I woke up well before daylight to meet with my group and head to Angkor Wat for that iconic sunrise you see gracing travel websites with tips on touring Cambodia. Angkor Wat is one of those attractions that is a “must see”, and the magic of photography has prepared you for an experience you have anticipated for years before arriving. Sometimes these can’t miss bucket list sights and experiences while traveling don’t always live up to the hype because of the expectations that we have before we even arrive.
Here is the shot I was expecting and waiting for. A serene moat around the temple, a peaceful view as you watch the sun float into the sky. When you wake up at 3am or 4am to head to the Angkor Archaeological Complex you foolishly expect that your tour will be one of the only ones there. Boy, was I wrong…
The sunrise was beautiful and the buildings and temples in the complex are amazing pillars of history but I have to say the start of my day wasn’t how I had envisioned it in my own mind. There are hundreds of people all there to witness the same miraculous sight and get that perfect vacation photograph, just like you. Something as serene as a sun rising over ancient ruins can be spoiled by selfie sticks waving through the air and tired tourists shuffling about trying to sneak to the best spot for a picture. Luckily, I was spending several days touring the temples and left feeling thankful to have taken the time to explore beyond the busy tourist sights. Here are a couple of tips to avoid disappointing travel experiences.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your location
Expectations can be a dangerous thing. It’s hard to not put your own spin on a big trip you are planning when you are excited to visit a new place or see an attraction that has been on your travel wish list. The build up can simultaneously be the best and the worst part. The anticipation can be exciting but try to not put too much pressure on your location by creating what I call the dreaded travel let down. When you arrive at a destination or an attraction and it isn’t anything like you had expected it. While it can fall short in some ways, I’ve found you usually take away something wonderful that you never expected. Go in with some ideas about what you want to see and what you want to take away from your trip but also allow time in your mind and in your itinerary to surprise you! Don’t put too much stress on your vacation and you’ll have a much more relaxing time.
Did you leave half of a day to see everything in the Louvre? Are you going to spend time an outdoor location during rainy season? Are you in town during the busiest part of the summer? These are all things to consider when planning which helps keep realistic expectations for your location. Are you fitting in every country in the EU during your two week summer vacation? Maybe think about moving those quick stops in between and stick to a slower itinerary to ensure that you can visit those attractions and have enough time and not feel rushed moving from place to place.
Do your research
This seems like a given but you’d be surprised how many people show up on vacation without having done much research prior to their visit and then they arrive with their trusty guidebook in hand expecting to do the research on site. Big mistake. I buy books on places that I haven’t even thought about seeing yet, I read up on places both online and in print as much as I can before I arrive at a location. I make a rough itinerary, if there are places that I know will be busy with other travelers I try and do some investigating on times or days that they aren’t as bustling and then work my schedule around those can’t miss sites. Look on Pinterest for images of places you may have not even considered visiting and find sites you trust that will give you updated, accurate information on the locations you are thinking of visiting. Word of mouth from family and friends is great, but make sure these people share the same travel style as you so you get a more accurate view of where you are planning on going. On several occasions I’ve heard “that city was dirty” or “the public transportation there is dangerous” and upon doing more research and then arriving at the destination, their opinions weren’t the same as mine.
There is always more beyond the “must see”
Slow travel allows you to come for the main attraction but offers the time for you to stay and enjoy the rest. Use those bucket list items to encourage you to explore past the main tourist locations and spend a little more time in an area you might not have thought to originally visit. Traveling past the typical stops has brought me to places that I’ve ended up enjoying more than the primary reason for the visit.
Share your experiences! I’d love to hear about places you felt “let down” or others that surprised you! Do you have any locations that were on your wish list that didn’t live up to all the hype or places that you dreamt of going that met all of your expectations?