Expectations Vs Reality: What To Do When The Idea of Travel Differs From Your Actual Experience
Travel is a massive industry. You can scour the internet or social media channels, and be bombarded with information, photos, videos of almost any corner of the world. Research on a destination, and you get beautifully curated photos of cafes, lodges, beaches and lakes—all tastefully taken—and most likely, altered in some way with filters. So it comes as no surprise that a traveler leaves for a city with a specific image in his mind.
Of course, the scary but thrilling aspect about Anywhr is how everything is a surprise, but more likely than not, you would’ve heard and have an impression of the place you’re heading to, positive or otherwise.
But packing your expectations into your suitcase and taking it along on your vacation may not be the best idea. Here are some moments I’ve experienced in dealing with shattered expectations abroad.
1. When Instagram Pictures Don’t Match Up With Reality
Here’s a confession. Once, I came across an image of an Instagram influencer posing on the balcony of a wooden hut. She was, in her flowy dress wearing a sun hat, a picture of serenity breathing in the natural air, with the mountains looming in the back. I instantly thought: that’s where I need to stay when I head to that country.
Reality: When I arrived, the weather was beyond gloomy. The fog was unbelievable, I can’t see anything beyond 10 feet. The mountains were just jagged triangles trapped behind a blur. Was I disappointed? Undoubtedly so.
But I didn’t let that ruin my trip. There had to be more to the city than a lodge balcony, so I went about my day, explored the nearby villages and met the indigenous people living near the lodge. In fact, it was the fog that lent a mystery to the scenes I saw; the images of locals walking barefoot in the foggy darkness remains in my mind till today.
2. When The Weather Is Worse Than You Imagined
Weather is one of the important things travelers check for before booking their trip. It determines the type of clothes to bring. Thick woollen sweaters or cotton tees? Flip flops or boots? But even after checking forecasts, it’s difficult to anticipate how your body will react to the change in temperature and humidity of a different country.
I visited a city in the mountains once, 10,000 feet above the air. I expected it to be chilly of course, so I brought along a couple of light jackets. On the itinerary was a visit to a scenic lake 4 hours away—unfortunately I had missed the part where the route to the lake would traverse a snowy mountain.
As the van went higher and higher up the mountain, the temperature went lower and lower. I was hugged myself in the backseat, shivering. It must have been the longest ride of my life—I eventually got a high fever from the journey—but the route was breathtaking enough for it all to be worth it.
3. When The Culture Shocks You
One of the best parts of traveling is the ability to experience life without borders; to enter a new territory and see a completely different way of life, and open your eyes to the likeness of humans underneath these apparent differences.
Experiencing cultures that we’re not used to can be shocking at times—like dining solo in places where people usually dine with company, or learning that changing rooms don’t have doors.
I tread this area with care—it’s trying to be aware of my surroundings when I’m abroad, doing my best to imitate the norms, and taking myself out of a situation that’s uncomfortable for me, respectfully, without making a scene.
*Related Post: 7 Myths Busted About Travelling As A Solo Female
4. When Travel Memoirs Tell a Different Story
Travel books often share the story of a transformative experience through travel—making friends with locals, even falling in love, and having a epiphany about life and its meaning. We may travel thinking, that’ll happen to me too.
I remember reaching a third-world city that’s often romanticised as a spiritual haven. But somehow I found myself neither enlightened nor illuminated. I just saw immense poverty that broke my heart.
It was then that I realised that everyone’s travel experience is different. Someone could go to the same city, live in a 5-star hotel while another stays in a guesthouse; obviously their experiences wouldn’t be the same. Rather than make comparisons, I found it more freeing to fully be present in where I was and look at the world through my own eyes instead of that which I’ve read or heard from others.
*Related Post: Why We Travel: Disconnect To Reconnect