Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is that we’re stupid and make bad decisions. This is true for life in general as well as travel. While away from home, we often self-impose our own misery.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little discipline, self-confidence and homework, you can bypass the following mistakes—the most common travel blunders with the resulting negative consequences.
Following the Herd
Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with herds. People are social creatures after all. But there is a problem with falling in line because everyone else is doing it. Repeating this mistake usually leads to meaningless adventures and annoying crowds that limit your ability to experience landmarks, cultures and attractions. By all means, don’t let the herd keep you from seeing things that matter to you—worthwhile tourist traps very much included. But wherever you go, go with all your heart. And if at all possible, book your tips in the off-season.
As mentioned before, over-scheduling is problematic for three reasons. 1) It’s exhausting and being exhausted usually isn’t fun. 2) It implies that if we hurry, we can see and do it all (hint: we never will). 3) It limits our ability to call an audible and explore the world in spontaneous ways, something that can’t be done if our mornings, afternoons and nights are always pre-determined. Since most over-schedule, it’s better to err on the side of under-scheduling. So plan on accomplishing only one or two things in an entire day, then adding side-missions as you feel like it.
Not Knowing What’s Around the Next Corner
Of course, there’s a downside to not planning at all. You can find yourselves in situations or experiences you don’t enjoy or have no interest in finishing. The best way to avoid these: use these travel tools and talk to experienced guides or locals first. These should steer you to activities that interest to you—including nearby attractions you might not have considered. This type of homework will also save you money and help you avoid “travel traps” that people unknowingly fall prey to while lowering their guard on vacation.
Overexposure to Photography
Selfies, GoPro video and the pursuit of the “perfect shot” undoubtedly make the world (and our enjoyment of it) a better place. But when done excessively, they also keep us from smelling the roses and living in the moment. When obsessed over, they become distractions. So set limits and boundaries on how often you reach for the camera. Ask your travel mate to help you. Or not and miss out. You’ll still have a lot of pictures, but you will have missed some awesome moments when nothing else matters.
There’s a wonderful scene at the end of The Darjeeling Unlimited in which all three protagonists realize that “these bags aren’t going to make it,” while trying to catch a new life. Not only is heavy baggage physically taxing, it’s mentally taxing. It causes unnecessary worrying and dependency while traveling (not to mention life in general). So pack light and save yourself the hassle.
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Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Visit his website or follow @blakesnow.