5 Travel Mistakes I Make Over and Over Again

August 6, 2011

You know that old saying about learning from your mistakes?

Yeah, well, that doesn’t apply to me so much.

I make a lot of mistakes. Like, a lot of them.

If to err is human, then I must be some kind of super-human because I’m, like, really super good at erring.

Of course, every time I do something stupid, I think to myself afterwards, “Wow. I’m certainly never going to do that again.”

Then, about two weeks later, I do that again.

Maybe I’m just a really slow learner, and one day I will eventually learn from my mistakes – like when I’m eighty. Or when I’m dead.

Or it’s possible I’m stuck in some Greek myth where I’m doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again for the amusement of the gods. (If that’s the case, where is my long, flowy robe? Because I think I could totally rock that look. And where, I’d like to know, has Adonis been keeping himself?)

Unfortunately, my tendency to make mistakes doesn’t take a vacation when I take a vacation. No matter how much I travel, I still make a lot of stupid travel mistakes. Like, a lot of them.

My recent trip to Xi’an was no exception, of course. In the five short days that I was away, I probably made five kabillion mistakes. (This is just a rough estimate as I didn’t keep track. It’s kind of hard to count your mistakes when you make so many of them… and when you’re not particularly good at counting because you made the mistake of not taking math class very seriously when you were younger.)

To give myself some credit, a few of the mistakes I made on my trip were new for me. I had no idea I was making a mistake until it was too late.

For example, I made the mistake of picking up the newspaper one day. If you’re ever traveling or living in China, you really don’t want to read the newspaper. Like, ever. Reading the news in China is like reading a really detailed list of all the ways that China is planning on killing you.

In the one paper that I picked up, there were articles about the recent high-speed train crash, a bus fire, subway overcrowding, a scandal involving tainted pork, widespread pesticide misuse and bottled water contamination. Considering there isn’t much freedom of the press in this country, I imagine there are heaps of other ways China is plotting my death, I’m just not allowed to read about them.

After briefly skimming through the paper and learning all the ways I was going to die, I promptly put it down and resolved to never pick up another paper again while I’m living in China.

We’ll see how that works out for me.

Honestly, though, most of the mistakes I made during my trip were mistakes I’ve made countless times before on other trips. In fact, I’ve made these mistakes so many times I wouldn’t even call them mistakes anymore.

I’d just call them bad habits.

 

1.    Thinking I can walk to my destination because it looks “walk-able” on the map.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this — mostly because I’ve blocked the memories of these times out of my brain. These are bad memories filled with sweat, tears, blisters and more than a few heat-induced hallucinations.

Sure, walking may not sound like such a bad thing to do because, hey, walking is good for you, right? And walking to my destination wouldn’t be a bad thing if I didn’t possess the following characteristics:

  1. I have absolutely no sense of direction.
  2. I’m really bad at reading maps.
  3. I have a tendency to wear stupid shoes.

After hopping off the airport shuttle in downtown Xi’an, I was accosted by a number of taxi drivers more than willing to drive me to my hostel.

But I decided I’d walk instead. I had spent the whole day sitting in taxis and buses and on the airplane. I figured I could use a little exercise.

Besides, I wasn’t exactly feeling a lot of love for Chinese taxi drivers at that moment. Earlier in the day, a taxi driver in Wuxi had dropped me off at the train station rather than the bus station causing me to miss my airport shuttle. What better way to show those taxi drivers that I didn’t need them and their stupid taxis than by walking to the hostel by myself? Yep, that’d certainly show them!

Judging from my map, the distance from the shuttle stop to the hostel looked totally walk-able. Mind you, I was not using an official tourist map of Xi’an at the time as I didn’t have an official tourist map of Xi’an at the time. Instead, I was using the map from the hostel website, but not a print-out of the map or anything. Nope, I was using a rendering of the map, which I had drawn in my notebook.

It looked like this:

Obviously, I missed my true calling as a cartographer.

In case you haven’t guessed already, things did not work out so well for me during my little walking expedition. I spent about an hour wandering up and down the same street with my luggage until I finally admitted defeat and started hailing taxis. (You win this time, taxi drivers!)

