Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Notes on Travel Regret

No trip taken is ever something to regret. Even if you didn't love (or even like) where you went, you still likely learned something about yourself along the way. But, I think you can still lament over paths not taken and locations overlooked. Case in point: when we were in Thailand we didn't go to Chiang Mai. Yes, you read that right; we were in Thailand and skipped over everyone's favourite spot. Sigh.

Choices (or, you can't see everything)
Nong Khai, Thailand
Originally, we were going to head north after Bangkok, spend a chunk of time in Chiang Mai and then go into Laos. On our second day in Ayutthaya, my boyfriend and I decided to switch up the plan and instead head northeast, towards Nong Khai and then into Laos, with every intention of still going to Chiang Mai, just not right then.

A (bigger) change of plans
After five days in Nong Khai (a nice little chilled out town I really liked) we again started talking about our travel plans. Do we do the Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang route and then back into the north of Thailand? That was the original idea, but I wasn't really keen on Vang Vieng. I'm sure it has its merits, but being 32 I wasn't into the idea of drunken tubing or partying with 19-year olds (no offense to 19-year olds). The boyfriend felt similarly and had yet to get really "excited" about going to Laos at all. We then met another couple  who told us their favourite spot in Laos was the 4000 Islands. This was the straw that shifted the camel's plans (er, you get the idea).

The new plan

The next day (after poached eggs at a cute British cafe I can't remember the name of), we walked along the waterfront, gazing at Laos in the distance and drafted a new plan. We would not go north, but instead head south after Vientiane, into Tha Khaek (dusty town with lots of stray dogs you need to watch out for), Pakse (go to hike the gorgeous Bolivan Plateau. So beautiful) and then to the 4000 Islands (SO amazing). And then... into CAMBODIA, which was never part of the travel plan at all. So in essence, we sacrificed Chiang Mai for a chance to see Cambodia.

Vientiane, Laos
Going with your gut
Plans are great -- to a point. They can also trip you up and lead you away from the path you are better off being on. My gut said, "let's do this; let's head south instead and squeeze in Cambodia." My brain said, "but, but, but..." and then my boyfriend sealed the deal with the deciding vote to head south. I fell madly in love with the 4000 Islands and with Cambodia. Cambodia is a special place that really swept me off my feet and I wouldn't have got to have that experience if we had stuck with "the plan".

Feelings now
Well. now that we're back I do get random pangs of wishing we'd made it to Chaing Mai. I regret not seeing the north of Thailand while we were there and that kind of smarts now that we're back from the trip. As much as I love the trip we ended up taking (which I know is the point), I still think of the "what ifs" and the "should haves". I've read so many great things about Chiang Mai -- it's cheap, it's easy to get around, there are so many temples, it's a haven for vegetarians....and on and an. I hate to think I was so close, but never quite got there. Next time!

How do you deal with travel regret?

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