I believe that traveling has a learning curve.
Sure, exploring the world is about adventure and spontaneity. But doing those things well is a skill.
In my 16 years of globetrotting, I’ve made good choices on the road, but I’ve also made plenty of mistakes. You too?
This morning, I made a list of 15 travel mistakes I’ve made through the years. Some of them I learned from easily after the first erring of my ways. But others, I struggle with still.
1. Checking in luggage
These days, I’m proud to be a carry on girl. Yes, it takes a little bit more work to pack minimally. But the benefit is time! Everything is with you (no lost luggage) and there are no delays waiting around at baggage claim.
2. Buying cheesy souvenirs
Those African wood carvings look fantastic at the open market, and goodness, how much work went into making them! Wow, I really need this jade ball carved inside another jade ball! I really like these green tea scented cakes, so I’m sure my friends will too.
How many times have you bought souvenirs for yourself and when you got home, they lost their exotic appeal? Or have you ever noticed that the box of turkish delight goes unconsumed by friends or family?
3. Not buying a unique souvenir when I see it
This item seems like a direct contradiction to the previous one, doesn’t it? But it’s also a travel mistake I’ve made. The lesson is this: if you see something special, buy it right there on the spot. Don’t assume that you’ll be back there the next day or you’ll find it somewhere else. In my experience, this almost never happens. In Shanghai last year, I fell in love (strange, I know) with a statue of Chairman Mao drinking a coke. In my mind I thought, “Oh, I’ll see this again somewhere else and then I’ll buy it.” I never did find it, and I still think about it.
(On A funny side note: I wrote about this before, and a reader in Holland commented that he also saw that statue and also regretted not buying it)
4. Changing money at a hotel
5. Going with someone else’s travel agenda even if it didn’t suit my desires or goals
6. Turning down opportunities if I thought they were too expensive
In Tahiti a few years ago, I wanted to do a swim-with-dolphins excursion, but at the time, it seemed expensive.
On the night before I left Tahiti, I met a couple who did it that day and loved it so much that they signed up to do it again the next day. I’ve often regretted not just taking the plunge. It could’ve been overrated, but I still wonder what I missed out on.
7. Not living in the moment because I was too concerned with getting the “right” shot
There are times when the camera should just stay in its bag.
8. Being afraid to eat in a fine dining restaurant by myself
9. Turning down a fun opportunity from a local
Sometimes if we’re lucky, we meet a local when we travel who offers up some insider experience. Years ago, when I was in the Czech Republic, a group of people invited me on a camping trip. I turned them down, worrying about the fact that I didn’t know them well. Of course, I could have done it in a way that ensured my safety and security, but I didn’t even consider.
10. Not learning basic history of the country or city ahead of time
11. Rushing through museums
12. Haggling too much
It’s a lively part of the cultural interaction in many countries, but come on, do I really need to haggle over $1?
13. Going so cheap that I compromised fun or security
14. Assuming I’ll have a chance to visit that place again
We just never know what the future holds, do we?
15. Not exploring the nightlife
This is not a one or two-time mistake for me, but a travel tendency. Sadly, it’s also the most challenging for me to change. A morning person, I’m wide awake at 5:30 am without an alarm and I hit the ground running. But when it gets to be 8:00, I can’t stop yawning. I really wish 8:00 pm were a respectable adult bedtime! I’m saddened when I think of all the exciting night culture while I’m sleeping.
What do you think about this list? Are there some items you don’t feel are really mistakes? What would you be on your list? I welcome your comments!