2.    Not negotiating the fare before using an unmetered taxi/rickshaw/motorcycle taxi/horse-drawn carriage/camel/whatever
Unfortunately, by the time I gave up on walking, it was pretty late in the evening and almost impossible to find a metered taxi or really any reliable vehicle that was willing to take me to the hostel.

So I did something I really didn’t want to do (because I know my Mom is totally not going to be happy about this when she finds out): I took a motorcycle taxi. (And, in case my Mom asks, I totally wore a helmet and full body armor.)

Prior to getting on the back of the motorcycle taxi, I asked the driver how much the ride would cost. I thought he told me 3 RMB or about fifty cents. This made sense to me since I remembered reading on the hostel’s website that it would cost 6 RMB in taxi fare to get from the shuttle stop to the hostel. Since I’d only be traveling on two wheels, it should only cost half the price, right?

Wrong.

When we arrived at the hostel, I discovered the driver actually wanted 30 RMB or about five dollars.

By that point, I was just happy to be at my destination, so I forked over the money without a fight. After weaving through traffic on the motorbike and barely escaping being crushed under the wheels of a few tour buses, I was, frankly, surprised I had survived the ride. Five dollars felt like a small price to pay for making it to my hostel alive.

(Ha, ha, just kidding, Mom! The drive was totally safe. In fact, thing’s were so chill, the driver smoked a cigarette the whole way. See? Totally safe! You know, except for the secondhand smoke.)

3.    Not researching where I’m going.
Before visiting Xi’an, I didn’t really know what there was to do in the city besides going to see the Terracotta Warriors. And I could sum up my knowledge of the Terracotta Warriors like this:
  1. There are warriors.
  2. They are made out of terracotta.

After spending an entire day at the Terracotta Warrior Museum and Mausoleum, the extent of knowledge went something like this:

  1. There are warriors.
  2. They are made out of terracotta
  3. There are also some horses. These, I believe, are also made out of terracotta. But don’t quote me on that.

So, yeah, I probably could have done a little research or at least skimmed through the Wikipedia page before my trip, so I knew exactly what it was I was looking at (besides, you know, the obvious terracotta-ness).

Luckily, on the second day of our trip, my friend and I managed to join a group tour of the city with the alumni group from her college.

While I’m usually not a group tour kind of girl as they don’t tend to allow enough time for snack breaks and naps, I really enjoyed my time on the tour and managed to learn a lot. The good thing about going on a group tour is that there is a tour guide there who tells you about the places you are going to visit before you even visit them. It’s kind of like Wikipedia, but without the reading… or the made-up bits!

4. Not listening to people when they give me advice.
When you tell people in China that you’re going to take a trip, usually the first question they ask you is if you’ve booked your ticket yet. If you haven’t, they like to follow this up by telling you that you really should have booked your ticket already.

I have heard this advice more than a few times, and it is very good advice. There are a lot of people in China. Like, a lot of them. And, on any given day, about a gazillion-million of these people are traveling. It’s a good idea to book your ticket ahead of time, especially during the holidays, to ensure you get a seat and you don’t have to stow yourself in a boxcar or ride on top of the plane or something.

But, despite having had a number of Chinese people tell me how important it is to book stuff in advance, I, honestly, haven’t gotten any better at booking stuff in advance.

While I had flown to Xi’an, my friend and I were planning to take the twenty-hour, overnight, sleeper train back to Shanghai. When we told the receptionist at our hostel that we needed to book tickets for the train, he promptly told us we really should have booked tickets already.

Of course, he was right.

When we arrived at the ticket office, we discovered that all the tickets for the sleeper cars were completely sold out. The man at the counter informed us that the only thing they had available was something called a “hard seat.” I didn’t know what a hard seat was, but, judging from the name, it sounded, well, hard.

The last time I took an overnight train, I was going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It was only about a twelve-hour ride, but it was a sleepless twelve hours spent on a rather uncomfortable vinyl seat. I vaguely remember stumbling off the train, rumpled and disoriented and in desperate need of sleep, and vowing to never do that kind of thing again.

As this memory flashed through my mind, I looked at the man behind the counter and said, “Two hard seat tickets, please.”

