Let’s say it : I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
Back in 2014, I was 19. I had never been in Europe and it was my first travel without my parents. I had never slept in a dorm room, I had never used the public transportation (bus or subway). It’s simplified to say that I had absolutely no idea what to expect from that trip. I wasn’t even sure if I would like it!
Knowing that I was about to experience my second long-term trip in Europe had me thinking about a few things that I didn’t want to repeat this time or that I would like to experience differently. Anyway, I started to write down everything and, soon enough, I had a pretty long list… Still not sure if it’s good or not.
But if I did these mistakes, maybe some of you will do the same. So here are the ones I made on my first long-term trip!
I BOOKED EVERYTHING AHEAD
Yep. When I say everything, it’s everything. From my accomodations to the day-to-day activities. I had a complete itinerary, like I was in group tour. I was flexible in a way that I could change my mind and do another activity or go somewhere else – slightly trying to convince myself here – but in the end I did every activity that was written in my pre-planned book. It’s not 100% negative, but freedom wasn’t exactly on the list.
I BOUGHT MULTIPLE ROUNDTRIP TICKETS
Instead of a one-way ticket. I can’t believe I actually did that. That’s quite a costly mistake, one that I will never do again. I was travelling with different people, and instead of joining me on my trip, I was the one to go back home and then come back in Europe. I was in Canada for less than 24 hours once, between my trip in the UK and the one in the Netherlands. Not only was it a costly mistake, but it was difficult to manage the jet lag too.
I DIDN’T LOOK FURTHER TO GET CHEAP TICKETS
I don’t know why I was convince that there was only one website on which I could buy flight tickets, but I was. And it’s definitely not the cheapest one. I know that now. Being used to America’s high airfares, I had no idea that flights within Europe were so affordable.
I DIDN’T TRUST BLOGGERS
“It’s probably a tourist trap. Or worse, maybe it’s scam. Anyway, they don’t know what they are talking about, they definitely are not experts.”
Yep. It’s embarrassing, but these were my thoughts about bloggers. A lot has changed in 3 years.
I DIDN’T BRING MY REFILL BOTTLE
Another costly mistake. I had to buy bottle of water everyday, which add up quickly as you can imagine.
I HAD NO IDEA I COULD BRING MY OWN LUNCH ON THE PLANE
I’ve been told so when I was younger, and I had never verify if it was accurate. So yes, you can bring your own meal on your flight. You don’t need to buy food at the airport, which is not only expensive but also not as healthy as you would like. You can bring a sandwich, fruits, vegs, cheese, nuts, practically everything, just make sure that you don’t have liquids over 100 ml.
I’M NOT REALLY INTO PHOTOGRAPHY
Wait, it’s a mistake? Definitely. When I came back from my trip, I had tons of stories to tell, but photos to show, hum… Not so many. And believe me, your family and friends will surely want to see them so they could travel a little bit through them. It’s still something I am working on and I don’t always succeed.
I FOCUSED ON THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS
Instead of the whole country or the whole city. It’s like I had a checklist attractions and my whole focus was on that, to achieve the end of the list, trying to cram as many activities as I could. The truth is there is so much MORE than only the attractions. Not only that, but it’s OKAY if you don’t get to see all of the main attractions. Wandering in a new country IS an attraction by itself. Getting to see around, admire the architecture, the landscapes, going on a hike – and not only the epic one that have already been pictured by everyone.
I WAS AFRAID TO TALK TO THE LOCALS
And I still am. I’m afraid I will disturb them. I’m afraid that they’ll feel like they are an attraction. I would love to ask them recommandations on where to eat, what to see or do, but I guess I just don’t know. Any suggestions ? From my trip in Greece, I realized that when locals want to talk to you, they just come to you, but it’s still something I am working on.
I DIDN’T TAKE TIME FOR MYSELF
I really like the idea of hopping from one cafe to another with a great book but I skept that part on my 2 months and a half trip. I spent my time rushing from one attraction to another, rarely taking time in between to breath. Result : I was so tired when I head back home.
I DIDN’T TRY ANY OF THE LOCAL DISHES
Argh… Food. As a vegetarian on a budget, I find it slightly difficult to try the local specialties. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally aware that getting to try new dishes is getting to know a little better the culture, that it’s a huge part of the travel experience… But, again, I skept that part.
I BOUGHT WAY TOO MANY SOUVENIRS
I spent way too much on materials instead of experiences. Plus, I had a struggle to put them all in my backpack. Another costly mistake, but one that I definitely resolved since 2014. Now, the only souvenir that I buy to myself is… A postcard. Yep. A postcard on which I write my best moment in the country – or the worst-, what I liked the most – or the least-, my favorite activity or dish, and I send it to myself at home.
I BROUGHT TOO MANY CLOTHES
And I happened to wear only half of what I brought with me in the first place. For an unknown reason, I thought that I wouldn’t mind wearing clothes that I don’t usually wear at home. That couldn’t be more than an illusion. If you’re not comfortable at home, there is not a chance that you will want to wear those clothes abroad.
I DIDN’T GO SOLO AS EXPECTED
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my travel and the company, but I originally planned of going solo for a part of my trip, and that didn’t happen. I really, really wanted to experience travels by myself, if it was only for a few weeks, to know that I could do it, to overcome my shyness, and to gain confidence knowing that I couldn’t rely on anyone else.
I STAYED AT THE SAME HOSTEL FOR A MONTH
I personnally consider it as a mistake. Why? Because I didn’t have the chance to see around other neighbourhood, to get their vibe. Let’s be honest, staying one month at the same place doesn’t make you an expert of that quarter, it just makes you visit until you get what you want. Once you know where you like your coffee the most or where to grab your breakfast, you don’t look further anymore. But when you move from one area to another, you get to know different shops, cafes, markets, and you get to experience what that neighbourhood has to offer.
I HAD NO UNDERSTANDING OF MY CAMERA
Except for the basics of course. So I had a camera for years before my departure and I’ve never thought of reading the manual and practice a bit. Never. Which leads me to this : I simply didn’t know how it worked. Confession : I still haven’t read the manual and I still don’t know anything about it.
I TRAVELLED IN THE OFF-PEAK SEASON
This one is not completely a mistake. Being a budget-minded traveller, there was no way I could make it in the high season in Western Europe. Still, I should have travelled in the shoulder season so that I could get a glimpse of everything that the country has to offer. Sure, London is definitely more enjoyable than Montreal in winter but it turns out that going in the most rainy month of the year kind of ruin your photos. Add the fact that opening hours are not at their most and that it’s practically impossible to get a picnic to sit back and do some people-watching and you got it: low season isn’t the best to get the real atmosphere of a country.
I think it’s pretty much it. These are all of the mistakes I’ve made on my first long-term trip that I can think of. Some of them are resolved, and I promised to myself to never do them again. Unfortunately, I still need to work on others.
What about you? Ever did a mistake on a trip? Don’t be afraid to share it, it’s useful to everyone, comment below 🙂