Travel comes with it's ups and downs. Things go wrong, things go right! Sometimes we make some bad moves. Something stands in our way. We live to regret certain things we did or didn't do on our travels. I have asked some of my favourite travel bloggers what their biggest travel regret is. Below are some of their answers. I hope that by reading these you'll keep them and the lessons learnt in your subconsious and you wont make these travel regrets or make less of your own.
My travel regrets
When I first started travelling, my biggest travel mistake was packing way too much! I have since learned to cut this down. Sometimes I regret researching too little and missing out on certain things. I regret worrying too much and stressing about silly small things. Wasting time trying to find that perfect place to eat (sometimes I don't always regret that, it works in my favor). My biggest travel regret is always travelling too fast! Missing out on seeing certain things or feeling like I didn't get enough from that country or as much culture as I could have gotten.
One of the things that I consistently don't do when traveling but really regret afterward is trying all of the different types of local food. The reason why I have such a hard time with this is because I suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and not knowing how my stomach will react to certain foods causes me great anxiety.
Usually, when I travel, I travel to places where food poisoning can be quite common. Because of this, I have had food poisoning many times when traveling, and I try and avoid it at all costs. I think that it is important to be aware of the things you are ingesting but I do always regret how much I stress about food while traveling.
When I look back on a trip, the number one regret is "why didn't I just let loose and if I got food poisoning just dealt with it?" Worrying about what I am going to eat and in turn not trying everything makes me feel like I am missing out on something or an important cultural aspect of the country I am in. Being anxious about these things also usually takes away from my experience traveling because I am constantly worrying about my next meal.
One way I have learned to combat this is to go on a food tour when I first arrive in that country so I can learn about the different foods unique to that place and where the good places are to eat those things. That way I can continue to go back and eat more of the food that I liked from the tour and know that I am getting it from a reputable source. Another thing I love to do to combat my anxiety about trying different local foods is to take a cooking class! When you take a cooking class you get to try lots of different local food but you also learn how to make it, so you can continue to make it in the future. You also usually are involved in buying the food from a local market, so you can see where the food comes from and how to buy it in the future if you are staying in that place for a longer time.
I was on the Victoria Falls, in Zambia, with all my family. We had already been traveling for a couple of weeks and, in general, we always try to find activities and entertaining things to do before arriving at the places we travel. When we started to find out about the falls, we saw that many recommended doing "bungee jumping" on a bridge above the Victoria Falls River, which unites the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Once we got there, 3 of us decided to do it: my brother-in-law, my boyfriend and me. The height of the bridge is impressive so the feeling of fear immediately started going up my legs, and even more when they told us that the water is full of crocodiles and hippos ... but, ¿who does not like a bit of adrenaline?
We talked to the managers and they sent us to a booth where they measured, weighed and had us fill out many forms in which we exempted them from any responsibility, including the cable of the bungee got cut due to technical failure or any other problem that might happen. We paid (a significant amount, I remember was close to 200 dollars per person) and left to the edge of the bridge to wait for our turn. My two companions of adventure were first, I do not know which one with more fear face than the other, but they jump without any problems. The first came back happy, but with a terrible headache because the tie was on the feet and the last 10 minutes you are left hanging upside down until they go to rescue you and take you up the bridge again. The second, the same, but it was worth it! My turn came ... and I was shaking from head to toe. I have a bit of vertigo, but I had already done something similar in Ecuador, so ... ¿what could happen?
They made me go up to the area where they tied you up and, when it was supposed that everything was ready, they approached me at the edge of the bridge. The rule is that they can not push you, the decision of jump has to be yours ... 3, 2, 1 ... step back. ¿Am I well tied? I looked at my feet and saw one of the locks loose, completely unlocked. I told the boy next to me and his response was "it is not necessary, there is another lock here" ... and he shows me a little string that didn't give me any more confidence in the system. Immediately I took a step back, looked at my dad with tears in my eyes (he had paid for everything) and, as always supporting me, he says "do not do it if you don't feel safe". It was terrifying... I literally could see myself falling hundreds of meters to the river because of the lack of security and, although I tried again a couple of times, I was not able to get the image out of my head and it was impossible to make the leap.
