You don’t need to be traveling the world for 10+ years to find the worst mistakes you can make while traveling. While I feel like travel destinations and activities are personal preferences, I do believe there are some general mistakes to avoid to improve your satisfaction with your travel adventures!
1. When choosing accommodation, look carefully at the location of your surrounding area, not just the actual hostel/apartment/house where you’ll be staying
Really and truly probably one of my biggest mistakes when I was living in Spain and traveling by myself or with one other person. There were more times than once where I found myself feeling a bit fearful for my safety. A lot of times you will find these amazing deals, and the place of stay is gorgeous and so cheap!!! So you book it… and then you arrive and realize that you are dead center of a prostitution street where there are pimps on every corner with woman nearby. I guess it might sound kind of funny reading it, but trust me, it’s not. My friend and I were also being followed home from a restaurant in this same city and had to hide in a store and wait until we saw the man grow tired of waiting on us. Traveling as a young man or woman has a lot of dangers associated with it and looking into your surrounding areas isn’t always at the top of our list. I learned my lesson the hard way and now, it’s always at the top of my list.
Be savvy with your money, not cheap. Your safety is priceless.
2. Pick but don’t plan
I really found that the more trips I had planned out the more disappointed I found myself at the end of them. Planning trips perfectly is really just so useless for a variety of reasons, but the biggest to me is just that you don’t know that much about where you’re going (probably why you’re visiting) so how could you know what to expect so that you can plan properly? To manage your time effectively you need to be knowledgeable about the public transportation of the city, the time it takes to walk to your destinations, the average wait line for tickets or entrance, the average time you should expect to sit down and have your meal, and a whole lot of other factors! You will be so stressed once the plans start falling apart and that makes for such a bummer of a day.
What I like to do is to choose in advance the destinations or activities that I want to make sure i can check off my list by the time I leave! Once I do that, I figure out the rest when I get there. Not only is it far less stressful, but it makes for more spontaneity! After lunch you realize you’re right next to destination 4 on your list, after that you go to the beach to spend some time and then realize destination 1 is only a 10 minute walk away… next is dinner and would you look at that, right by activity 2. I hope you’re catching the vibe of what I’m writing but basically my point is that choosing what you want to do is great, but not planning it to a tee really allows you to enjoy in the moment and do whatever you (or your company) feel like doing next. It just takes off the stress of the trip for me and I always find the most amazing trips I remember are the ones where I did what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted… but accomplished everything I wanted.
3. Learn a few basic phrases in the native language of your destination
You might read this and think ‘duh’ but you’d be surprised how many people either don’t take the time to memorize a few OR know them but are too shy to use them.
You might find yourself in a country where the people might generally not like you based off your nationality. For me, being American, that’s almost everywhere. I’m not in danger by any means, but it just means that initial impressions of me are probably more heavily judged than they would be of a Spaniard visiting France for example.
Learning (and using) a few basic phrases really tends to soften up the locals! People really appreciate when someone puts the effort in to speak with them in their language. Think about it yourself – if you’re from the US like me, you have probably heard someone say “you’re in America, speak English!” Okay well you’re in France, soooo speak French? If only it was that easy! BUT – think about how sweet it is when you communicate with a foreigner who tries to use a bit of your language. You really admire them, you feel warmer towards them and the same thing happens when the roles are reversed! Lord knows I cannot speak German but when I go to Germany I sure try.
Be accommodating to the other culture.
4. Manage your expectations realistically
There is nothing more disappointing for me then hearing about this amazing trip my friend had to X and when I go I absolutely hate it. However, did it suck that bad or did I create the illusion for myself that it sucked?
Firstly you can’t expect other people’s experiences to be your own. Since we’re all unique as individuals, it’s normal that people can have the same experience but perceive it in two totally different ways! Maybe that amazing national dish you just ‘have to try’ is too spicy for your taste. Maybe their standards for accommodations are too fancy for you and you’d be happier in something less luxurious. The list goes on!
I really try to manage my expectations by researching the country and its culture, more than listening to other’s stories! If I know what the country is like regarding their food, their values, their architecture, their politics, their economic growth, their history then I can much easier form an expectation in my head for what the trip will be like.
Be open minded before and after you arrive to your destination.
Although I’m quite confident this list could extend to be far longer, I think I’ve touched the basics for realizations and adjustments really improved my satisfaction with each of my travel adventures. Hope it helps!