Why It's Important to Travel Without Expectations

In my experience, people decide to book trips to destinations that usually fall into one of three categories:

  1. Places that they've always wanted to go and have set airfare alerts for certain dates because they definitely plan to go;
  2. Places that they never thought about going but because there was an airfare sale, they decide to open their minds and wallets and go anyway; and  
  3. Places that they've heard stories about from family or friends, or have seen on TV or in movies and decided to go based on their recommendations.

Any of these reasons is valid.  Who cares why you decide to book travel?  It really just matters that you've decided to go.  In all of these situations, however, it is always imperative to keep an open mind and travel without expectations.  

Don't we all have expectations?

You might ask, "Don't we all have expectations when traveling?" Sure.  You expect for your hotel to be the same way it looked in pictures when you booked it.  You expect to see that city's landmarks and take the typical tourist picture.  You may even expect to have a sorted fling with someone you met at a local bar. Hey, no judgment here.  But it is my firm belief that you should not have expectations about how much fun you will have, how much you will love or hate wherever you are, or expect that your experience will be the same as someone else's.  Let me explain.

Since I am a travel blogger, people will ask about my experiences around a certain destination because I've been and they're soon headed there.  I love when people ask for my opinion and will answer as many questions as I can.  I love travel; I love being a travel blogger; and I love sharing my experiences - what to eat, drink, see and do. However, I am not a psychic, fortuneteller, nor am I certified destination tour guide.  I can only share my experiences and make recommendations based on those experiences.  It is up to you to form your own opinions.

Additionally, when listening to the recommendations of family and friends, or reading travel blogs and publications, people have the tendency to leave out the bad aspects of their trip. Whether intentional or not, your hopes and dreams of the destination being what you thought it was may be shattered instantly depending on your own experiences. Maybe you encountered rude locals or it rained so much that you weren't able to see as much as you'd hoped. That's life and ish happens. There is no way of guaranteeing similar experiences.

In Josephine's Bathtub in Martinique

Why Read Travel Blogs?

Now you might be wondering why you're even bothering to read my blog if I do not consider myself a destination expert.  Great question! As I said before, I love sharing my experiences and hope that they will guide and help you to make the best possible decisions to enjoy your trip.  But they are my experiences.  Yours may be different.  And truth be told, this is the case for any blog or travel publication you read.  If it is not a fact, it is an opinion and therefore (like your mom always told you to), you need make up your own mind.

Let me tell you a short story.  I went to a certain destination not to be named and had a fabulous time.  I loved my experience and since I knew an acquaintance had a trip planned shortly after mine, I made mental notes about activities or sites I thought they may be interested in. As it turns out, they did not have such an amazing experience. They didn't enjoy the beach, the restaurants, the nightlife and so on. They went expecting to love it because I did and when they didn't, disappointment ensued.  However, several factors may come into play here:

  1. I may have been looking for a relaxing vacation and that's what I sought out, but they may have been looking to 'turn up';
  2. I love cultural experiences, but they couldn't care less about a destination's history and local culture; and
  3. I might have gone with people who I know that I travel well with (always the case) and they may have traveled with people who annoyed them to no end.

I could go on and on but you get the point. There are many varying factors about why my trip was different than theirs, so it's impossible for us to have the same experience.  

How has having expectations worked out for me?

I've been to a few places that were never on my bucket list or on my radar, but after I went, I fell in love and couldn't wait to go back.  Remember London?  I didn't think I'd care for it and only went to check it off my bucket list.  But I loved London's energy and vibe so much that it's a city I can't wait to get back to.  I set my expectations low and my experiences surpassed them.  This is an example of having expectations working in my favor.  But this is a rarity.  Usually having expectations works the other way around.  I will scream from the mountaintops that I do not like Paris. I thought I would love it, and left feeling disappointed and feeling like it's a place I don't need to return. The people weren't nice, I didn't enjoy the food and I didn't feel it was culturally diverse. Now, this is my experience and may not be the experience of someone else. But should you let that deter you from seeing for yourself? Absolutely not.

In front of Big Ben in London

Should We Lower Our Expectations?

Without question, YES. When you set your expectations high, your experience never stands a chance to meet them. You're not able to enjoy your experience and destination for what it is and what it has to offer. While I definitely recommend reading up on what to do, see, taste and drink before embarking on a trip, do not let the opinions (read: not facts) of others sway your decision-making and impact your expectations in a good or bad way.

At Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

Since I have traveled to quite a few places around the world and do consider myself a great travel blogger (hey, if I don't love me, who else will?), my advice is to taper your expectations or let them go entirely.  I promise that you will enjoy your trip and will be able to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings so much more.