5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days
5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days

Usually, if I stumble upon an article that talks about frustrating travel days, I’m too fast and eager to read what it’s all about.

I know that often people prefer not to hear or read about those days full of disappointing travel experiences, but for me those are equally as interesting as than the ones full of magnificence, amusement and good times had, and often there is a lesson or two to be learned from them too.

People often picture travel as a perfect world, where every day is the best of your life. The reality though is very different.

Much like in a regular lifestyle spent between work and home, it’s common to have bad days on the road which put a frown on your face or end with tears cried into a pillow. You can get moody, sad, tired, or upset. Or maybe you’ll eat something that doesn’t agree with you. The same can be said for bad days for everyone, everywhere.

Sharing Frustrating Travel Days

I appreciate when other fellow bloggers share their frustrating travel days – in fact, I count on them.

I rely on them because I always end up learning something from their experiences.

Sometimes people told me that life can already be pretty miserable and bitter, and that’s why all they want to see and read about is how wonderful the world away from their own personal hell. They want to read about the sun-drenched beach resorts and the friends made in hostel dorms. They read articles on adventure travel and picture themselves climbing that hill or riding that wave, they watch videos about foods in foreign lands and wish it was them sitting at the same stools and tables in a road in Vietnam.

Some of the wanderlust is based on real experiences, but some pieces look at times like pieces of fiction.

Shouldn’t we discuss every angle of travelling and ‘living the dream’? That it’s not always shiny, full of glory, and cocktails with umbrellas at the beach?

Sharing the bad days shows the reality of not only nomadic travel, but the realities of the world. It’s the ups and downs of life that make the whole adventure so enriching and entertaining, and painting the full picture should include every colour available at the fingertips of those who inspire you, me, and every other traveller who has ever hit the road.

Wouldn’t it be better to show that travel isn’t ALWAYS great?

Sharing Our Worst Days

As a traveler and reader myself, I always prefer to have the complete vision. I enjoy reading about great travel experiences that can be incredibly inspiring but also about the bad ones which – even though less pleasant for the one who experience it – always include something that makes me wiser; so when it came for us both to decide if we’d share our own frustrating travel days, we both agreed that we’d share all we learned from each one because we want to be honest, but also help others to learn from our experiences.

It’s not only to do with being truthful though.

When I stand back and look at our own disappointing travel experiences I always try to see what I’ve learned from them. Sometimes they make for great stories that we love to share with both you, our friends and family back home, and the other travellers we meet on the road; and the more time passes between the event and our sharing them I can’t help but chuckle to myself and see the comical side to them. In fact, if there’s one thing that Dale has tried to teach me then it’s to see things differently and see that often things are much less worse than I might believe them to be. It’s best to put on a smile, face them, and enjoy the humour of each one.

Being an anxious person it’s – at times – easier said than done, but I’m still working at it; but I can truly say that sharing and talking about bad travelling times continues to help me see the facts – shit happens to everyone.

No matter whether you’re travelling around the world as we are or about to head of on your much-deserved vacation, let us all learn lessons from our frustrating travel days.

A moody looking Franca - 5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days

5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days

Based on our own experience I think there are a few things that can really make an impact on how much we do or don’t enjoy a destination.

First is how we feel physically and mentally. Next is the contrast between our expectations and the reality of our new location. Also, how comfortable we feel in a new place (especially with our using Couchsurfing a lot) plays its part; and last but not least how the weather is.

Strangely enough we’ve never quite been able to enjoy sightseeing as much when it’s either cold, rainy, or both; but we always try our best to ignore the worst and make the most of it, but often we end up being unsuccessful, unhappy and extremely grumpy.

No matter what the reason is behind our frustrating travel days, whenever we share one with anyone we’re always honest and try to remind people that it’s always relative, especially when it comes to destinations. What makes our day the worst kind imaginable might have no impact on you or anyone else. Something just wasn’t right for us; but I try to learn a lesson from each one.

Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned from our own bad travel days.

1. Feeling Out Of Place in Vientiane

No matter how hard we tried to like Laos’ capital or how much we tried to find some of its hidden corners to enjoy, we failed.

After spending a month in Thailand we were finally in a different country, and instead of trying to make the most of our time there we spent every day thinking of returning back to the land of smiles.

Physically we may have been in Vientiane, but our minds were still in Thailand, especially once we knew that once we returned there’d be a chance for us to do some volunteering.

Walking around Vientiane’s streets felt a little like a waste of time. Neither of us really wanted to be there and it’s incredibly probably that our perception of the city changed because of that. We weren’t enjoying ourselves and were getting kind of desperate to leave. What made things worse was that we’d heard so many great and exciting things about Laos, how different and more off-the-beaten-path it was. It sounded like just the kind of place we love, so why didn’t we like it?

Looking back I realize that there was no need to beat ourselves up by desperately wanting to like Vientiane and Laos altogether. I’ve learned that if your mind isn’t happy with where you are, then there’s very little you can do. It’s simply better to move on and find somewhere else your mind agrees with.

Sorry Vientiane, nothing personal.

Dale in Vientiane - 5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days

2. Finding No Room To Breath in Bruges

We already knew a lot about the picturesque Bruges prior to our deciding to visit. We’d seen several photos and read some other fellow bloggers’ posts, so we were quite excited to finally get to see it with our own eyes. Unfortunately, as soon as we stepped out of the train and onto the platform we soon realized we chosen the worst possible time of the year to visit.

