When Travel Doesn’t Go Your Way and All About Great Expectations

great travel expectations, bride with luggage in a train station
Great travel expectations

Travel expectations.. Have you, at some point in time, been disappointed by travel? By your destination, by the weather, by not having been able to see what you planned to see, or do what you wanted to do? For reasons outside of your control? 

To some extent, we’ve all been there.

When traveling, expectations tend to run high. Somehow, the fact you’re spending all that money to get to a place dictates that everything has to be extra-ordinary, extra-special, mind-blowing – and it has to go your way.

A bit like honeymooning vs. actually being married.

Travel Expectations & Reality

Sure, the whole purpose of that day trip was to see the whales roaming the coasts of South Africa. Throw in a stop at this other beach, where sweet-water otters were spotted pretty often (we’re big otter fans). And of course, the penguins.

We didn’t see any otters, and we were not blown away by any majestic whales, because there were none in sight. Waters were rough that day, and the wind was blowing too hard. For most, the trip would count as disappointing: yet another time where you don’t get what you wanted.

A trip where you didn’t get what you wanted.

It’s easy to think like that when you’re taking a vacation, near or far. After all, you did spend all that money to see whales.

The reasons behind our travel expectations and subsequent disappointments lay, I think, in our mismatched expectations to the outside world.

It may be that you wanted to star in your own version of The Beach, just to get there and cringe at the insane number of people and boats crammed on a previously secluded beach – chasing the same goal.

Or, you were hoping to find peace & love in a yoga getaway in Bali, but were hit by the sobering reality of an overly touristic Ubud, with Starbucks and more soul-finding foreigners than locals.

For me, the key to (almost) never being disappointed when traveling is simple:

Embrace what you’re getting,

when you’re not getting what you initially wanted.

Embrace What You’re Getting

Travel is not an achievement – whatever you get to see or don’t see, there is no failure rate.

While I didn’t get to see whales, I was met by a genuine South African hospitality I had not expected. Our guide was a kind-hearted man who valued its country and the people in it equally. A man who spoke deeply of the people in the township slums who struggle to make ends meet but still have the strength to get out and build better lives for themselves. 

I didn’t get to see whales or otters, and I am sorry we didn’t. But travel does always offer more – if you’re willing to take it.

Stop Fighting The Elements

kayaking at muralla china finestres congost de mont rebei
Credits: Intrepid Kayaks

I also didn’t get to do kayaking that weekend, although the excitement had built up over several months – and I was very much looking forward to that day.

To contribute to our high expectations, the logistics of doing this trip meant we had to travel for 4 hours by bus, and book accommodation for 2 nights. Extra costs, extra time, all for “a couple of hours of kayaking”, to quote my husband.

Some of you may agree. Especially since we didn’t get to do it. I did meet our cool guide, who was insisting to take responsibility for the fact winter kept sticking its neck back in that weekend, hurling 50km/h winds and snow.

He asked us to come back in summer – as his guests – treated us to a dangerously delicious hot chocolate, and even called up one of his buddies to see if there are any treks happening that day. You know, so we least got something out of our visit.

I will absolutely go back there in summer to kayak the Congost de Mont Rebei. And now I have two things to look forward to: the amazing sight at Finestres, and the fun of kayaking with a super friendly and environmentally conscious Aitor from Intrepid Kayaks.

When Nature Gets Her Way

valle del Jerte flowering cherries

Extremadura was the catalyst for my #FiftyWeeksOfSpain endeavor. The Million cherry-tree valley was possibly the highlight of my traveler’s guide to Secret Spain.

Locals even thought our visit would be too late to see the hanami, but that the petal rain is also amazing and it’ll be worth it.

Guess what: winter stuck its grumpy head back in the room.

The cold and rain made the cherry flowers reluctant to bud. So reluctant that it was now April 7 (almost time for the flowers to scatter away) and yet half of the trees weren’t even fully bloomed yet.

And that’s OK. You can’t command Nature. It’s one of those hit-and-miss situations that you can’t do much about but embrace – and find your fun elsewhere.

So we did. A last-minute addition to our trip was the visit to the Montfrague National Park, a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Just Like In Real Life

Travel is not about what you want. What you expect. What you paid for. Nature couldn’t care less about that.

Travel also means a delayed hanami, or hearing the disappointing words from our guide in Iceland: ‘no glacier walks for you today folks, the wind is hurling‘.

Or buying that last minute flight to Bangkok because you didn’t want to spend New Year’s in a sleeper train, eating Burger King!

Travel is also getting to your destination with a to-do list, then throw it out the window the next day. 

My only advice, if you’ll have it: take things as they come.  Disappointment will always be a part of everything good. You just look out for the good in travel dissapointments.

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