This Isn’t What I Expected!
While walking through Venice, Italy, we heard a very loud voice talking into a mobile phone from a woman standing on one of the many beautiful canal bridges:
“No one told me that I had to walk everywhere! There are no cars here! I have had to walk all day. Just steps and alleys everywhere you go!”
I don’t want to judge (and by saying that I have obviously done so already). She might have had a hurt foot or maybe her travel agent told her there were people movers or golf carts here. Either way, it highlighted to us that people may set the wrong expectations for their trip and why it is important to do some research before you go.
Another example was the man who was standing in a castle on the coast of Ulcinj, Montenegro
and again, talking loudly enough for all of us to feel his pain.
“I can’t wait to go home! I’m so tired of not having working air conditioning.”
Once again, maybe he had a bad day. Maybe his room was very hot, but here we were in Ulcinj, in a castle, on the coast of a very beautiful setting.
There are many posts about holiday makers complaining about some crazy things, and we all like to laugh about them and at them on occasion. That being said, if you plan on dropping your hard-earned dollars on a holiday, you certainly don’t want to be disappointed.
Why We Whinge
We all whinge occasionally as it seems to be part of our nature. We got caught off guard in a beautiful area of Nicaragua when we didn’t anticipate the start of local holiday season and spent a week listening to explosions, loud celebratory gatherings on the streets and Christmas music that shook the windows of our apartment. We whinged and then with a head slap realized that we didn’t do the same thing we tell others to do. We didn’t do our research and ask the right kind of questions about where we were going and the best time for us to be there (some people would have enjoyed every minute of loudness). We acknowledged our mistake and then went outside to watch the homemade fireworks land on top of our apartment from seven p.m. till midnight (for about two weeks). Turned out to be fun with some wine and cake.
9 Tips to Set Your Travel Expectations
So here are 9 ways to set travel expectations for a more enjoyable trip and to avoid disappointment. The “you” below is a general you, not you specifically. Unless it is you.
1. Expect crowds at popular tourist destinations
If you are traveling during the summer, it’s going to be busy. If it is a popular destination, it will always be busy. It is surprising how many people have the same idea as you, even in the most remote parts of the world, even in the coldest and rainiest season. Think about all the new people you will meet and if you are an introvert, then think of all of the people you can watch.
Check TripAdvisor or another travel site to find out what the scene is like during the holidays. If you still are dying to see whatever it is, then just know it will be busy and be prepared. It will probably still be worth it.
2. Make sure that the holiday aligns with your level of fitness
If you are going to climb a three thousand meter mountain, do some stair stepping before you go. The ambulance service is not always available and the porters will only carry your luggage. There is an extra cost for you. (That last part is true. Saw a porter carry a very tired tourist some way up a mountain. Expect to tip big!)
3. Understand and respect the culture and customs
So this might sound preachy but fellow travelers will have seen the tourist wearing a next to nothing bikini or mankini in front of a temple where everyone else is wearing a sarong to cover up respectfully. Even if it is not your religion, not your customs, not your problem, the local people will more likely want you and your fellow travelers to return if you attempt to act respectfully according to their customs.
Even customer service will not be like you may expect it to be. You may have to ask for your bill, and your food may take some time to prepare. Some dinners take hours not minutes (because they have to go find that goat for you). Just think about how great it is that you are not in a McDonald’s at home on your lunch break.
Language barriers may also cause some confusion. Just keep smiling (unless that means “I hate you” in that particular culture) and try not to lose it.
4. Assume things work differently than at home
Toilets, drinking water, food safety, traffic, currency, steering wheels on either side. These are all things that are probably different from what you might be used to in your own city. It’s good to have an understanding of what is acceptable or unacceptable to you before you go so you are not surprised by the interesting toilet configuration, watching someone make your sandwich without gloves, or driving on the “wrong” side of the road. They are not necessarily why you left the house and took this holiday but they are an important part of the experience of being somewhere that is not home.
5. Know your insurance policy
If you get a scratch and get infected, pet the wrong dog, fall off or into a scooter, free dive into the frothy sea because your friends dared you, do you have the right insurance policy? If you lower your risk, you will find that your holiday, even if it goes a little sideways, will not cost you the rest of your days.
6. Respect other travelers
Selfie sticks. You’re gonna poke someone’s eye out with that thing.
7. Things will go wrong – don’t sweat the small stuff
And there is a lot of small stuff. Flights, hotels, customer service, visas, queues, more queues, irritating people (other tourists, not you), your kids wanted to go to Disneyland and have decided to make you pay for taking them to a museum, there are only three channels (all in another language!), the internet isn’t fast enough to get your selfies onto Facebook right now, and more! But you made it. You are here! There is a lot to see and do and the memories will be priceless.
8. Situational awareness
Don’t walk backward near a cliff to get that great selfie or shot unless you are sure you have enough room. Look both ways because traffic may go in a different direction. If you swim in the ocean when there are ten meter waves, know how to swim back to shore or hold your breath. Don’t use an ATM and make it rain because you are a millionaire in the country you are visiting. Common sense but it’s easy to forget when you are on your holiday. Just look around and make sure you are safe.
9. Be mindful of where you are
This is not the same as situational awareness. In the examples at the beginning of the post, including our time in Nicaragua, it is easy to complain and forget about where you are at in the world. People spend time planning, saving and wishing to be where they are at and then somehow forget they are there. If you are upset, tired, cranky, just look around you. Yeah, that toilet was weird, the dried fish smell is in your clothes and hair, and a monkey just ran away with your watch. But remember, a monkey just ran away with your watch! How cool is that?
So go for the holiday that you will have and not the holiday that you think you will have by just doing a little extra planning and reading, and to remember why you went.
Let us know if you have other tips you want to share with us. We are always learning.