To this day I regret not having done it, and I think if I went back I would try again; even my family keeps remembering the subject and laughing at what happened as an anecdote of the trip (after the initial tears, I also laughed at myself) ... but on the other hand, a few years later the story of a girl who jumped but the rope broke in the same place was a big and controversial new... because she fell straight into the river and survived but with very several injuries... what if that had happened to me? ... everything happens for a reason!
While planning my first trip to Belize in 2016, I learned of the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave. Descriptions by other travelers described it as a life-changing experience. The opportunity to visit a Mayan archaeological site, complete with pottery and skeletons sounded amazing. Visitors described a Mayan underworld. I wanted to see it for myself. But as I researched how to get there, I learned that the trek involved a strenuous hike, crossing three rivers. Once inside, visitors have to swim into the cave and pass through tight crevices in complete darkness to reach the inside chambers. Due to the lack of light, bugs and spiders of every size made their home in the cave. I chickened out. Instead, my 2016 trip to Belize featured a very safe stay in San Pedro.
Fast forward to 2018 and planning my second trip to Belize. Thoughts of visiting the ATM Cave still crossed my mind. I went back to looking at what would be required. Having just turned 50 and suffering from several health issues in the past year, I wondered if I could complete the journey. Due to my lack of exercise from my health issues, I worried that I wouldn't be fit enough to complete the hike or traverse the rivers. How embarrassing would it be if I was so out of breath during the hike that the group had to go on without me? Having gained weight from my health issues, I worried that I would not be able to squeeze through tight spaces in order to reach the sacred inner chamber. How embarrassing would it be if I had to wait alone in the dark while the rest of the group went on without me because I couldn't fit through the tunnels?
Tight, enclosed spaces don't cause me fear. But the thought of being in the dark, especially alone in the dark, was terrifying. And I hate bugs - almost all kinds but especially spiders. What if a spider as big as my hand crawled on me in the dark? With so many trepidations, I called a tour operator and asked lots of questions. This was an easy trek that could be done with most basically fit people. I signed up. The morning of the tour, I put on a long-sleeve quick dry top (spiders would be less scary on my shirt than on my arm!) and adjusted my headlamp. There was no turning back. If I made a fool of myself with a group of strangers, so be it. Conquering my fears and setting aside my concerns, I plunged ahead.
And boy was it worth it! I saw amazing things - stalagmite formations, pottery thousands of years old, skeleton remains of sacrifices. I didn't get left behind because of my lack of fitness or girth of my body. No spiders crawled on me. Ecstatic over conquering my fears, my visit to the ATM Cave will forever be one of my fondest travel memories.
Earlier this year, I made a trip to Chile for work. I was there for about a week and I was working full days with barely anytime to see much of what I wanted to see, but still had the chance to see plenty of Chile. My work was in the beautiful capital of Santiago, but I was dying to go to Valparaiso, which is about an hour and a half away via bus. One of the reasons I wanted to go to Valparaiso is due to the colorful buildings and the tropical look of it, which is completely different from Santiago.
Everyday, I looked at bus fares and things I would be able to do in Valparaiso. I knew I would have a day off on my last day in Santiago, so I was making plans to go. I had made mention of this plan to some of the people I was with and had a few that were interested in joining me. I was excited to make the trip and the fare was absolutely cheap - $15 round trip on bus! After a few days, I had already figured out where I needed to go to get the tickets, where the bus station was and what I wanted to do while in Valparaiso.
However, on my last day in Santiago, the people that were thinking of going with me to Valparaiso backed out. I wasn’t too concerned as I’ve solo traveled before, but what changed my mind was the fact that people had told me that going to Valparaiso was more of an all day trip. Even though it would take me an hour and a half to get there, it was a trip you needed to have a whole day for. So I listened and didn’t go. Even though, I got to do other things, it just wasn’t the same as going to Valparaiso, so I was bummed out that it didn’t work out for me.
