by Jill Robinson
Today I discovered a fantastic blog post by Robert Reid, called “47 or So Dumb Things I’ve Done Traveling.” The article sparked an emotion similar to what I felt the first time I read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. It was an inspiration to lift my eyes off the sidewalk while I walk and really take in my surroundings, to stop thinking about all the “what if’s” that could happen if I commit to a new adventure and reiterated the idea that travel really is the journey and not the destination.
In our journeys though, we as travelers tend to make a lot of mistakes. Reid’s list of learning experiences range from skipping authentic cultural happenings, to paying too much for tickets and getting his passport stolen. We all can relate to moments where we look back and think “What was I thinking?!” Inspired by Reid’s sense of humor and reflections on his travels, I asked my colleagues if they would share some of their past mistakes. For all of us, many of these experiences we chalk up to live and learn, but sometimes these moments can lead to unforgettable highlights of a trip, and to me, that is why we travel.
Lessons learned from the Greenheart Travel team:
- Saving Sydney for “next time” on my trip to Australia. WHY? If I had it to do over I would have made room for at least one day there. I even had to pass through Sydney on my way to Melbourne… I know, I know.
- Arriving in Costa Rica on the first day of Semana Santa (Holy Week). Yep, that’s pretty up there as
far as rookie mistakes…though it led to one of my all-time best travel experiences when I was forced to take a cab all the way to Monteverde because the buses weren’t running. Jose Francisco the cab driver was a great travel companion.
- Spending 10 days in Tuscany and not going to Siena.
- Not researching average cab fares before taking a taxi from the train station to my hotel in Prague. (Note: once you make that mistake once you tend not to make it again. I could have paid for a night in my hotel or two days’ worth of meals with the amount I overpaid).
- Not insisting on 4 wheel drive in Costa Rica. Yep, I had a flat tire within about 20 minutes of leaving the rental place
Trying to make last minute hotel reservations in Kyoto during “maple leaf season.” I did not know there even was a “maple leaf season” in Kyoto before I arrived, prompting Japanese people to look at me like I was the most stupid foreigner they had ever laid eyes on. Maple leaf viewing is as popular as cherry blossom time in Japan and draws hordes of tourists every year to the old capital. It would be like arriving in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and expecting to get a room. (footnote: In the end I got lucky and found a room.)
- Locking myself out of my apartment in Paris freshly showered, dripping wet and wearing nothing but a towel- because the toilet was located OUTSIDE the apartment in the hallway and I left my window open to bring in the warm breezes (springtime in Paris really is lovely), which blew the door shut.
- Not going to Panama City or seeing the Panama Canal on my trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama. I had the time, and my friends were going! I just wanted to lay on the beaches, not thinking about the fact that I could lay on beaches anytime!
- Choosing to sleep through most of the bus ride from Costa Rica to Granada, Nicaragua – when I woke up my friends were looking at the amazing pictures they took along the way and I realized what I missed out on…sleep at home, not while you’re traveling!
- I regret not spending more time in Granada – one of the most beautiful colonial cities I’ve been to. One day there isn’t enough.
- Not keeping a travel journal every time I’ve traveled…photographs are not the only way to document a trip, and unless you’re an experienced photographer, they may not really capture the moment. It’s the funny little things that you experience daily that become a large part of your experience, and I wish I would have written about them!
- I regret not taking salsa or merengue lessons while living in Costa Rica. I learned some basic moves, but can’t believe I didn’t take advantage of learning more while I was there.
- Going to London for the first time with only $600 and about three months worth of city living in my first trip abroad. I ate a more peanut butter sandwiches than I care to think about, but I discovered a lot of wonderful free gems and enjoyed the beautiful parks thanks to an empty bank account.
- Surfing in Costa Rica I decided against the rash guard and board shorts because I didn’t want bad tan lines. As a result of my vanity, the first day ended with a hideous rash on my arms and legs from board burn and half of my forehead and nose peeling off from lack of sunscreen. Day two I learned my lesson!
- A family trip to Mount Rushmore was to be the highlight of the trip for my dad. Instead of the four of us siblings taking in the monument, we stared for about three minutes and then begged to go to the go-cart tracks we had passed while driving. It should be mentioned to add to this embarrassment that I was in high school.
- I still regret never visiting the Isle of Skye while I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland because I was afraid to ask for a few days off from work. (Sidenote: I worked in a pub)
- While on a solo trip in Spain, I decided to take a train to San Sebastian without booking any accommodations or printing off a map before I arrived. Hours later, exhausted from carrying an overstuffed backpack and almost in tears I still had no room. Thanks to luck and my lack of preparation, I met the most wonderful woman who rented her second-floor flat to me for almost a week with chocolate and cookies in the morning for breakfast.
- While camping in Amsterdam ( yes, that’s what I did – awful by the way) I only followed the 25 other tourists in my group and never ventured to take in the beautiful canals and winding roads of the city.
- It was a big mistake only taking a half day to explore Bruges to stay on track with a travel itinerary. Although I don’t regret eating the entire bag of chocolates I was supposed to send home to my family.
- In most of my travels, I regret worrying so much about money. While being responsible is important, so is experiencing a culture. Each year it becomes clearer that I will always have debt, but the 9th floor hotel room in Madrid with a private balcony only happens once a lifetime.