It wasn’t fun to constantly try to overtake several groups of people that had just unloaded from a coach rather than admiring the lovely architecture around us, and trying to find a free bench or a space to sit down even just for a moment was a real mission too.

Soon we became tired of trying to avoid crowds and fighting for even a moment of peace and quiet, and gave up trying to get in anywhere where the queue was more than an hour. Bruges IS incredibly beautiful, but we clearly made a big mistake of not thinking ahead about which season we’d be visiting it in. What’s worse is the knowledge that in the quieter seasons of the year it’s probably a beautiful town to visit.

That frustrating travel day was totally down to our own bad judgement of time, but it’s certainly a lesson learned for next time.

Tourists in Bruges - 5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days

3. Feeling Like Death in Taoyuan

It was incredibly lovely to be in Taiwan and finally get to meet my friend and her family who kindly hosted us. They were fantastic and really tried their best to show the local customs, places to go and made us feel so welcomed.

One day they even took us to the National Centre for Traditional Arts, an incredible park where it’s possible to get to know much about typical Taiwanese arts and traditions, plus all the kinds of information that we are always keen to learn when in a new country.

It was horrible being in such a great place without being able to fully enjoy it.

Dale was very poorly. He’d woken with food poisoning in the morning and had felt awful for the entire car journey to the center. He could barely walk, was in lots of pain, and together with feeling faint all the time he couldn’t stop shivering and shaking.

After spending most of the time at the centre either in the bathroom or sitting down somewhere away from all of the fun being had by the hundreds of people who regularly visit the park, I was trying to enjoy some delicious stinky tofu.

That day and the three that followed were spent with Dale in bed, feeling like death the entire time (he said he’s never felt as sick either before or since). It was a real shame that we had to cancel not only our time at the centre, but also many of the exciting plans our friend had put together, but there was no way Dale could have made it.

Oh well, what else could we have done?

What I’ve learned from those few frustrating travel days is that no matter how hard we try to enjoy ourselves, there will always be situations that cannot be predicted and they can arrive at any time. I’m pretty sure Dale didn’t want to be ill, but there was very little we could do about it. It’s best just to deal with it and wait till it all clears up.

Dale feeling like death in Taoyuan - 5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days

Dale feeling like death in Taoyuan

4. Failing To Get The Russian Visa In Kiev

When we started travelling back in 2012, we didn’t have a major plan in mind but we knew that to start with we wanted to travel through Eastern Europe (which we briefly did), before going through Russia to Mongolia, and eventually arriving in Beijing via the Trans Siberian/Mongolian Railway.

We were very excited about the idea of going to Asia overland instead of flying, and as newbies we didn’t put a lot thought into planning too much, because it’s something we don’t particularly enjoy doing. We wanted to leave our exit from Europe open so that we could take our time and leave when we were ‘done’ with that part of the world. However, our plan fell through.

Once in Kiev we couldn’t get the Russian visa to be able to travel across the country. We were gutted and soon had to deal with our first big disappointment.

After several hours of moaning we came to the conclusion that remaining down about our disappointment wouldn’t solve our dilemma of not knowing what to do next or where to go. The simplest choice was to change direction entirely and fly. In fact we simply changed our plan completely and flew to Japan instead.

I’m so incredibly glad we did, because it still remains one of the most interesting countries I’ve ever been to.

Even if our being so naive and unprepared lead to a couple of very disappointing and frustrating travel days, we’ve learned not to plan too much in advance and since then we rarely ever do. Also, we’ve both realized that no matter how much we dislike planning there are some occasions when it’s extremely necessary, in fact we should have got the Russian visa done before setting off.

Sunset over a church in Kiev - 5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days

Our last night in Kiev

5. Foolishly Falling In One of the Most Common Scams in Thailand

Thankfully most people will talk and warn travellers about the various scams that you might get trapped into whilst travelling in foreign countries. Whilst in Thailand we heard few stories and learned what not to trust and be suspicious about. We were doing pretty well up until we let our guard down and got a bit too relaxed, becoming an easy target in the process.

One night on a bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok we, and other people travelling with us, got robbed. We only realised it when we got off the coach and noticed that someone went through our backpacks that we left in the carriage storage. Until then, we had been pretty good at not keeping anything valuable there, but that night we forgot our usual checks that we’d always done for months up until then and Dale carelessly forgot that we had both a bundle of dollars and his credit card in his backpack.

We were so incredibly angry with ourselves for having been so careless. How stupid is that? We knew it happened before to other travellers so we should have been more careful, but we learned this lesson the hard way.

A coach in Thailand - 5 Things I’ve Learned From Frustrating Travel Days

Would We Change Anything?

Do I wish we didn’t have some of those experiences? No, not really.

In some way I’m pretty sure that if things have gone differently we wouldn’t have gotten to do some of the things we did. We probably wouldn’t have left Laos to return to Thailand and volunteer for a month, which is to date one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had. It changed me and the way I see life.

We wouldn’t have flown to Japan if we’d got the Russian visa in Kiev instead, and who knows when and if we would have gone to Japan anyway?

I’m sure Dale would have preferred not being in bed for those few days feeling like he was dying, and we could have used the money we got robbed in so many exciting ways, but sometimes bad things happen and it cannot be predicted.

I love travelling and I know I’ll have some very frustrating travel days, but that’s ok and totally worth it because I’ll learn something from them. That’s why I think we should not be afraid to share and talk about them.

Sure it sounds easier said than done, but we should make frustration a tool, not an obstacle!

Which were your most frustrating travel days?