The most important step toward being a smart traveler

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When traveling, bad experiences can come from anywhere: transportation, lodging, the food or the people we travel with. While all these are common causes of frustration for tourists, the most common and elusive source of unhappiness while traveling comes from one unexpected place. That place is yourself. Read on to discover the one most important reasons tourists are often frustrated and how to prepare for it so you can always enjoy your traveling experience.

Have you ever been frustrated while traveling?

My first trip to Paris happened during early spring and I did not have great expectations about having great weather. It was an awesome feeling to be in Paris, the city of my dreams…and that was my only expectation.

On a cloudy and rainy day, I was waiting in line to buy a ticket for visiting the beautiful Sainte Chapelle cathedral. There were about twenty people in line, but one American tourist was obviously very frustrated.

“I can’t believe it is raining and I have to wait in line in the rain” he would say. It is true that he was from Southern California where it rarely rains.

Paris, France – Woman walking in a light drizzle on Champs Elysees
Woman walking in the rain on Champs Elysees in Paris

When he got to the ticket window he exclaimed very loudly for everyone to hear:”I cannot believe she does not speak English…why does she not speak English?” He was referring to the ticket sales lady who was speaking very broken English and on top of it she had a very thick French accent. The guy was visibly frustrated. Very frustrated.

At that moment I started asking myself: “How can someone be so frustrated? In Paris? While visiting some of the most beautiful buildings?”

It was then that I realized that frustration while traveling can happen often, because of one reason mainly.

The most important reason why travel can be frustrating

We see a picture on the internet or a travel magazine about Italy’s beautiful Cinque Terre region. The feeling we get from looking at these pictures is amazing and we say, one day I want to go there. And one day…believe it or not…you are in Cinque Terre.

But you are frustrated.

Come on, you are in Italy, the place you were dreaming to visit. What is going on then?

It is the expectation that everything would be quiet and quaint, because that is how it looked in the pictures you have seen. But instead you find it to be a place filled with loud tourists and it is not that clean. Pretty different than the pictures you have seen.

Lucca, Italy – Tourists talking and resting during a hot summer day in the Amphitheater Plaza
Lucca, Italy - Tourists talking and resting during a hot summer day in the Amphitheater Plaza

It is not that this place has changed before you arrived there…obviously. The problem is you arriving with your set of expectations that do not match the reality. The particular place you are visiting cannot simply deliver the feelings you are expecting.

It’s not right or wrong…you just have to understand it and prepare for it.

The fact is that your expectation is different than what the real place can give you. Expectations are hardest to meet…especially if you are unprepared and unrealistic.

You have bought into the tourist fairy tale and the prince is not coming to the rescue !

Knowing for yourself and what kind of travel experience you like is crucial to enjoying your travel experience. Understanding and adjusting your expectations is the most important step you can take toward being a smart traveler. It is even more important than the places you choose visit.

What kind of tourist are you?

Taking time to think about why you like to travel the way you do will give you the greatest insight in how to plan your travel experience.

It is true that frustration during traveling can come from many different sources: a foreign country, a foreign language, difficulties with transportation, difficulties with travel partners, problems with the local food, sickness and so many more possible sources of frustration.

However, not taking time to understand what you like and expect from traveling to a particular place, will result in total frustration.

Travel is a privilege and an opportunity. Understanding yourself and what you like will enable you to enjoy every travel experience regardless of the destination. There is nothing right or wrong about how you like to travel, but understanding your expectations is the first step to being a smart traveler.

Now…drum roll…what kind of traveler are you?

I want my vacation to be perfect…so I will let someone else put it all together for me…every detail

If this is you, then safety is key for you. Cruise, tour, every detail taken care of. I’m on vacation and I do not want to have a bad experience. I do not speak the language, I do not understand the customs, so I better pay someone who knows all that and can take me to the cool spots that I have seen in pictures.

There is nothing wrong with this…really! There are lots of advantages with having someone else plan everything for you. You just have to pay…a lot of money usually.

What does it say about you? Perhaps, you like safety and predictability.

See everything there is to see…even if I only spend 15 minutes seeing it

Asian tourists are well known for the quick crowd approach to travelling. Everything is arranged and everything is crammed in. Seeing 7 countries in 7 days…absolutely, seeing 10 countries in 3 days…can be done. Checking things off the list is very important with you if you are in this category.

Again there is nothing wrong with this! It’s not about right or wrong, but it is about knowing yourself.

Chill out…I’m on vacation in a cool place

No rush! Why rush? I’m on vacation! I don’t care about seeing everything. So, even though I only have one week in Italy, I like sleeping in and going to the hotel pool, I like taking my time eating breakfast. This is my vacation…don’t rush me! I don’t mind going with a tour so I don’t have to worry about the details, but I could just plan it myself as well as long as I leave time for trying all the food, taking my time to stroll through the parks and museums. Whatever I see…I see.

Perfect! Then, you plan your vacation accordingly.

I’m going to a really cool place…so I want to enjoy this place and not stray very far. I will see everything there is to see in this place.

Planning is your strong point, but you don’t want to stray too far. Going to Italy…well, Italy is too big, how about just Tuscany for a week, or Rome for a week. This is much more appealing to you.

You are very detailed and you love to plan…to the smallest detail. But you don’t like to let someone else do the planning for you, because they will probably not hit your style.

You can be a smart tourist

Most tourists will be a mix of these categories. However, each traveler, has one tourist category being a lot more important than the others. That category, whether it is the leisurely enjoyment of some food and walking, or it is the visiting of many things, that category or interest holds a lot more weight in the tourist mix we have inside each one of us.

Knowing and understanding this balance will help you have realistic expectations about yourself and the places you visit. Understanding yourself and your travel companions is the first step toward becoming a smart tourist and will result in great travel experiences whether you travel by yourself or with your family and friends.

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