Monday, July 29, 2013

Notes On Travel Regret: Part 2

I've blogged about travel regret before, about that feeling of missing out, of not having quite enough time to see everything you want to see or do everything you want to do. The feeling of not having made the right call, for whatever reason. For some people there is no regret (logically I know regret is pointless, but emotionally? Well, that's a different story), but for others, there are places missed, cities longed for, decisions analyzed and questioned after the fact.

Off to India...or not
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur
In the summer, around late August, my ex-partner and I (not ex at the time) were talking about going to India for two months, February and March. Up until this point I wasn't sure he was going to want to travel at all during the winter, and I was worried about this. Then he brought up India, something I'd mentioned at various other points  during the year and that he never seemed very keen on. But now, he was interested. He wanted to take cooking classes and eat street food and consume as much vegetarian Indian food as he could get his hands on. I got the Lonely Planet from the library and started reading him random facts about various cities, about places we "had" to see and what we absolutely couldn't miss. We were excited. We were united. Things were good.

And then I chickened out. For a lot of reasons, but the one I most often refer to is that I knew I would be working while we traveled (call it digital nomad light) and that I really needed a reliable internet connection the whole time or my work would suffer. (or so I believed). From what I'd read there was no guarantee of the speedy surfing I was used to in many other places I'd travelled so I panicked. In retrospect I should have done more research, asked around, reached out to people who had been there, not worried so much - but I didn't. I assumed it might just be better (safer) to go someplace else, and so I suggested Malaysia. But let's face it, I was also scared of India itself, which I'm not proud of.

The regret kicks in
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Don't get me wrong, two months in Malaysia and Singapore (with side trips to Hong Kong and Vietnam) was great and I had a memorable trip filled with phenomenal food and unforgettable experiences, but I regret not going to India. I can't help but equate the dissolution of my long term partnership a mere three weeks after returning with the "not going", with all of that fear. Of course there were many other issues that led to my  becoming a solo traveler, but I now equate my inability to move past travel fears with the end of my relationship. Silly? Maybe. Weird? probably, but I can't help but wonder if things would have turned out differently had I dove headfirst into a challenge rather than back away. I can't help but ask myself what it really meant when I vetoed India and switched up the itinerary. I have regret and lots of it.

I  know it will pass and I know I am not being logical, necessarily, but what happened does drive home the point that giving into fear isn't often a good thing. In travel or in love.

What are your biggest travel regrets?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hong Kong in Pictures

I spent three days in Hong Kong in April and I fell in love with it - the energy, the food, the markets, the parks, the mind-boggling amount of things to see and do. It's a city you can spend weeks in and still not be bored and I plan on going back at some point in my travels. Take a look at some of my pictures from the trip. 

Hong Kong Park

Electric Road Market and Cooked Food Centre (good little Indian place upstairs)

Misty Victoria Harbour

Self explanatory

Shopping at Temple Street Night Market

Tram. Loved seeing these all over the city.

Awesome fountain in Hong Park you can walk into. Obvious photo op.

Kowloon Walled City Park - a must-visit in my opinion

Entrance to the park

Aviary in Hong Kong Park (free and worth a peek)

Bruce Lee!

Have you been to Hong Kong? What were your favourite things to see and do?

Monday, July 1, 2013

5 Travel Mistakes I've Made

No one is perfect and we all make bad choices at one time or another, but there are a few travel-related mistakes I've made (or in some cases continue to make) that I'd like to avoid on future trips.

Yelling to try and be understood
Campeche, Mexico (actually a great town)
As much as I hate to admit it, I have been one of those people, who just talks louder - in English - in a futile attempt to be understood in another language (in this case, Spanish). I was in Campeche, Mexico hoping to get to Palenque that day and there was a miscommunication about buying a bus ticket. I wanted out as soon as possible (I'd been sick the night before and I wanted no reminder of where the awful stomach issues started) but I was getting nowhere with the nice woman behind the counter. It turns out she (and some of her co-workers) were trying to tell me there "might" be one more ticket available for the bus I wanted, but they wouldn't know until it arrived as some buses have the extra seats in the back and some don't. Eventually someone who could speak some English was able to explain and I did get my ticket, but not before repeatedly stating my request - in English - at escalating volume (which, by the way, never works. Don't do it). No, I am not proud of this. 

Trying to do too much in one place
Getting overstimulated as I step off a bus or train and take a look around, thinking of all the things I want to see and do in a new place can be exciting but actually doing all of those things can mean burnout. Yet I continually try and pack way too much sightseeing into too little time. There's nothing wrong with wanting to maximize your time, but I also find that the more you try and do, the less you appreciate what you're doing. You get tired and you stop really paying attention. I'd like to start streamlining my days when I travel and choosing one for-sure activity and one secondary activity. If I do one, and then the second and then still feel like I have energy to do something else, great. If not, I can relax and see where the rest of the day takes me. I would rather enjoy one thing than feel exhausted and cranky through four or five activities or sites.

Trying to see too much on one trip
Tikal (squeezed into a trip to Belize)
Just like trying to pack too much into one day can cause problems and actually hinder your experience, so too can trying to do too much on one trip. I am notorious for wanting to squeeze as many stops into one itinerary as humanly possible and I have to say, it's not the best plan. The more you try and pack into your itinerary the more rushed you're going to be and the more stressed out you're going to feel. A trip like that starts to feel like a race to cross places off a list, which doesn't allow any time to fully appreciate where you are. Not to mention, the more places you're trying to see, the more time you'll be spending in transit (on a bus, a boat, a plane or a train), which can also add to stress levels. My new goal is to try and see less, but appreciate and explore more.

Focusing too much on "must-sees"
While it's a good idea to research your destination and what it has to offer as a way to get acquainted with where you'll be spending time, I often get too hung up on the what every magazine article, guidebook, or blog post on the town or city I'll be visiting lists as the "top 10 sites" or main points of interest. Those lists are always helpful, but there is also something to be said for choosing your own adventure and putting the guide book away. You might just discover something great (an adorable cafe or bar, a really funky neighbourhood) all on your own that you never would have stumbled upon if you'd just followed a generic list of must-see or dos.

Letting a bad mood ruin a perfectly good day of travel
No one can be in a great mood all the time, every day (not even while travelling), and not every day can or should be jam-packed (as noted earlier), but letting a bad mood spoil a travel day is something I have done, but I would like to start getting better at not letting this happen. Because the thing is, more often than not, if you're in a bad mood but then do something to distract yourself (always very easy when travelling), you'll find that the bad mood has lifted. So next time I find myself feeling grumpy when I'm travelling, or like hiding under the covers rather than exploring, I'm going to put more effort into going out and doing something that has the potential to improve my mood.

Have you made any travel mistakes or have any bad travel habits you'd like to break?