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My biggest travel mistakes and how to avoid them

My biggest travel mistakes and how to avoid them

Everyone makes mistakes when they travel and I’ve made so many it would be impossible to recall them all. I do my best not to dwell on things or regret anything. I think as long as you learn from your mistakes it makes you a better traveller in the long run.

Here are a few of the worst:

I didn’t do enough research

While I was backpacking through SE Asia I looked up where all the other backpackers were going at the time but I didn’t research why they were going there. If you learn about the history and culture of a place before you arrive, I definitely think you appreciate it that bit more and get more from the experience.

I remember going to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and seeing hundreds of people chanting and carrying bowls of rice. At the time I was just really confused, but if I’d known it was The Festival of the Dead I would have appreciated this unique experience.

I forgot my passport

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when it feels like your insides have just fallen out of your stomach? It happens quite often when you’ve got to the airport and you think you’ve forgotten your passport, but 99% of the time it’s there, tucked inside a book or at the bottom of your bag. I have this virtually every time I go away but I had it for real when I caught the ferry to Amsterdam.

Thankfully I had just enough time to dash back home and get it but I can guarantee that I will never forget my passport ever again. This experience has actually made me the most organised traveller possible. I now have a special wallet for my tickets and a checklist that I go through before I leave the house (for any other forgetful people I would definitely recommend one of these!)

I didn’t take my laptop

When I first left to go travelling I barely even knew what a blog was. I wasn’t into social media and I had no idea about photo editing software, so I didn’t think I’d need a laptop. Oh, how I was wrong!

As a long-term traveller, there is nothing better than finding a nice café with wifi where you can chill out and have a beer or a fruit shake while catching up with your friends and family on Skype. But if you don’t have your own laptop you’re restricted to dingy little Internet cafes with slow connections and computers the size of a small car.

Please note: I’m not in any way suggesting you should spend your entire trip with your head buried in your laptop.

I ended up getting my laptop posted over which cost a small fortune and I wish I’d just taken it with me in the first place. It’s also great for watching films on long journeys and backing up your photos. Which leads me to my next point….

I didn’t back up my photos

When you’re travelling continuously it’s easy to forget certain places or people you’ve met (well it is for super forgetful people like me) but photos can help you remember everything. Well they could if you didn’t lose your memory card before you backed them up.
Sites like Flickr are really good and Facebook is getting better now that you can store high res pics. At the time I was too impatient to upload everything to Flickr so I would put them onto a disk and mail them home.

On the topic of photography I’d also recommend getting a decent camera and learning how to use it properly. When I travelled through Cambodia and Vietnam I had a cheap and useless point-and-shoot camera and it pains me to see those rubbish photos. At the minute I have a Sony NX3 which I love and if you’re a beginner to photography it’s a great option. It’s a SLR but really compact and easy to use.

I didn’t insure my expensive belongings

Of course I had travel insurance to cover medical costs but I didn’t insure my expensive belongings like my laptop, phone or cameras. I was careless but incredibly lucky for over 20 months and didn’t have so much as a sock stolen. Then, after climbing Mount Bromo in Java (and getting some amazing photos of this live volcano) Sam and I fell asleep on a bus and had both of our cameras stolen. We were devastated to have lost all our photos from the volcano and even more upset when we realised our insurance didn’t cover these belongings.

I didn’t appreciate just how lucky I was

My beach hut in Koh Lanta. I would give anything to be back here!

To travel continuously for almost two years was the best experience of my life but there were times when I took it for granted. I remember complaining about not having air-conditioning in my beach front cabin in Thailand and whining about always having sandy clothes. What!? I would do anything to be back there now and I can guarantee that I wouldn’t take one single moment for granted.

Have you ever made any massive mistakes while travelling and if you did, did you manage to learn anything from them?


Traveling Ted

Saturday 22nd of September 2012

I think the first mistake is not such a bad one. Sometimes it can be fun to not know what you are approaching and learn as you go. On the other hand, you are right, it helps to have a little knowledge as you go.

My biggest mistake was showing up to a national park in Costa Rica without a permit. Most national parks you can easily get one by just showing up, but not for Corcovado.


Friday 17th of August 2012

Great tips. I actually woke up this very morning in a panic as I realised nearly all my photos aren't backed up. Definitely first thing I'll be doing tomorrow!


Tuesday 21st of August 2012

It makes me panic too. Definitely something I need to do more often! There's nothing worse than loosing all your photos and memories.


Wednesday 8th of August 2012

Remembering to appreciate your travels is key! Particularly when you travel long-term, it's so easy to get caught up in minor setbacks and problems and forget to just be grateful for the experience.

Personally, my biggest travel mistake was over-packing. After being on the road for a few months, some of the items I once thought I just couldn't live without seemed ridiculous!


Monday 6th of August 2012

My biggest mistake was not packing the right clothes for Panama. One of the girls who had gone in a previous year told me that shorts and tank tops would be okay and, against my better judgement, that's the majority of what I packed. Bad idea...was definitely not culturally appropriate for the purpose of our trip.

One of the guys who went to Panama with me left his passport at home and ended up spending the night in a hotel and getting to Panama a day late. No idea why it's always the most important documents that mysteriously disappear.


Tuesday 7th of August 2012

It's so nice to hear that I'm not the only one who has forgotten their passport!

Curious Nomad

Sunday 29th of July 2012

One mistake I've see while in Florence was someone using hostel's computer to upload their photos from their SD card to the web only to learn that there was a virus on the machine that wiped out her card. Lesson - Bring your own notebook computer when you travel.


Monday 30th of July 2012

Oh no, I'd be absolutely devastated if that happened. Hostel computers are a nightmare even if they don't have virus'. You usually hav to wait ages to use them and then they're ridiculously slow once you do get online!