No matter how long you plan your trip for, or how in-depth your research is, everyone makes a few mistakes on their travels. It’s pretty much a given that you’re not going to get everything right.
But the thing about making mistakes is you usually learn something from it.
It’s part of the journey and the crazy life lessons you learn during long-term travel. So there’s a whole bunch of situations I found myself in whilst I was away, that although they were not the best times, I actually came away with something. They’re mistakes I had to make to gain some of the skills I have today, you know?
The Travel Mistakes I’m Glad I Made
Following the backpacker “rules” on my first trip.
It’s a different world today. But 8 years ago, all backpacking blogs and books and forums were saying the same things… Pack light. Don’t bring a hairdryer, let alone straighteners. You don’t need make-up. Bring walking boots, not heels.
So on my first big solo trip to the USA, I followed these rules. And massively regretted it. I felt horrible and self-conscious the whole time.
Not only did this mistake highlight to me just how important it is to feel like yourself on your travels. But it’s the initial experience that encouraged me to start this blog. Because who says you need to slum it when you’re slumming it?
Overloading my backpack on my second trip.
You see, I subsequently did the polar opposite on my Southeast Asia trip. I packed WAY too much. To the point where my backpack actually exploded.
Well ok, it didn’t explode per say, but it ripped open in the middle of Singapore airport and I had to go buy a new one. This along with the above really taught me to how to balance out what I was packing. I learned to bring make-up and chic summer dresses, but not a gigantic beauty bag and 45345 outfits. Balance, yeah?
Not planning a route in Southeast Asia.
I had planned to spend 6 weeks in Thailand. I actually spent 4 months in Southeast Asia and did the most ridiculous route ever. It was all spontaneous and I was living the dream and going where I wanted, but I wasted so much time and money going backwards and forwards. I mean, my route looked like this:
Bangkok – Khao Sok – Koh Phangan – Ko Tao – Siem Reap – Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville – Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Hanoi – Halong Bay – Hanoi – Luang Prabang – Viang Vieng – Bangkok – Koh Phangan – Surathani – Krabi – Koh Phi Phi – Phuket – Singapore – Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Bangkok.
I went to Bangkok four times for no apparent reason. I spent a fortune on both flights and overland travel. I ended up having to fly to Singapore for a visa run. It was a mess.
But this is the trip where I really learned that I can do whatever I want in life. On my travels I can be spontaneous and go where I want and do what I want. But also in life, I’ve learned to put myself first. And I really think this trip contributed to that.
Getting on the scam bus to Cambodia.
Oh yeah speaking of my wonderful adventures in Asia…. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses.
I got on the infamous ‘scam bus’ to Siem Reap and honestly, it was a nightmare. I need to write a whole post about it but in a nutshell – we were scammed to pay too much for a Cambodia visa, we got in dodgy cars and buses and even had real-life death threats from a tuk- tuk driver.
But the whole experience taught me to question things if they don’t feel right. And to not always follow the crowd – just because other people are going along with it, doesn’t mean it’s legit.
Getting mugged on an overnight bus.
Oh and another drama…Towards the end of my trip I had been on what felt like 98334 overnight buses. And I let my guard down. I got on a super cozy bus to Chiang Mai in Thailand with comfy seats and the perfect level of air-con and fell asleep.
And a thief was operating on the bus.
A guy was taking bags left unattended to the back of the bus, rifling through them for valuables and putting them back. So I didn’t even realise until I got off the bus that my iPhone and about £60 had been stolen from my bag.
It was a bit of a wake-up call that you need to be vigilant all the time. I thought I was a travel pro at this point and was kicking myself that I had been duped. But I feel like you need to be mugged at least once on your travels. It teaches you to be way more cautious.
Getting “stuck” in Brisbane on my Australia working holiday.
I think this is a common travel mistake for people doing their working holiday in Australia. When you get yourself somewhere to live and a job and a bank account and all that, it’s really easy to get stuck.
I thought Australia would be all beach hopping and scenes from Home & Away, but I got so stuck in Brisbane. I actually ended up spending 6 months there in total. Which to be honest was a bit of a waste as I never got around to visiting epic bucketlist places like the Whitsundays or Fraser Island.
But actually in retrospect, the time I spent in Brisbane was where I learned so much about looking after myself. It’s the first place I learned to do a food shop for one and cook all of my meals and manage paying rent and bills. It’s basically where I learned to be a grown-up.
It’s also where I took time out to take stock of my life. Which I really think you need to do every now and then to make sure you’re happy with the path your life is on. And I had gone full speed from uni to travelling and Brisbane was the point where I stopped and checked that I liked what I was doing, you know?
DIY bleaching my hair.
This isn’t necessarily a travel mistake, but it’s a mistake I made travelling. So I figured I’d include it…
I think it’s something we all do at some point, no? Bleach our whole head in the hopes of having beautiful beach blonde hair? Just me?
Needless to say, my hair was bright orange and like straw and took forever to rectify on a backpacker budget. But it taught me not to play with bleach.
I’m sure I’ve made a lot more mistakes than this on my travels, but these are the ones that really stick in my mind as having taught me valuable lessons. And I’m sure I have many more to come.
Have you made any travel mistakes that you’re glad you made?
Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!