This is a written version of the podcast on the same topic.
This is a common concern of people who are about to spend a heap of money on a big trip.
1. Expect that you might get a negative impression of a place when you first arrive.
– Jet lag plays havoc with emotions.
After I arrive somewhere after a long haul flight, I often feel tearful for a couple of days. This sometimes happens to me even when I’m somewhere I’ve been previously and already know I like.
– If the neighborhood/town/beach you arrive at is ick, it might just be that haven’t found the good areas yet.
– If you arrive at night, the area might seem dirty and scary but could feel very different by day and/or once you’re settled in.
2. Don’t panic.
Ask yourself whether you need to explore your current destination a bit more or whether its time to go somewhere new.
Somewhere you do like might be just around the corner.
For example, plenty of people love southern Vietnam but don’t like the north (or vice versa).
Be open to adjusting your plans. Consider going to a neighboring country even if it wasn’t in your original plans (e.g. if you’re in Vietnam and don’t like it, try Thailand) *I don’t mean to pick on Vietnam – I liked the parts I’ve been to.
3. Don’t compound not liking your destination with feeling embarrassed or ashamed about not liking it.
If this is the first time this has happened to you, welcome to the club. I think everyone who has done extensive travel will have experienced this at some point, usually more than once.
Planning a trip to a new country is a leap of faith – you won’t always predict accurately what you will and won’t like.
The only place I’ve heard consistently negative reports about is Egypt for woman traveling without male companions. And I don’t think I’ve heard consistently positive reports about anywhere.
4. Before you go, search out negative trip reports about where you’re going.
Find out what sights or activities people found overrated.
Find out what the hassles and annoyances were.
Keep in mind that people’s experiences of the same place are often very different so your experience might be nothing like what you read, but reading negative trip reports can help you avoid tourist traps and common traveler mistakes specific to a particular destination, and can help you prepare practically and psychologically.
Think about strategies for dealing with the typical hassles and annoyances associated with your destination, and talk to experienced travelers.
5. This is the most important tip of all…
… Make a friend.
Your experience of a place will be vastly different if you can manage to make a friend.
Mine all your options for doing this.
Strike up conversations, ask questions.
If you’re shy at home, no one knows your shy when you’re not at home, so you can be temporarily not shy.
6. Don’t hide out in your hotel.
If your mood is a bit low, you’ll probably start feeling lethargic and like you can’t be bothered leaving your hotel.
If you’re going to hole up in the hotel, limit it to a day or two. You won’t find your mojo inside your hotel (unless you just need a day or two to catch up on sleep).
7. Is the problem that you can’t think of enough to do?
This is a common problem because its often hard to gauge the right amount of time to stay somewhere when you’re planning your trip at home. And because on long trips people often get bored of doing the same types of travel activities (e.g. lying on the beach reading their book) in different locations.
Think about what you could do more creatively. And/or move on to somewhere else.
For thinking of what you could do:
– Consider doing some of the things you like to do at home but in the new place.
– What do locals of similar age/interests to you like to do when they have time off? What kinds of day or weekend trips do they like to do? Ask around – you might even score an invite.
– What do locals who are on a budget like to do for fun?
8. If you’re feeling lonely, consider going to stay at a hostel. Other travelers can be good company and hostels are good places to get the low down on where the fun stuff to do is.
9. If what you need is temporary respite or escapism, try going to the movies.
Going to the movies is a common activity for people to do when they’re finding the country they’re traveling in a bit intense and need a temporary break from it.
Its a bit more active and social than watching TV at your hotel and the big screen action will temporarily transport you somewhere else.
10. If you’ve had something go wrong (e.g. had something stolen, gotten sick, had an unpleasant interaction with someone, had a disappointment etc), expect that it might make you see things through gray-tinted glasses for a little while.
You’ll feel better once things start going right again.