I consider myself a traveler, I have visited more than 10 countries in 4 continents, hundreds of cities, and I am not planning to stop soon, so... yes, I have earned membership to the “wanderlust” club. I was considering what to write about in this post because shame on me, I also hold membership to the “regular travelers” club. I have the same photos of the main attractions that other travelers have and I cannot think of one time when I “travel off the beaten path” (except for coffee!).
However, I have realized that one bad experience in traveling can become a nightmare, ruining the whole trip and like everything in life, it is necessary to learn how to deal with every moment. It is not easy. I am a really emotional person who has learned, by first- and second-hand experiences, to try to remain calm when something out of our control happens. That’s why I want to share four pieces of advice that I would give myself or someone I love to have a more enjoyable traveling experience.
Let it Go
When I was living in Barcelona, I made a friend (let’s call her Ana) who had the bad luck of being targeted by pickpockets. Her money, credit cards, cellphone, and keys disappeared in less than 3 seconds in a nightclub. Yes, it is difficult when people rob you because “money doesn’t grow on trees”. Also, it is harder when you are on a budget and depend on it to survive. However, If there is a solution to that, it is important to keep moving and let it go!
My friends and I talked with Ana and let her know that we had her back and that she was going to be okay, but sadly she did not move forward. For six months, she hated people in Europe, cried all the time about how she wanted to return to the United States, and hid in her room.
Ironically, a few days later, another friend was robbed and her reaction was like.., “okay, it is just money, I am alive and living in a new country, so everything is going to be alright”. Yup, she ended up having amazing moments that blew her mind.
As a traveler, there are going to be situations that are going to be out of our control but if there is a solution, it is really important to learn to enjoy yourself. Sometimes opportunities are once-in-a-lifetime and while you are healthy there is a whole world of solutions, so please, please… let it go!
Don’t Be Paranoid
It is not easy but learn to lower your guard a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, always have common sense but it is necessary to relax.
The first time I traveled to Europe, I hated it! I remember walking on the streets of Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, and Prague looking over my shoulder, thinking who the pickpocket would be who wants my “possessions”. I did not enjoy the views, people, food, drinks, and art because I couldn't stop overthinking and being worried so much.
Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to visit Europe two years later and I learned to lower my guard and ended up enjoying Europe for the first time. What I like to do before I travel is read about the scams so I can be aware of what is going on.
I would suggest reading about scams in the places you are planning to visit. It is always good to be aware of what is going on around you. Doing some research before traveling; this can save you from really bad situations.
After finding yourself full of knowledge about the different types of scams, you can feel more relaxed and comfortable since you would know what to avoid. Remember, "knowledge is power".
Don’t have high expectation because you can be disappointed
When I was a child, my mom bought me a magazine where I learned about Leonardo Da Vinci and I remember reading about his most famous painting and its location in Paris. I promised myself one day I would go and see it.
Of course, the first time I went to Paris, visiting the Louvre was my main goal. I went to the museum shaking and feeling that one of my childhood dreams would finally come true.
When I arrived in the room where the Mona Lisa was, I found myself pondering: “That's it? It’s so small!”.
Well, something similar happened inside the Sistine Chapel with The Creation of Adam. My best friend just came from Europe and she told me that her favorite destination was the Vatican because of the art, especially the Sistine Chapel. When she asked my opinion about the Vatican, I told her the truth and she replied: “well that's the problem, you were expecting something. I don’t like to expect anything”.
Sometimes when we travel, we have many expectations of how a place should be, how the food should taste, and so we create a whole fantasy inside our minds. Yes, sometimes the first impressions coincide with our thoughts but other times they don’t and it can ruin the experience. Prepare yourself, plan your trip, learn your routes, but don’t have high expectations. Let destinations surprise you!
Sometimes airports, layovers, immigration lines, and other situations can be very stressful. It is okay to get angry, complain, cry, and let the bad feelings rise to the surface. Just don’t forget to take a slow breath; it does not change the situation, but it can help see things from a calmer perspective.
Written by Alejandra Mendieta; Photos by Alejandra Mendieta.
More photos from Alejandra’s travels can be found on Instagram.