My friend looked doubtful.

The man at the counter smirked at me and I’m pretty sure he even laughed a little bit.

But I was undaunted. “Come on,” I told my friend, “Twenty hours! On a train! On something called a ‘hard seat’! It will be an adventure!”

Which brings me to the next mistake I tend to make over and over again…

5. Doing something because it sounds like an “adventure” even though I’m pretty sure it’s going to be hell and I’m going to regret it… that is, if I make it out alive.
Of course, this was not the first time I willingly signed up for something that I knew I would probably hate because, hey, it’s an adventure! (And, just imagine the blog post I’d be able to write!) Remember the time I spent a month sanding off my fingertips in Malaysia? Or the time I volunteered at a hostel in Laos? Or the time I booked a solo beach vacation on the most romantic tropical island on Earth?

Luckily, my friend is not nearly as delusional as I am. (Plus, she doesn’t have a blog, so she doesn’t really understand the concept of putting yourself through torture just so you’ll have something to blog about.)

The following day, my friend convinced me that taking the train was probably not the best idea. I agreed, we returned our tickets and bought plane tickets instead.

In the end, this was a really good decision. The plane tickets cost us quite a bit more, but it was a small price to pay. I’m sure neither our kneecaps nor our friendship would have made it through that twenty-hour train ride.

That is if we made it out alive.

(Although I think we can all agree that the train ride would have totally made for awesome blog post, am I right or am I right? Not to worry, though, as I’m sure I’ll manage to sign up for some kind of “adventure” on my next trip only so I can have a great story for the blog. God forbid I ever start learning from mistakes, then I would never have anything to write about on this thing!)
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I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On August 6, 2011 at 9:41 am Jaime said:

    OMG… Sally I love you. ALL 5 OF THOSE ARE SO ME TOO ON THE ROAD. Sorry for the caps… just a bit excited I am not alone. Im pretty good at negotiating a cab price before hand but sometimes forget and then yes I always look at maps and think everything is walkable… um its not always the case. I love that you have a map in your notebook like that cus I do the same damn thing as well…lol!!! As for adventures I sign up for them and then bitch and complain the whole time I am hiking up that damn volcano… its like we pay to torture ourselves. Its all good though we live and bitch and learn… jaja!

  2. On August 6, 2011 at 9:50 am Beverley - Pack Your Passport said:

    I’m definitely guilty of the “C’mon it’ll be an adventure!!!” mistake and walking somewhere which doesn’t look too far on the map but ends up being absolutely miles!

    • On August 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm Sally said:

      Ha ha! I’m glad to know I’m not alone! (Please tell me you do it while wearing stupid shoes, too. I can’t be the only idiot trudging for miles in plastic flip-flops!)

  3. On August 6, 2011 at 10:28 am Janice Hillmer said:

    Sally! I’m so glad you listened to your friend and didn’t take the train! I DID travel overnight on a hard seat on a Chinese train. 11 years and 8 countries later, it remains the worst transportation experience of my life. So, kudos to you, deciding not to take the train makes up for all the other mistakes you have ever and will ever make!

    • On August 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm Sally said:

      Omigosh. I guess I’m glad I didn’t do it… or am I? (A sick part of me thinks, “Worst transportation experience of her life? What a great blog entry that would be!”). Okay, I AM glad I didn’t do it, but I do still really want to do the sleeper car… but maybe for a shorter time period. I think 12 hours would be doable.

  4. On August 6, 2011 at 11:06 am Liv said:

    Good luck finding a suitably unscary adventure unbravegirl!

  5. On August 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm Jonathan said:

    These are great! I think for me the mistake is always being too macho in my traveling (1 and 5 are true of me). The truth is that while I love cross-cultural experience, I don’t really like travel. It stresses me out, and probably wouldn’t if I mellowed a bit. I almost always go with the cheaper hotel, which is a mistake. I feel like I have to do the big sights, even if I don’t want to do them. And I skip tours, because I feel like that’s “cheating,” even though it’s really fun to go on tours. (I did the Beijing–>Kunming 60 hour train solo, and it really isn’t even that good of a story; just boring and uncomfortable.)

