4 Travel Mistakes You Should Make

11 September 2013

When you're preparing to go abroad you will get a lot of advice on what you shouldn't do- and rightfully so! There are lots of mistakes that should be avoided like over packing or not figuring out ATM fees ahead of time. These are valid concerns that will in the end save you valuable time and money on your trip.

But other times mistakes work out fabulously to your advantage. Take, for instance, that time I accidentally skipped the line for the Vatican museum: while visiting Rome my friend and I decided to check out the Sistine chapel so we went over to queue up. We were, however, confused to find that there were two lines. One wrapped nearly around the entire block. The other was very short. 

'Why is everyone in that long line?' we questioned as we walked right up to the front door and joined the tiny line. Turns out we were in the line for groups who had paid quite a large sum in advance to be able to bypass the queue. 

Oops! It was a totally unplanned mishap that allowed us to skip a two-hour long wait and enjoy an almost empty Sistine Chapel. 

My best travel mishap

From this adventure I learned that sometimes it's good to mess up. There's a lot of advice on what not to do while traveling but I'll be the first to say that some of these rules need to be broken. So take a chance! Here are some travel mistakes you should make:

"Don't talk to strangers! It'll end up just like Taken!"
Unfortunately for me, the movie Taken came out right before I left to study abroad in France so I got an unhealthy dose of advice like this. But the truth is, talking to strangers can lead to a great time. It's an excellent chance to practice the language, get to know the culture, and learn inside travel tips from a native. Sure, you may have your guide books but only a true Parisian knows where the best cafes are in the city!

"Don't get lost!"
I don't know if this is just an American things but there seems to be a large fear of foreign countries. And while there are tragedies that happen to tourists while abroad, the chances of that happening to you are slim. In fact, many times you are actually safer abroad than in America. So when people say things like "stay on the main streets- it's dangerous in ___" I say "whatever". Go out there and get lost. You'll find so many more adventures than if you just stick to the main street.

"Don't eat ___, you'll get sick!"
On this matter I will partially agree. There are lots of resources out there that will list the things you shouldn't eat/drink in so-and-so country because you will get sick. But that doesn't mean you should shut yourself off to all opportunities. Food is part of a country's culture and is worth exploring and experiencing as well. So step away from the McDonald's and don't be afraid of snack alleys and street food. I promise your mouth and your wallet will love it.

"Don't do the touristy stuff- it's a waste of time!"
Some people really don't like the stigma that comes with the word "tourist". As if tourists are not real travelers. But you know what? There's a reason that touristy things become popular and it's not always just hype. Throwing away guide books doesn't make you a cooler or better traveler. Don't be ashamed to experience something just because others deem it as too touristy. In fact, there's a great quote by Paul Theroux that says “tourists don’t know where they've been, travelers don’t know where they’re going". I think that's the best quote that settles this dilemma.


What's the best travel "mistake" you've made?


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5 comments

  1. I've never had a travel accident work out quite that well for me!

    I think it's as bad to avoid all the tourist areas then to not see anything else. It doesn't make sense to skip the most famous, beautiful, or historic spots just because everyone else wants to see them too.

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    1. Right? Doesn't make you less of a traveler if you do 'tourist' stuff.

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  2. Haha the Taken jab rings so true - my mom throws out the 'You're gonna get kidnapped and sold as a sex slave if you go to !' every time I travel.

    I can't stand the ditch the touristy areas thing. I know people who are like that - like in some ridiculous way it would damage their travel credibility if they lowered themselves to visiting a supposed 'tourist trap'. I know that some touristy areas are legitimately more hyped then they deserve but like you said, a vast number of these places are popular for a good reason. I also find that it's almost always accompanied with that bit about 'Well in order to experience the real you have to go to..." Which I also can't stand. It's incredibly presumptuous imo.

    My best travel mistake was getting completely lost in Rome. Ended up popping out by the Spanish Steps eventually but until then I just wondered, ate Italian food, talked to a bunch of locals along the way who each told me of things to see. One lady tried to teach me Italian in 10 minutes lol. It wasn't that I saw anything new or totally amazing but it was really a lot of fun in the end.

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  3. So, I put stuff in those little arrow brackets which come to think of it now makes the words disappear so part of my comment makes no sense now. Revamped comment:

    Haha the Taken jab rings so true - my mom throws out the 'You're gonna get kidnapped and sold as a sex slave if you go to *insert anywhere that's not canada*!' every time I travel.

    I can't stand the ditch the touristy areas thing. I know people who are like that - like in some ridiculous way it would damage their travel credibility if they lowered themselves to visiting a supposed 'tourist trap'. I know that some touristy areas are legitimately more hyped then they deserve but like you said, a vast number of these places are popular for a good reason. I also find that it's almost always accompanied with that bit about 'Well in order to experience the real *insert city or country here* you have to go to..." Which I also can't stand. It's incredibly presumptuous imo.

    My best travel mistake was getting completely lost in Rome. Ended up popping out by the Spanish Steps eventually but until then I just wondered, ate Italian food, talked to a bunch of locals along the way who each told me of things to see. One lady tried to teach me Italian in 10 minutes lol. It wasn't that I saw anything new or totally amazing but it was really a lot of fun in the end.

    Sorry!

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    1. Yes, the "experience the real *place*" rhetoric is so old. I'll travel on my own terms, thank you very much!

      And getting lost in Rome sounds amazing, haha. I like when that happens because you're just in the moment, experiencing the city and not really worrying about a schedule.

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