Taking an Extended Trip: What I Did Wrong

On Sunday I posted a list of all the things I think I did right on my extended Australasia trip. This ranged from remembering to pack jeans to being flexible in my planning, but really boiled down to following my gut and not other people’s advice.

So let me start off this post on what I think I did WRONG by saying that I don’t actually believe it is possible to travel incorrectly. As long as what you’re doing is right by you, then that’s all that matters. Looking back now though I can see some of the mistakes I made, and I’m sharing with you so you don’t end up in the same traps I did.

I didn’t pack an umbrella

Why didn’t I pack an umbrella? I have no idea. In my miserable confusion over what to pack it somehow didn’t make the cut. Which meant I had to buy an umbrella about 5 minutes after I got off the plan in rainy Tokyo (and boy did that umbrella get a lot of use ).

Be realistic about what you’re going to need on your trip. I might have imagined myself lounging in the sun in a bikini all day, but it turned out what I really needed was an umbrella and sweatpants (I know, glamorous).

I let myself get too tied down with plans

Wait a minute, didn’t I just say I’m glad I left my plans so open? Well that’s true, but I wish I’d left them even open-er. Specifically I never should have committed to spend 6+ weeks driving a camper-van across Australia. It was expensive, it rained the whole time and we had no escape clause. If our plans had been more flexible we could have tossed up our hands and flew out to the sunny west coast, instead of continuing to slog through Queensland.

I got too hung up on what other people were doing

The awesome thing about reading travel blogs is that you can learn about everyone elses experiences and opinions of the places you visit. That can be problematic though- witness the mini-breakdown I had in Vang Vieng– a place every twenty-something but me seems to love. I shouldn’t have worried so much about the fun I was supposed to be having, and enjoyed myself in the way that was true to me.

I bought a bad camera

Have you noticed a decline in my photography skills? I loved my Canon Powershot. It may have been just a point and shoot but it helped me take truly marvelous pictures everywhere from Iceland to Australia. When it crapped out on me in February I replaced it with an Olympus uTough. I wanted it because it was hardy, it could take pictures underwater, and it just seemed cool.

Mistake. I. Hate. This. Camera. It’s slow, it’s not smart and it just doesn’t take good pictures. I can’t afford to just replace it on a whim, so as a result I’ve been really unhappy with most of my SE Asia and China pictures. This might actually be my biggest regret of the whole trip.

Don’t worry though, a new camera is in the cards very soon!

I didn’t take notes

Lately I’ve been reading Marco Polo Didn’t Go There an excellent collection of short stories by Rolf Potts. In the footnotes, he describes his travel notebook, where he writes down all kinds of significant and seemingly insignificant details, which he can consult months, even years later to help craft a story. It makes me wish that I had been more vigilant writing down all of the wonderful, wacky and notable things I saw and experienced in Asia. I was pretty good at recording details my first couple weeks in Japan and then it fell by the wayside. As a result there are a thousand little things that made my trip interesting that are just lost in the recesses of my poor memory.

On my next trip I plan to find a system to keep my travel notebook much more up to date.

I never found a good work/play balance

Running a business from the road means a whole slew of special challenges from finding wifi to remembering to tweet. One skill I never quite mastered- I still haven’t mastered, is time management. I am just terrible at getting my work done in an efficient manner and caused myself a ton of needless stress. I would worry about getting posts up on time, freak out about being disconnected and occasionally spend entire days tied to my laptop. In the future I hope to find a better system where I can actually go out and play without worrying so damn much.

I let the weather get me down

I didn’t have good weather luck on this trip. Most notable was the three month stretch of uncharacteristically rainy weather that followed me through Australia and Thailand. After weeks of hearing “it’s not normally like this!” from the locals, it started to get to my head. And then I would feel bad about letting it get to my head which would throw me off even more. I’m not sure what the solution is here, but if anyone has a cure for the bad weather blues I’d love to hear it!

I never made it to Indonesia

Or Burma, or Yunnan province, or Chiang Mai. Or a whole host of other places I’d originally planned to see but just didn’t have the time to tackle. I think I’ll always have those kind of regrets- whether a trip is two weeks, nine months or more, there is just never enough time to see it all. Of course I did make it to places I never expected to be on my itinerary: China, Macau and Vancouver for starters, so maybe it evens out. What I’ve got now is a good list of spots to hit up next time!

So now I’ve got a list of areas that I can improve on next time but as a whole I’m really proud of how this trip turned out. It was my first trip of this magnitude attempt at long-term traveling and blogging, so I’m going to forgive myself for falling short a bit. The most important thing about travel mistakes is learning from them.

What are your biggest travel mistakes?

Note: By sheer coincidence, Adventurous Kate wrote about the exact same topic today! Check out what she did wrong here.

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45 thoughts on “Taking an Extended Trip: What I Did Wrong”

  1. Im from Sydney and I was up at Byron and then on the Gold Coast at what looks like the same time as you were….

    Road tripping and CAMPING – for two weeks it just rained and rained and the tent flooded multiple times it was just that heavy. It was just myself and my boyfriend and we were so worried that we’d have nothing to do and the worst time, and although I got really down at one point (thought that Id have to drive back down to Sydney that night – only to find out the roads were flooded and we were stuck) I had a really great time in up the coast – theme parks are great when its raining because you dont have to queue up in any lines!!

    Now Im planning a three month trip to Europe in November -January 2012, because I just KNOW I can survive a European winter after experiencing the flood-causing rains in January 2011!

  2. I still think your photos are great! They’re better than anything I’m able to take – I definitely need a new camera. The night-time flash is horrifying.

    The weather thing – I get that, too! I just hole myself up with the TV in my hotel room/laptop in hostel and watch trash TV, then order a pizza or raid the local convenience store for a calorific dinner…followed by yet more trashy shows. Always puts me in a better mood when it’s rainy!

  3. Great list! I did pack an umbrella … but that’s about it on this list. There were plenty of times I got caught up in what others were saying — maybe not on blogs — but it was hard for me to hear a certain place was no good and justify going. As for missing certain places on the road, yeah, it sucks. But, i just remind myself that one day I WILL go back there. I wish I would have taken more notes, too. I did when I was in Rwanda, but that was it. To keep me remembering little things, I actually started a sheet with all of my Tweets. And, now, after being home for 9 months, it’s funny the little memories that pop up into your head that you seemingly forgot. 🙂

    1. God the htought of going through all my tweets sounds like a nightmare- but I totally get where you are coming from.

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