We’ve all seen those beautiful, postcard-perfect pictures of different destinations on the internet that made us start thinking which photos we’ll have printed and hung on our walls when we come back home. Most of us build up high vacation expectations for our future trip while we go through guidebooks choosing which places to visit, which local food dishes to try, how many new friends we’ll make on the way…
But in reality, this rarely happens. More often than not, what we see in real life looks nothing like that postcard picture we saw before the trip and this is the moment where reality strikes you hard. I think we all know this but I feel I still have to mention it. Not every destination can give you the “postcard effect”. In fact, most of them won’t. Places that are heavily advertised as pristine destinations might end up being dirty and overcrowded. Locals might not be interested in conversing with you or they might play the fake friendship card to get something out of you. The weather might be uncooperative. You can get sick, scammed or get lost…
For different reasons, many places simply don’t live up to the hype. And this happens all the time, even to the most optimistic and open-minded travelers out there. Most of the time this happens because…
We expect too much
We’ve all seen those funny pictures/quotes of travel expectations vs reality on the internet. The main reason for those pictures is that we expect too much from our holiday. Just think about it. If you have access to an amazing picture of a destination that looks so beautiful and pristine, so does anyone with an internet connection. And just like that photo might inspire you to visit a place, it will inspire millions of other people.
My point here is, don’t plan to visit a place just because you saw how gorgeous and empty it appears to be. Remember, there are people that get paid to promote that destination. Instead, travel somewhere to bring new perspectives into your life. Travel to get out of your comfort zone, to experience things that will make you a better person, to see how people do things on the other side of the world and how in the end, they are not so different than you, because ultimately, we are all people.
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It’s not about the destination
If you do get disappointed after a trip, don’t blame the destination. Blame the expectations you’re unnecessarily building up. That’s (most of the time) a recipe for disaster and the reason why you might feel disappointed after a trip. Personally, when I travel I try to keep my expectations on the bare minimum. You might even say, I don’t have any expectations.
When I visited Paris, I wasn’t expecting to see the most beautiful, romantic city in the world. I thought Paris was overrated and I was expecting to see a city that’s under a constant siege of tourist hordes, rude locals, and overpriced food. In the end, I had a great time. I didn’t spend too much time at the main attractions, I discovered a lot of hidden gems, visited some interesting museums, enjoyed some of the city’s finest street art and you might even say I actually love Paris.
This approach might work temporarily but it can be bad if it spills over in all aspects of your life. You might find yourself approaching all new situations detached of expectations, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Now, you might be thinking: “Wait, what are you trying to say? How can we balance high travel expectations with the stark reality of a new destination without becoming a pessimist in everyday life?”
Just go with the flow
Stay flexible and keep an open mind. Always be prepared that something uncertain might happen and don’t let that spoil your trip. Remember that nothing is ever as it appears, especially when it comes to traveling and take lofty expectations with a grain of salt. And if something happens that might thwart your plans, view it as a challenge or a new adventure and not as a sign of a wasted trip.
I know that’s easier said than done but next time your travel expectations aren’t fulfilled, try it. You’ll have a revelation. Don’t expect a perfect trip. Nothing in this world is perfect. Many people make the mistake of living in an expectation when instead they could have an incredible time living in the moment.
My point here is don’t waste your holiday comparing the place with the photo you saw or the things you read about. Just experience it as-it-is, right now. If you look at things this way, it’s very unlikely that you will end up disappointed.
An example of travel expectations vs reality ruining a trip
When I was traveling in Thailand, there was one place that I was absolutely excited to see: Phi Phi Islands. According to the pictures I saw, it was one of the most beautiful places on Earth. But the reality was something else. I was accompanied by two Thai friends and I swear, they were the only Thai people I saw that weren’t employed in some of the facilities on the island. The island was limited to small walkways filled with souvenir shops in this never-ending street market. And yes, these streets were constantly flooded with tourists.
The island has absolutely no authenticity and no culture. The bars and restaurants are catered to the “wild expat experience” and everything is overpriced. Even though the beaches were pretty nice and the overall experience was close to average, Phi Phi remains one of my biggest travel disappointments of all time (read more about it here). On the other hand, it’s a completely different story when you…
Go somewhere with low expectations
Before I visited the Indian state of Kashmir, I didn’t have high expectations. I knew that the infrastructure was pretty poor and there was a lack of facilities for visitors but I have heard Kashmir had an amazing nature. Taught from my past experiences, I went to Kashmir with very low expectations.
Sure, I had several setbacks throughout the trip, including getting robbed and our bus getting stoned by local protesters. However, I also experienced the local hospitality and I even had the opportunity to stay with a local.
I never let my bad experiences ruin my trip. I took every next problem as a challenge, I went with the flow and I had an adventure of a lifetime. Just imagine, how would your favorite movie be like if there wasn’t a plot twist? Something that will make things more difficult, but yet a lot more interesting? Well, it’s the same with your trip. No matter what happens, just keep an open mind, try to adapt to the situation and go with the flow without losing your positivity. Good things will eventually start happening…
If you liked this article, also check out why no one really gets paid to travel the world.
Travel expectations vs reality: a few words for the end
I would like to end this article, with a quick tip for your next trip. Next time you’re visiting a famous touristy place and feel disappointed, ask yourself do your expectations blur your interpretation of reality? Remember, you have two ultimate choices. You’ll either live in the moment or live in an expectation.
Did you like this article about travel expectations vs reality? Have you had a travel experience in the past that didn’t live up to your expectations? How did you handle it?