Back in the states, I still regret my decision of not going to Valparaiso. It’s not everyday that I am in Chile and who knows when I’d go back. I had this opportunity to go to the one place I have bookmarked on my Instagram and I did not take that chance. I don’t completely blame the people I was with though.
Sure, I did let others influence my decision, but I also didn’t wake up early enough to head out, so that played a factor as to why I didn’t go. Had I woken up really early in the morning, I may have been able to go and still make it back on time for my plane back home.
Although, I regret not going and not making that trip, I have made amends with not going to Valparaiso by convincing myself I’ll go next time. Sure, it may never happen, I may never go back to Chile, but I’m hopeful that I will go back someday and I will have the chance to go to Valparaiso.
My husband and I have had our share of travel regrets over the years. We should have visited Syria when we had the chance in 2008. Maybe if we had planned further in advance, we could have bought tickets to see Alhambra on our recent trip to Spain. But alas, by the time we tried to book them, the tour companies had snatched them all up. And I still regret not purchasing that coral scarf with pom-pom fringe at the C&A in Duisburg, Germany 5 years ago
But there's one travel regret that still lingers in my mind and makes me uncomfortable to this day.
Back in 2009, my husband and I took a group tour through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. It was an incredible vacation and we met amazing people, some of whom we're still in touch with.
While in Zimbabwe, we had a day set aside for various adventurous excursions of our choosing. Our options included things like skydiving, 4x4-ing, white water rafting, and so on. None of these excursions appealed to me, as I don't have a thrill-seeking bone in my body. But there was one excursion that spoke to me - walking with lions.
I'm a huge animal lover, and the thought of cuddling with lion cubs was too much to resist. So, while my husband went white water rafting, I went off to pet some lion cubs.
When we got to the Lion Encounter facility, we got a short orientation on their project. This wasn't just a wildlife sanctuary, it was a multi-phase conservation program, with the goal being to release lions back into the wild. Lions have a very complex social structure, and this program was designed to let the lions develop that social system in the safety of this monitored habitat. Then their cubs would essentially be wild-born, and released successfully with all the skills they would need to thrive in the wild.
We were given some instructions on how to approach the lions, and how to walk with them safely.
But imagine my surprise when we weren't introduced to small, cuddly lion cubs. These beasts were half-grown and stood nearly to my hip. After my initial shock, our group went for our walk with two lions, and had our photos taken with them. It was an amazing experience and one that gave me some bragging rights.
It all seemed fine and dandy, until I started to write about the experience for my travel blog. While doing background research on the Lion Encounter and its "conservation program," I came across some disturbing allegations. In all the years of their operation, no lions had reached the final phase to be released into the wild. And obviously, the lions used in the lion walks can never be released into the wild because they have no fear of humans. There aren't any clear answers as to how their operation really works, or what's happening to the lions being bred under this program. But one can assume that something about this program isn't quite legitimate. In fact, a quick Google search will lead you to some pretty disturbing, though unsubstantiated, theories.
I can argue that the tour company didn't offer enough non-adventure options for the excursions and I felt limited by the choices. I can blame the tour company for not doing their due diligence in working with ethical, legitimate companies. But in the end, it was my choice to do the lion encounter and not question the background and history of the facility. I simply made the assumption that if the tour company was booking with them, they were reputable.
So how could I have made a better choice? I could have asked for the name of the specific facility offering the tour so I could research them in advance, instead of going in blind. I could have asked our tour guide for alternative day tours that didn't involve death-defying adrenaline-pumping sports so that I'd have more options to choose from. But when it comes down to it, when in doubt, simply don't do any excursions involving wild animals if you can't do decent research in advance.
When the story outweighs the act
Anytime someone travels to Ireland one of the main tourist items to do is kiss the blarney stone. I am really no different. Alas, I regret saying that it did not happen for my sons and me on our trip. The story we have to tell is unique in its own right. So you tell me if the story really outweighs actually kissing a stone.
When my sons and I took our first overseas trip Blarney was at the top of our list. While my boys will tell you I was apprehensive of kissing the stone. I might be a bit of a germaphobe and was trying to find anti-bacterial lip balm. I know a silly idea but my boys got a good laugh on me.