    • On August 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm Sally said:

      60 HOURS on a train? Wow. I’m impressed. I think I would have gone crazy after Hour 6.
      I also get pretty stressed out about traveling. I like to take weekend or week-long trips, but after that I just really want to come home.

  6. On August 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm Maggie from Destination Exploration said:

    I hate when I think I can walk somewhere and then end up extremely irritated with throbbing feet, and a sunburn when I get to where ever my destination is. Usually, after that I can’t even enjoy whatever I was supposed to be seeing/doing and I just want to lie down. Unfortunately, like you, I underestimate distances. I really need to work on that!!

    On another note, I reallllly want to see the terracotta army in Xi’an. What did you think? Was is worth it?

    • On August 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm Sally said:

      The trip was definitely worth it. I liked Xi’an a lot, I just wish I had had more time there. Unfortunately, my friend was on a pretty tight schedule so we just stayed 3 days there & then 2 days in Shanghai. If you do go, I’d recommend also checking out the Han tombs. We did that the day after the Terracotta Army & it was a really cool follow-up to the warriors. You can check out my pictures at: https://picasaweb.google.com/unbravegirl/XiAnChina

  7. On August 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm TravelMaus said:

    Great post and I see myself in #1-4 SO much! I’m a bit more cautious about #5. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten completely lost in a new city and had to find an English speaking person to guide me back to my hotel. I’m desperately bad at directions– walking or driving. And since I’m always planning my clients’ trips, I never end up researching anywhere I’m travelling to, personally. Oh, … but I do look up the restaurants. Priorities ;o)

    • On August 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm Sally said:

      Ha, ha! I like the way you think! I should really travel with you some day. Who cares if we know what we’re looking at as long as we know where to eat!

      • On August 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm TravelMaus said:

        LOL- perfect! We’ll do a restaurant and snack-bar tour of some country! I’m in ! ( When I was recently in Santa Fe, I was asked, prior to my trip, what I was planning on seeing there. I said I hadn’t even opened a book on the area, but I knew where I wanted to eat and drink ;o) )

  8. On August 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm Michi said:

    You really do write the most awesome blog posts ever. But I’m also glad that your friend convinced you to travel by plane instead – 20 hour rickety bus rides are inconceivable for me (I did 6 hours once – never. ever. again.) Happy travels!! 😉

    • On August 7, 2011 at 2:54 am Sally said:

      I know. I get cranky after 3 hours on a bus; I can’t imagine 20 hours on a train. Plus, I hate missing my sleep. I really don’t know what I was thinking… well, most likely, I wasn’t thinking.

  9. On August 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm Anthony @ Positive World Travel said:

    We sometimes make some of these mistakes too. It is usually when you are not thinking and you just jump in the back of a can or tuk tuk and you think shit, why didn’t I ask the price….idiot! We do that a lot too, so you are not the only one 😉

    • On August 7, 2011 at 2:53 am Sally said:

      I’m usually pretty good at asking about the price, I just suck at the negotiating part. Usually, by the time I have accepted defeat and flagged down a taxi, I’m too tired and exhausted to bother haggling. Plus, I usually don’t know how much the ride should cost, so they could tell me any price and it would sound okay to me. And, now that I live in China, the negotiating is usually done in Chinese, which I suck at. So, really, I don’t even know why I bother to ask the price, seeing as I usually just accept whatever they say even if I don’t understand what they’re saying!

  10. On August 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm Mike said:

    Haha, love this. I’m guilty of #1. In fact in Xian, after spending all day at the warriors, I decided the city walls looked walkable and I could walk all the way around before sunset. Didn’t happen. I also didn’t prebook in China, but after taking a hard seat ovenight train from Nanjing to Xian, I made sure of prebooking. Be ecstatic you didn’t take the overnight train. Worst night of my whole trip.

    • On August 7, 2011 at 2:50 am Sally said:

      Yeah, I think my friend would have killed me if we took the train. She’s about six feet tall and has really long legs and was having trouble with the hour-long, slightly cramped public bus ride to go see the Warriors. There’s no way we would have made it through that train ride… alive.

  11. On August 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm ehalvey said:

    Ha! My husband is also in the not booking things early camp. He’s in the Irish school of thought that there’s always room…Yeah….

