Travel is one of the best things in life, but it’s not always smooth sailing. For some travelers, the experience on the road can mean the difference of a lifetime of travel or not. I have experienced both ends of the spectrum and compiled a short list for you.
Expectations are probably the number one reason you might become disappointed by a destination. Expectations come from travel professionals, friends and family, and even from expectations you build while planning a trip. The problem is not the well-intentioned advice you receive, but how you handle the differences between expectations and reality.
When disappointment sets in, the key is to ask yourself : “Is my disappointment based on actual events or on prior expectations?.” 9 out of 10 times it is the latter. In that case, it’s an easy fix. reset your expectations and see the destination with fresh eyes.
2- Travel Exhaustion
If you like to pack as many activities as you can during your trip, chances are, at one point or another, you might suffer from travel exhaustion. Symptoms include irritability, fatigue, dehydration and the immediate need to crawl under the covers and disappear. A tired body and mind can’t deal with the stresses that travel can bring. It’s a recipe for disaster to try to figure out transportation, dietary needs and communication in a foreign country while cranky and tired.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is an easy one: slow down and build in some R&R into the itinerary.
3- Culture shock
We all experience it, be it in small doses or big ones. There are always differences that make us start comparing destinations and cultural norms, even in places that are similar to home.
Regardless of the situation, culture shock can lead to many disappointments. If you find yourself comparing places and getting down about a destination, try saying these words: “It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different.”
4- Budget choices
I am sure some travelers will disagree with me on this, but I believe budget choices can directly affect the level of disappointment you experience in a destination.
I am not suggesting you can’t have a crappy time in a luxury budget, but that downgrading the level of comfort you have grown accustomed to will most likely lead to disappointment.
Stay true to your comfort needs and ward off the feeling that a destination is falling short.
5- Local interaction
Sometimes the only local interaction you have is with the staff in a resort. Other times, the local interaction you have will make you vow to never go back to a destination (read about it here). And then, there are those magical times that local interactions can lead to wonderful experiences (read about it here and here).
There are a lot of things you don’t see on the news back at home and that are not taught in history class. Things that you don’t learn from a book, but from people. The locals give you a view into your destination from their eyes. You may speak different languages, eat different foods, wear different clothes and have different beliefs, but some things are universal.
When you have a broken conversation with a local, thousands of miles from your home, it makes the whole experience more worthwhile. So step out of your comfort zone and strike a conversation with a stranger.
6- The order of your itinerary
This is important in multi-country trips. Even in the same region, countries can have vastly different cultures, customs and levels of development. Going from a less developed country to a more modern one can ease the transition between destinations, specially as travel fatigue starts to set in.
Take for example the bathroom situation in China, South Korea and Japan. Communal squat toilets are normal in certain areas of China, western toilets are ample in South Korea and high-tech toilets that warm and wash your bum in Japan are everywhere.
Besides a country’s development levels, during long-term travel, it’s helpful to also consider the weather at the time of your visit so that you don’t end up every possible rain season in the region. Unless, of course, you love rain.
These are my 6 reasons you might be disappointed by a destination.
What others would you add to this list?