5 traveller mistakes to avoid
I've travelled over 30 countries and made my fair share of mistakes. I've ended up in some sticky situations because of these mistakes; I've had my bank card swallowed, been robbed and worst of all i've missed out on some amazing things.
Mistake Number 1 - Not planning enough
I love to research destinations, I get lost reading lonely planet guides, scouring instagram and pinning on boards. I spend hours, weeks, sometimes even months looking for off the beaten track places to go when I arrive at my destination. This is my passion, I love reading and writing about travel but I don't spend long enough on the admin side of things. The boring side of travel planning; banking, visas, vaccinations, insurance. Theses things are last on my list and have caught me out more than once. My card was eaten by an atm in Malaysia mid journey because I didn't notify my bank of the countries I was going to. I spent a day in the Indian embassy in Sydney because I was too late to apply for my visa via the usual method and on more than one occasion i've paid over the odds for insurance because i've been sat at the airport by the time i'd remembered and just gone for the first quote found on my mobile.
To travel well you need to spend time on the boring planning as well as the fun stuff.
Mistake Number 2 - Planning too much!
Yeah it works both ways! Most of us love to research destinations and when you're trying to fit a lot in you need to plan. When I went backpacking for the first time I made a great itinerary. I did a load of research to create this elaborate itinerary and was pretty damn proud of it. But when you're out of the books and actually in these places you might fall get sick, you might fall in love with the place or you might just want to chill for a day or two after non stop travelling. My itinerary changed several times during said backpacking trip, a stomach bug in Lake Titicaca and a boy in Koh Phangan being just two reasons! An itinerary needs to be loose, you can't get too hung up on being a stickler to it. You have to go with the flow and enjoy every moment or you'll have regrets. I'm not saying you party for a week in Cuzco and miss doing the Inca trail, you just need to prepare for changes to your plans. Have some flexibility in what you've planned, add in a few days spare so you can stay a bit longer in one place or take a detour to see something you hadnt planned to. Remember travelling is about the journey not the destination.
Mistake Number 3 - Playing it safe
Sometimes, especially when you're travelling solo, you might think it's best to play it safe. It's easily done, you book into a hotel then end up eating in the same hotel or ordering room service rather than venturing out on your own at night. It can be daunting, I know. I did this myself in Mumbai and I am still kicking myself for it. Letting the fear of what could happen means you miss out on all the excitement and experiences you could have had. Travelling is all about going out of your comfort zone and when you do it feels liberating. I have found that when travelling solo the best thing to do is go out and I've never been alone for long unless I wanted to stay that way. Hostels are a great place to meet people as our restaurants, beaches and bars. Get out there and enjoy it. If you want to find company its not hard, just go up and speak to someone! I've met so many amazing people on my travels, i've had dinner with an trainee priest in Goa, I befriended an english girl on the beach in Port Douglas, someone I still now meet up with when i'm back in the UK. While you need to be streetwise, you don't need to miss out. Take the necessary precautions, don't leave your belongings on display and get taxi's places that it might be unsafe to walk. Ask at your hotel/hostel where is good to go and how best to get there. There's no point traveling to beautiful places if all you see is your hotel pool.
Mistake Number 4 - Flying in and out
There are some nice places to be found near major airports and often big resorts pop up in these places but you're unlikely to get an authentic experience if you just stay there and don't travel around. Take Fiji as a classic example, most tourists never make it out of Denarui. The beaches aren't all that, the town is commercial and the prices are on par with Sydney! And yet this is where most people stay because it's convenient and then they return home thinking they've "done" Fiji. There's 332 islands in Fiji actually and if you really want to experience Fiji's white sand beaches, world class diving and traditional culture i'd suggest you get off the mainland and check these out instead. This is just one example, there is a Denarui everywhere, but if you really want to make the most of a holiday you're best to avoid these places and get out, travel around to at least a couple of places in your destination and really get a feel for the place.
Mistake Number 5 - Relying on tours
I'm not anti-tour, there is a time and a place for it. I've done a tour through Africa, a tour through the salt flats in Bolivia and countless boat tours and enjoyed all of them. But if i can get somewhere myself why would I pay someone else to take me and 20 other people to the same spot? I'm a people person but when I get somewhere beautiful I don't want 20 other people there ruining it with loud inane conversation and walking straight into my photographs! I can walk, i can cycle and i can drive so mostly I like to explore by myself or with friends. A DIY trip means you will have a bit more privacy, you can go wherever you want and stay there as long as you want. I've travelled all around Australia and New Zealand and it still surprises me how many people do bus tours. While i'm in the car park getting my day-pack ready for a day walking in the national park they hop off the bus with instruction to be back in 10 minutes. What they get to see is often just the tip of the iceberg. If you can i'd always recommend a bit of research and a DIY job. That's how you get off the beaten track and can get to experience the little intricacies of a place. While others sit on a bus to be back to a hotel for tea you can enjoy stunning landscapes, swim under waterfalls and watch the sunrise with none else around, for me that's the greatest part of exploring.
There's plenty more, these are just my top five. What other traveller mistakes would you avoid?