    We ended up in a motel about as far from downtown Charleston as you could get one Memorial Day weekend. And then his car broke down before we got to the beach. So we were outside the free 25 mile towing radius. The good thing? South Carolina ignores Memorial Day as a holiday in general because it is a “Northern” holiday celebrating their victory in the Civil War. So the sketchy motel was handily down the street from a Toyota dealer to fix said car.

    • On August 7, 2011 at 2:47 am Sally said:

      I’m usually pretty good at booking my accommodation beforehand mostly because I’m not so much a fan of dragging my luggage everywhere in search of a place to stay. But I hardly ever book transportation in advance — especially train or bus tickets — so it’s been a big adjustment living in China. When the first person told me I should really book my stuff ahead of time, I just scoffed and thought they were trying to trick me into being overly cautious or something. And then I showed up at the train station to discover all the tickets for the trains had been sold out for that day (all of them! and there were a lot of trains! and it was just a normal Saturday!). So, yeah, I learned my lesson… okay, I didn’t learn my lesson but I should really know better.

  12. On August 7, 2011 at 12:14 am MzMarianne said:

    OMG! I’m crying from laughing. I so [heart] you, Sally! I’ve made these rookie mistakes very recently, as well, but in Los Angeles – so it kind of only half-counts…LOL. You and other travel bloggers are very inspirational! Thank you so much for sharing your “adventures”! Much love from the Bay Area, CA!! ^_^

  13. On August 7, 2011 at 12:29 am Christine said:

    When I first arrived in Melbourne on a blistering hot tday, I decided to just walk down to St Kilda to see about a job instead of figuring out those confusing-looking trams…soak up the sunshine, and all that. Now, I think about just how stupid that was every time I take the 25-minute tram ride into the city…the worst part was I got trapped on the wrong side of a giant lake. With no bridge across…so I was forced to walk the whole way back too! Totally feel you on these mistakes…I never learn.

    • On August 7, 2011 at 2:43 am Sally said:

      This totally sounds like something I would have done! For some reason, I’m always suspicious of above-ground transportation. I have no problem with subways, but really balk at the thought of taking buses or trams. I always worry that I won’t know when we reach my stop (probably because this has happened to me a few times… okay, more like a LOT of times).

  14. On August 7, 2011 at 12:33 am penguinlady said:

    I have to think you made the right decision on the train; we did a 24 journey from Alice Springs to Melbourne (The Ghan) in third class. Hard, pew-like seats, the toilet was a hole in the floor of the train, the AC was sporadic. and the food cart was only open 3x and if you didn’t get food… you didn’t eat. It was an “adventure” of sorts but… sitting for 24 hours on a hard seat wasn’t very adventurous. My ass is older now, and doesn’t truck with “hard seats”. I keep telling the hubby that my idea now of “roughing it” is a hotel without room service!

    • On August 7, 2011 at 2:39 am Sally said:

      I think you’re right. I started reading about the hard seat train yesterday while writing this post and I came across this description on the Wikipedia page: “…longer trips may be overtaxing for a foreign tourist mainly due to the impossibility of sleeping (unless one lies on the floor or in the passageways, as the locals do) and the levels of odor, smell and filth becoming critically intolerable.” Yeah, that doesn’t sound like fun. (But, again, imagine the blog post!)

  15. On August 7, 2011 at 3:27 am Phil said:

    VERY guilty of #1. Sometimes it’s pleasant to have an extended walk. Other times, I’m fairly confident I’ve taken years off of my life. Maps need to have a feature where as subtitles to the neighborhood names they write things like “really shitty area to walk through if you care about your personal safety.”

    • On August 8, 2011 at 4:22 am Sally said:

      And instead of showing the kilometers or miles in the scale at the bottom of the map, they should have “walkable”, “could be walkable if you’re not wearing plastic shoes” and “don’t even try it.”

  16. On August 7, 2011 at 8:23 am Renee — ramblecrunch said:

    How about crossing international borders without cash? That’s an bonehead travel error we’ve been doing a lot of recently. Was especially entertaining when we entered Turkey, needed to buy visa, didn’t have euros or lire to pay for them, found out they didn’t take Visa, and discovered out ATM cards weren’t working.

