, what with active-duty soldiers and children and prominent Congressman Tom McClintock and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy getting caught up in the ever-trawling net of justice. Oh, and it's essentially impossible to get off that list, even if you never should have been on it in the first place. Even if you're a U.S. Army veteran, like Raymond Earl Knaeble IV.

U.S. Army

There is no terrorist named "Raymond Earl Knaeble IV," if you're curious. We checked.

Knaeble, who had recently converted to Islam, was returning home from Colombia, where he was getting married. But when Knaeble tried to board a plane home to the U.S. with his lovely new wife, he was told that he and American airspace were not meant to be together. When he asked the U.S. Embassy for help, they seized his passport and interrogated him. Keen eyes, embassy staff. What kind of real U.S. citizen in trouble would show up to an embassy with a valid passport and ask for help? Good on you for spotting that little ruse.

Rolling with the sucker punches, Knaeble figured that if he couldn't fly to America, he'd head to a Mexican border town and take a cab the last few miles to the U.S. But when Knaeble landed in Mexico, la policia arrested him, interrogated him, and deported him -- back to Colombia.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
Department of Homeland Security

"Keepin' America safe from America since 19America!"

Even worse, Knaeble lost his job because he was unable to attend a mandatory medical screening. Broke, stateless, and helpless, Knaeble set out to America the old-fashioned way -- which was also the illegal way. As he made his way by bus and on foot through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and all of Mexico, he was arrested three more times and repeatedly interrogated. Thankfully, he finally made it to America ... where he was then detained by U.S. officials and interrogated again for 10 hours.

Why, if he had a nickel for every interrogation ... the U.S. embassy would've seized those nickels and accused him of nickel smuggling.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible

An American Goes To South Korea To Teach, Gets Drafted And Sent To Afghanistan Instead

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
US Navy

An American college student named Young Chun found himself -- surprise! -- saddled with a lot of student debt. So he decided to spend a year in his parents' home country of South Korea, teaching English and saving money. He figured his biggest problem would be that he didn't speak Korean. His biggest problem ended up being Taliban gunfire.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible

Pictured: A way worse outcome than students trying to finger your butt.

Upon arriving in Korea, he discovered he was in fact a Korean citizen, which meant he was eligible for compulsory military service. Panicked, he tried to renounce his Korean citizenship in case his number came up, but this is impossible to do if you're over 18. He then asked for an exemption from the military, but unfortunately, a famous Korean-American pop star had just renounced his Korean citizenship to avoid military service, and we guess you can only do that once.

Chun was left with a few choices: join the Korean Army (where he didn't speak the language), try to swim for freedom, or run to a U.S. military base and ask if they'd take him as a recruit instead. So he went with the latter option and waltzed on over to an American Air Force base to sign up for Team Uncle Sam. But as Private Chun was waiting to board an American military aircraft out of Korea, Korean customs agents pulled him out of line, called "Dibs!" and drafted him into their army on the spot.

U.S. Navy

"Sorry, dibs are officially recognized by the Geneva Convention."

Chun was assigned to a unit and pushed through basic training, then sent to Afghanistan to work as a translator between Korean and American troops, despite -- again -- the little fact that he couldn't speak Korean. Chun completed the entire mandatory two years and was then discharged. He probably picked up some Korean along the way, though. Sometimes you really, really have to work to find the upside.

A Clerical Error Lands An Innocent Tourist In An Indonesian Jail For 11 Years

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
Chris Parnell

Australian man and well-meaning friend Chris V. Parnell made a big mistake in 1985. He invited a friend on a family vacation to Bali, Indonesia. This was a mistake because said friend was named "Doggie," and it is rare that any story that starts with "me and my friend Doggie" ends with "did some fine charity work and went to bed early."

t 7ancrmciltet nere: SC
Sebast732 /Wiki Commons

Doggie is the Jaeger of people.

Yes, true to form, Doggie was secretly smuggling large amounts of hashish, and Indonesia's usual punishment for foreign drug smugglers is death by firing squad. Unfortunately, a police officer mixed up whose fingerprints were whose, and Chris was stuck with the charges instead. Doggie was released and immediately hopped on the first flight to somewhere that wasn't Indonesia. "Who would do something like that to a friend?" you wonder. Doggie. Doggie would do something like that. Don't invite Doggie to things.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
Mjpresson/Wiki Commons

And you just know Doggie managed to fly off with extra hashish in his boxers.

Chris faked insanity by befriending the cockroaches inhabiting his jail cell, and got moved to a mental hospital. He then attempted to escape by running across the roof, but the roof collapsed under his feet, landing him in the ward for the criminally insane, where crazed killers chained to the walls tried to pull him apart. Thankfully, he was rescued ... and sentenced to life without parole in the infamously brutal Kerobokan Prison.


Where the roofs are sturdy!

Chris managed to escape again and got his hands on a passport, but it was a woman's, so he had to cross-dress. He was almost instantly recognized ... by an off-duty Kerobokan prison guard. This would be a hilarious series of unfortunate events, if not for all the horrible torture. Oh yeah -- he was horribly tortured for each escape attempt. Which is particularly rough, since Chris unsuccessfully tried to escape three more times.

Years later, Chris was repeatedly stabbed in his sleep by a gang and declared dead. His body was transported to the morgue, where it lay for six hours before someone realized he was alive. The attack cost Chris his left eye, spleen, and part of a lung. Oh, and the life-saving blood transfusion he got at the hospital infected him with hepatitis A, B, and C ...

And then he suffered a stroke.

5 Real Vacations That Went Worse Than You Thought Possible
Chris Parnell

This is Chris, presumably immediately before getting struck by lightning.

Eventually, Amnesty International threatened to take Indonesia to the World Court to get Chris released, and it actually worked! After 11 years in prison, Chris went home and lived happily ever after. Kidding! He went home and was diagnosed with liver cancer.

Chris survived the cancer, because like hell was he going through all that just to come home and die. He even wrote a book about the experience.


For some reason, that book is not titled REALLY?! The Chris Parnell Story.

Zachary Frey hopes you enjoyed this article, because he wrote it during finals week at Cornell University. You can read his 10 most recent articles here.

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