I don’t know if you have heard of Travel Talks on Twitter. But each Tuesday, travel bloggers and those who love to travel take over Twitter under the Hashtag #TTOT. Each week, we discuss a topic to do with travel and last week, the topic was travel regrets.
And surprisingly, or rather unsurprisingly, a lot of people had similar regrets. Namely, a regret over foods not tried, places not gone to and about not having traveled long enough.
One regret I didn’t get, however, was about having gone to a world-renown landmark and that place not living up to your expectations. Expectations, Instagram photos and guide book pictures, are going to ruin every experience. Experiences can never live up to your expectations because only the moments that surprise you, the moments that you didn’t expect to experience, are going to stick in your memory forever.
To explain that more, let me share a story. In 2012, I went to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. And my expectation, of course, was of blue skies, sandy beaches and lush green forests contrasting with the sparkling sea. And do you know what I got? The first rainy day in 90 (!) days! So the day wasn’t sparkling or sunny. But I got to see mist hanging on the mountains in a way that only New Zealand seems able to do, rainbows and mysterious looking beaches that swam in and out of sight. Sure, it wasn’t what I had expected but it was still an amazing experience. And, also, I had already experienced fog a lot worse than that while living near the mighty Waikato River (fog that turns completely dry hair soaking wet, anyone?).
But apart from curbing your expectations and just enjoying the moments, and the weather, that you do get, what else can you do, to avoid travel regrets?
My travel regrets usually revolve around not being as brave and open to experimenting as I want to be. People warning my off things and the expectations other people have of me can make me not do the things that I really want to do. Again, let me explain. In 2014, I went to Chile and Argentina. I had always wanted to go to South America because it just seemed like this magical amazing place full of Maya and Inca culture (nerdy, I know) and full of these amazing landscapes. But I was always afraid to go because I didn’t (still don’t) speak fluent Spanish and because I was a girl and everyone always said that traveling alone as a woman is dangerous. Yet, through talking to a friend I finally realized that I could do whatever the hell I wanted to do.
And once I was there, I could not have been more glad to be there and most of all, to be travelling by myself. Because nothing gives you more confidence than doing stuff by yourself. Sure, it wasn’t always easy without speaking Spanish well but I have hands and feet and could point to things and, in the end, I always got to where I wanted to go.
But there were a couple of things which this whole “it’s more dangerous when you’re a woman”-mantra kept me from doing and I regret that a lot now. Being kept away from something because the accepted way of doing things says that you shouldn’t be able to do something, is rubbish. Just because some people can’t, or don’t want to, do something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or can’t do something.
Another thing I regret is that I wanted to keep going. I was on the road south to Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego and everything in me wanted to go down there instead of heading up to Buenos Aires and eventually back home. I wanted to see more penguins and I wanted to see the end of the world. But of course I didn’t. I did what was expected of me. I headed home, finished my uni work and started looking for a job. And I’m not saying now that we should all follow our hearts, jump on a boat and sail into the sunset. But then again, maybe I am. Maybe, if your gut and your heart are telling you something, maybe you should do it. Maybe you end up breaking a leg and coming back home or maybe you’ll end up happier than you have ever been.
I guess the conclusion to this slightly rambly post is that we should all listen to our gut more, especially when we are travelling. Because, when travelling, we are already outside our comfort zone and we should eat weird things, get stomach bugs and run away with strangers to far off places because that is what travelling is about. Or do you think we would know about other continents now, if a handful of adventurers hadn’t thought to cross an ocean they didn’t know?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
So how about you, do you have any travel regrets? Do you wish you could go back to a place to experiment more?