    Great post. Thanks for the laugh.

    • On August 8, 2011 at 4:21 am Sally said:

      Oh my. That sounds like an adventure! I haven’t had that trouble yet as I usually have US dollars on me and, in Asia, that’s usually all you need. But I have made the mistake of miscalculating the valid days on my visa and overstaying it by accident. Not fun.

  17. On August 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm ChinaMatt said:

    I make that “walkable” mistake far too often as well. I kept doing it in Kuala Lumpur because it looked like the monorail station was right next to my destinations, but the entrances were always on the other side. I don’t know what I was thinking on my walk through Montreal–a bike would’ve been a wiser option.

    • On August 8, 2011 at 4:18 am Sally said:

      It’s obvious that maps are leading us astray. I think I’m going to start suing mapmakers. (Well, in my case the mapmaker was myself, but, uh… nevermind.)

  18. On August 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm The Travel Chica said:

    I have been bitten in the ass by number 1 a few times 🙂

  19. On August 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm Lois said:

    We can totally relate to #3 and #5. Chichi and I were in Pai, Thailand and we decided to take a motorbike to Mae Hong Son. 2 girls on motorbikes, what could go wrong? Of course, A LOT. We barely survived a thousand hairpin curves, got lost several times, had to walk through a jungle, almost lost our motorbike and never made it to Mae Hong Son. We had to turn back before night fall because we underestimated the travel time. Lesson learned. Or is it?

    • On August 8, 2011 at 4:14 am Sally said:

      BUT now you have an awesome story to tell, am I right or am I right? I’m sure the story would not have been nearly as interesting if you just took the bus.

  20. On August 7, 2011 at 9:38 pm Miss K said:

    This is hysterical! I’m pretty sure I’ve done all of these, except maybe for the not researching part. I tend to research too much and then bore everyone with obscure facts.

    I do think it’s great that you’re so enthusiastic about having adventures, even if they don’t always work out, though.

    • On August 8, 2011 at 4:13 am Sally said:

      Well, I’m usually enthusiastic about the IDEA of the adventure… not so enthusiastic about the actual adventure. I’m sure if I had gone on that train ride, my enthusiasm would have lasted all of an hour… possibly less if my seat was near a toilet.

  21. On August 7, 2011 at 11:43 pm Life In A Pink Fibro said:

    Love it! I hope you never learn from your mistakes. Think of what we, your reading public, would miss out on.

  22. On August 8, 2011 at 10:36 am enjirux said:

    ha ha – I also tend to draw (not very detailed) maps and then get phenomenally lost – but detours boost the local knowledge, right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself…

    • On August 9, 2011 at 2:21 am Sally said:

      Detours tend to just boost my blister count… but, hey, I’m all about justifying my mistakes. So now I’ll just explain the reason why I’m two hours late is not because I was lost but because I was “getting to know the neighborhood.”

  23. On August 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm choi kum fook said:

    Exactly, learning from mistake,practices make perfect.Honestly, on traveling, these mistakes are quite serious. No choice, you have keep on learning from mistakes, Ha!. Ha!

  24. On August 8, 2011 at 4:35 pm Jen (@jenniferbnixon) said:

    “Reading the news in China is like reading a really detailed list of all the ways that China is planning on killing you.” this just made me burst out laughing in work!! lol! I’ve made every single one of those mistakes too so you’re not alone – will we ever learn? Life probably wouldn’t be as funny if we did!

  25. On August 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm Roy | Cruisesurfingz said:

    Hah. I definitely do 1, 3 & 4. Except with 1 – it is usually walkable but I usually get lost, making it unwalkable.

    • On August 10, 2011 at 4:02 am Sally said:

      Exactly. That’s pretty much my problem too. (Although a few times I have thought it was walkable when it was most definitely not. Like the time I used a bus map in Kyoto… bus maps really do not make for accurate walking maps.)

  26. On August 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm Ayngelina said:

    I hate it when I forget to negotiate the ride although sometimes I have gotten away with just paying them what I knew was right and walking out of the cab.

