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?

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