We would be in Ireland for 9 days and the Blarney castle was about midway through. The day we went was rainy and a bit cool. We went straight to the line for the stone of eloquence. As I had it figured out, half our day would be spent standing in line waiting to get to the top.
The castle is as original as can be so the stairs up were narrow and slippery from the rain. We were in line for about 45 minutes when an attendant came through and said that there was an issue at the top. The wait would be quite a bit longer. We were welcome to stay inline or not. After asking my sons we remained but quite a few decided to leave.
That was ok with me as our line just got shorter. By this time we were up into the stairwell and standing on those uneven narrow steps. Then we hear that people were coming down. Now let me explain that for the Blarney castle one side goes up and one side goes down. There really is no space for both directions to pass in the stairwell.
My youngest was trying to get out of their way and his foot slipped on the rock. I watched as he bounced down several hard cold stone steps on his bottom. He did find a window well to squeeze into and the paramedics came down. Now I am trying to figure out if they went up the other side what in the world was going on at the top.
There are warnings all over the castle that if you have medical conditions you were encouraged to refrain from participating. Heart conditions, in particular, were warned to not try to climb to the top. An attendant finely yelled down to empty the castle. A patron at the top had gone into cardiac arrest and they needed to tend to her.
We followed everyone else as we made our way down the slippery stairs and out onto the grounds. As we stood in the poison garden we watched a firetruck drive over bushes to back up to the castle. Because of the design of the castle and that it was original, they could not get her off the top.
The paramedics had her stabilized but they could not get the stretcher down the winding, narrow staircases. For a while, you could tell that they were not sure the boom on the fire truck would be long enough to reach her. After more than 30 minutes they finally got her strapped to the boom and down to the ground. She was rushed away to be taken care of.
We wandered the grounds as they got things taken care of at the castle. They reopened the castle hours later and it was well after 4 pm. The park would close before we could get to the top. So we opted instead to finish enjoying the rest of the huge part. We brought back a very interesting story but we never did kiss the Blarney stone.
My biggest travel regret is the amount of time I wasted by not traveling solo. Although I have fully embraced the solo traveling life now, it took me way too many years to gain the confidence to even consider traveling alone.
I first caught the travel bug my senior year of high school, after my first, and only so far, which is sad, cruise to the Bahamas. I went with my best friend’s family and it was the first time I traveled independently, aka, not with my parents. My next “independent” trip was a study abroad course to Greece during college. Marking off my top item on my bucket list was a great way to start my travels, or so I thought.
However, there would be another 4 years before I really started to travel again. In that time, I always had the desire and enough (barely) financial stability to make my travel dreams come true. But I let one thing hold me back: not having anyone to travel with. Again, and again, I would start to plan trips in my head, only to stop and wonder who I could persuade to come with me. My friends and family would be interested in theory, but schedules or finances or other things would always come up. If I was unable to find a travel companion, I would convince myself that I didn’t really need to that cool thing or see that place on my bucket list. I’d have time.
During these years, it wasn’t even an option in my mind to travel solo. I’d be judged for being alone. I’d be an easy target for crime. I’d be laughed at because I didn’t have anyone with me. I’d look stupid wandering around and potentially getting lost by myself. The excuses went on and on. Then one day I had two thoughts. No one is going to be judging or laughing at me. And even if they are, who cares? Then I had another thought, “What if my fear of being mocked or pitied for traveling alone causes me to never go anywhere?”
At that point, I realized I need to stop letting fear and self-doubt hinder me. Fast forward a few years, and I am almost strictly a solo traveler. I have lost count of the number of places I’ve visited or explored on my own, that I would never have seen if I wasn’t comfortable with going by myself.
I will always regret the years of travel I’ve lost due to fear. I wish I had known I was ok the branch out on my own to travel. I wish someone had told me that the benefits of solo travel far outweigh the perceived awkwardness or loneliness. But most of all, I wish I could tell my younger self that it’s ok to step out of your comfort zone and travel solo, because only then can you truly grow.