  27. On August 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm Matt said:

    learned about the negotiating taxis fares thing the hard way. i also found out that some taxis won’t go from some areas to other areas because the fare wouldn’t be high enough. I kinda got trapped in Beijing by htis and had a hard time getting back to the hotel. You live and learn…

  28. On August 10, 2011 at 1:31 am Sailor said:

    I have no sense of direction either. I have a feeling that the earth is round so I can finally reach my destination. Yea good luck with that.

  29. On August 10, 2011 at 6:24 pm Ceri said:

    Totally had a brain fart then. Read “terracotta warriors” as “ricotta warriors” and thought, “Mmmmm, cheese.”

  30. On August 10, 2011 at 7:31 pm Kyle said:

    Hahahaha, number one!!!!! I do that ALL the time! My husband gets so mad because he will sit there and tell me that it’s a mistake I’ve made a million times but I still always want to walk 🙂

    • On August 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm Sally said:

      Judging from the amount of comments I’ve gotten for #1, this seems to be a pretty common problem. See, now you can tell your husband that the walkable thing is totally normal. It’s almost like the human thing to do. In fact, if you don’t say “Hey, let’s walk there; it looks walkable” this might be the sign you’re a robot. Not that I’m saying your husband is a robot… but you might want to check.

  31. On August 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm Ken C. said:

    Travel mistakes? Ha! Those aren’t travel mistakes…they are more like travel “opportunities.”

    Like finding that perfect pair of pants down that narrow alley, or discovering delicious & cheap food at some hole-in-the-wall eatery.

    You are definitely a Rule #5 traveler.

    Remember what they say, “serendipity is just one “hard-seat” Chinese train ride away.” [okay, I just made that up, but you get the gist of it, right?]

  32. On August 11, 2011 at 2:04 am Bárbara said:

    I have a huge problem with portal to other dimensions.. You see, I look at the map and the place that I want to go is really right there but something happens on the way to get to the ‘right there place’ and my theory is that a portal opens in front of me – without I’m aware of it – and keeps me away from my destination. I can see where I wanna go but I can’t reach cause I’m on another dimension! My husband says that this whole thing is simple and I’m just awful on figuring distance. His theory sucks.

    So….. Where did you live here in Brasil??

    • On August 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm Sally said:

      I never thought to blame the portal to other dimensions! I think that must be what my problem was all along. The stupid portal!

      I lived in Manaus. Are you living in Brazil now?

  33. On August 11, 2011 at 3:22 am Scott - Quirky Travel Guy said:

    I’m guilty of misreading maps and thinking I can walk places, too. The worst is when you’re in a place like San Francisco, and not only is your destination much further away than you’d hoped, but also straight uphill. Ouch.

  34. On August 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm Bárbara said:

    Hi, Sally!

    Yes, I live in Brasil, in Campinas/São Paulo. I was born here and love (almost) everything about this country. I never went to Manaus, but I’m planning to visit there next year (also Teresina and Belém). As a cold weather lover, I need a little bit of convincement to go beyond Minas Gerais, but it’s time to know my place! Next month, Maceió. Then, we’ll see…

    I hope you have good memories from Brasil..

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • On August 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm Sally said:

      Brasil was a big adjustment for me when I first got there, but I loved it in the end. It was probably the hardest thing I did, but also probably the best thing I could have done at that point in my life. I would love to go back & see more of the country.

  35. On August 14, 2011 at 3:23 am Alex said:

    I do number five all the time, except with activities involving physical fitness. I’m like, a morning hike up the mountain? Sounds lovely! A mile swim across the ocean? What a refreshing afternoon! And then I get there and start said activity and remember that in fact I hate movement.

    • On August 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm Sally said:

      A MILE long swim? Whoa. I don’t think I’ve ever made that mistake. Mostly because I’m lazy and a crappy swimmer. But I do think I’ve hiked up a few mountains by accident.

      • On August 17, 2011 at 7:35 am Alex said:

        Ha. Yeah it was for charity so I got roped into it that way. But being in motion for 45 minutes straight in the open ocean is just not for me.

