It’s hard to admit your mistakes, especially when they can be slightly embarrassing (if only in our minds). Anyway, since I did make a list of mistakes I’ve made as a blogger, I felt like this was a bit overdue.
This is not a complete list of mistakes I’ve made, by any means. Rather, it’s some of the first that come to mind. Also, I’m sure I’ll be continuing to make more in the future. Anyway, let’s get on with it.
5 Mistakes I’ve Made as a Traveller
5. Not bringing enough cash
Remember the time I got a tuk-tuk to the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh and then realized that I didn’t have enough cash to pay the admission fee? No? That’s because it’s something I’ve been too embarrassed to confess to anyone.
As someone new to the backpacking world, it’s important to know that a quick coffee and a bite to eat can quickly turn into something much more exciting. Don’t just bring enough money for your dinner, and don’t expect your card to work in other countries (am I the only person in the world with a 5-digit pin?). I learned the hard way.
4. Freaking out and getting off the bus too soon
Bus travel in South Korea is easy and cheap. You can get from coast-to-coast in a few hours without breaking the bank. However, that’s not to say that it is always a breeze. Maybe buying the ticket in Seoul or some other major city is not problem, but don’t expect that you won’t have to learn to read the Korean alphabet eventually.
I never devoted huge chunks of my time to learning Korean, but I did make a bit of an effort, and I did pick some up over time. Unfortunately, confidence can falter when you’re an anxious traveller with a fear of getting off at the wrong stop. Which is what I did near Chungju one day and ended up in a rural village. The problem wasn’t so much mistaking the stop, but believing that I must be on the wrong bus.
Here’s a tip, don’t get off the bus in a one-road village. Unless you are looking for some nice photo opportunities. The truth is that you’re probably on the only bus that goes through, so you may as well wait til you’re in a bigger area (unless it makes more sense to go back). You might find that you were on the right bus in the first place, and that you were freaking out during a quick detour to a nearby village before heading back into the city. Oops.
3. Not pushing myself to be more social
I’ve said it a million times, but I’m not exactly a social butterfly. The opposite in fact. But, I always imagined that being on the road would naturally crack open my shell and transform me into someone who was a lot more outgoing and carefree. The mistake is not in the ideal, but in the misguided belief that this would all happen without me putting in much effort. Change takes work, and putting yourself out there can be a lot of work (for some of us at least). There were plenty of nights that I let myself off the hook when it came to participating in events at hostels, letting myself go home early, and generally avoiding people out of fear.
2. Being embarrassed
This is pretty general, but something I need to include. When you are a foreigner to a place, when you are clueless and generally ignorant about common things, the desire to avoid being embarrassed can be a detriment. There are many times when I missed out on something because I was afraid to get clarification, instead pretending like I already knew what I was doing.
In the same vein, there are plenty of times when I fell back on English greetings, even though I’d practiced other languages in preparation. There’s this irrational fear of looking like an idiot if I say something wrong.
1. Not doing more for me
“How can you go to ______ and not do/go/see ___________?”
“Did you do ______/go _______?”
These are questions we ask ourselves (and are asked by others) that can really make a difference to our travels.
I’ve gotten caught up in chasing icons during my travels, I’ll admit. And, not necessarily because I wanted to, but because those questions were bouncing around in my head.
When you’ve got a limited time in a country/city/region, it can be hard to fit everything in. When you’re in an expensive destination, sometimes it comes down to money. At times, I’ve chosen to do things or see things because I fell victim to the hype, rather than due to a real desire.
A recent experience where I overcame this:
When I was in Iceland last month, I didn’t do the Golden Circle. It almost feels wrong to say. I would have liked to, of course. I just had other things I wanted to do and see more. It came down to doing the South Coast: waterfalls, glacier hiking, black sand beach and intriguing rock formations, or the classic tourist draw that brings you to Iceland’s most famous sites (near the capital, anyway).
I was afraid I’d feel like I was missing out, like people would ask me if I’d done the Golden Circle and I’d feel like a fraud. But, when it came down to it, something in me just wanted to do the South Coast instead, so I went for it. And it was amazing.
I never regretted the decision for one second. I was like a wide-eyed kid the whole day. This experience really showed me that it’s important to choose for yourself, rather than succumb to that pressure to follow the standard itinerary. Hopefully I’ll remember that for the future.
Are you guilty of the above? What do you consider you travel mistakes?