This is part of BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel project, a daily blogging challenge with a prompt for every day in November 2011. Check out the prompt at the bottom of this post to find out how you can participate!
Sophia Loren once said, “Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.” Nadine Stair proclaimed, “If I had my life to live over… I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.” And Peter McWilliams is quoted as saying, “To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.”
In my time as a traveler I’ve made a lot of mistakes. There was my very first trip, when I not only packed a giant rolling suitcase for four nights in Dublin, but also thought that since my flight home was at 6am, I didn’t need to book a hostel that night and instead should just plan to stay out until about 2am….on a Sunday….in a country where all the pubs close by 11pm. Once I booked a two hour connection in New York City, not realizing that while my first flight arrived at LaGuardia, my next flight departed from JFK. There was the time I didn’t print a detailed map to my hostel in Barcelona and spent two hours in the cold, grey dawn, wandering the Barri Gotic and asking directions of the few homeless people I encountered. And there were many, many others.
At the time, each seemed like a huge mistake. I cursed my luggage down every cobbled lane in Dublin. I spent two hours racing through airports and screaming at cab drivers to make that New York connection. And I nearly broke down in tears after the second hour of searching hopelessly for that hostel in Barcelona. But these were minor errors; what at the time seemed like catastrophes now make for funny stories and and tales of warning.
The biggest travel mistake I’ve ever made was not traveling sooner in life. When I was younger, my family took an annual summer vacation to Disney World, or down south to Tennessee. The idea of traveling to any country other than Canada (a quick 15 minute drive over the border from Detroit, a trip that didn’t even require a passport) never even entered my mind. I didn’t travel during college, save for a Michigan-to-Florida spring break road trip my senior year. I didn’t even think of applying for a study abroad program. I’d like to say that was because I assumed it would be too expensive, but in truth, I’m ashamed to admit that at that time I simply had no desire to uproot my life, to commit what I thought would be social suicide by leaving my friends, and exchange my comfortable routine for the challenges of life in a foreign place. Travel, in that grand sense of exploring far away places, was for later.
And then I met Dan, my husband, who changed my mind on all manner of things, including travel. At 22, he’d already taken a 10-day solo trip to Amsterdam. At that age I had a hard time going to the mall alone; I couldn’t even imagine where to begin planning an overseas trip by myself. And so I didn’t. Instead Dan and I went to Dublin – chosen because it seemed like an “easier” country for a first trip – for a long-weekend together. Despite a few bumps along the way, the trip made me realize how easy, safe, and affordable it was to travel overseas. As I’ve traveled more and more, especially to countries I never would have considered for that first trip, that has only become more true. And as I’ve learned more about the world, I’ve learned more about myself. I’m stronger, more independent, and more courageous than I was then. Now I’ve comfortable visiting foreign countries on my own as well. I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to do it.
For every minor travel mistake I’ve made, I’ve learned a lesson for next time. And as for the greatest mistake of not taking the chance to start exploring the world sooner, I can’t go back and change the past, but I can do my best to make up for that lost time and continue to push myself out my front door and out of my comfort zone. I’m sure I’ll make a few more mistakes along the way. And that’ll be part of the fun.
30 Days of Indie Travel Project: How to Participate
We’re inviting bloggers from around the world (that means you, too!) to join us in a daily blogging effort designed to reflect on how our travel experiences over the last year – or whenever – have shaped us and our view of the world. Bloggers can follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as they like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on their own blogs.
We’ll share some of our favorites via Twitter and Facebook throughout November, as well as a round-up article at the end of the month, so if you’re playing along make sure to let us know – use the #indie30 hashtag on Twitter, and link to the 30 Days of Indie Travelpage in your post so we’ll be able to find it.
Find out all of the 30 Days of Indie Travel blogging prompts so far – it’s never too late to join in the fun!
Prompt #4: Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. We forget to ask for Coke without ice in Mexico and spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom. Or we arrive at the airport for a 7pm flight only to realize the flight left at 7am. Tell us the story of your worst travel mistake.
Tools and inspiration: Read up on how to cope with some of the most common travel mishaps