  36. On August 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm Kristin said:

    SUCH a great article – the whole non-negotiating fares in taxis gets me every time about the first few days of a trip and then pay the tourist rate vs the “i’m a seasoned traveler and should know better rate.”

    Thanks for sharing all this.

  37. On August 22, 2011 at 7:32 pm Joseph said:

    the sign of a true blogger – if something crappy happens, it will make a great blog story…speaking of which, soon I will write a post on how it went in Italy – not very dramatic, but still 🙂

  38. On August 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm Lauren @ The Mad To Live said:

    You and I should probably avoid traveling together without a 3rd party to smack sense into us. This is me exactly:
    I have absolutely no sense of direction.
    I’m really bad at reading maps.
    I have a tendency to wear stupid shoes.

    … I’ve been called a walking fascist haha. I like to walk EVERYWHERE 😛

  39. On August 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm Carole said:

    My daughter Lauren (the mad to live) has made me suffer with her on number 1 in Buenos Ares and Beijjing. She thinks everything us 10 minutes away. But at least we get to see the interesting little quirks of the city that way.

  40. On September 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm Jay said:

    I ALWAYS make the ‘I can walk it fine’ mistake. Arriving at the train station in Hanoi, I was super-backpacker, not willing to let any taxi driver rip ME off. Then I started walking.It was scorching hot and totally humid (and this was at 8am!), I had my backpack which felt like a ton of bricks, and i walked off the edge of the google map i’d downloaded. I evetually gave in, hailed a taxi and shouted my destination through the rolled down window. I assume the taxi driver saw the map in my hands and thought he was being helpful. He shouted back some very basic directions and sped off, leaving me standing on the curb wondering exactly how incompetent I am that I’d failed to even get ripped off by a taxi correctly. It’s funny now, but at the time I wanted to cry. Never again will I make the “it looks fine on the map” mistake. Until next time I travel.

    Love the blog 🙂

    • On September 2, 2011 at 3:26 am Sally said:

      Omigosh. That IS a funny story… NOW. Of course, it’s always the times that really made you want to cry that always make for the best story… later… MUCH later. 🙂

  41. On September 17, 2011 at 10:05 am fourjandals said:

    If you didn’t make all those mistakes then you wouldn’t have such a great story to tell! Thanks for sharing and making some of our mistakes look better.
    fourjandals recently posted..Photo Roulette Challenge

  42. On September 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm mumun said:

    Dear Sally,

    You see through me like a empty glass just washed and dried with a paper towel. How can you ready me so well? :)) But then again, are all travelers making the same mistake and building the whole industry from it?
    I’m so guilty of #5. I made 2 of my friends go on a hard sleeper in Vietnam for 14 hours or so. Of course, purely to say that we’ve tried the train before. And boy did it hurt! Hahahaha…

  43. On December 12, 2011 at 10:02 am Trvl8dintern said:

    I am one of those people who spend no time in the research part… 🙁

  44. On February 18, 2012 at 5:34 am Lee Trujillo said:

    I’m a bit more cautious about #5. Arriving at the train station in Hanoi, I was super-backpacker, not willing to let any taxi driver rip ME off.

  45. On January 2, 2013 at 3:28 pm Erin said:

    I love your bit about researching in advance. I recently came back from a trip to Italy – I’d read a memoir set on the northern coast, and loved that part of the trip so much more than the rest of the Italy (though I did enjoy the wine…everywhere.)

    I’ve also just started a blog, and am highly anticipating doing ridiculous with the justification of blogging about them later.

    Thanks for the great post!!!
    Erin recently posted..A New Year; Being Yourself and Letting Go of “Shoulds”

  46. On March 10, 2013 at 10:23 am The Nomad said:

    I’m a chronic, “I can walk there”. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes its a disaster. When I lived in Korea and transportation was super convenient we’d jump on a bus to a town we’d heard of without doing research and then try to wing it. There was one time where we were dropped off about a mile away from out destination. We had no idea! Nothing was open we couldn’t even get dinner. But it was fun and figured everything out the next. Thanks for the post!

  47. On June 21, 2013 at 8:21 am James said:

    I have made the “its totally walkable” mistake far far too often. Still gets you nice and fit though!

  48. On March 29, 2014 at 11:17 am Amanda said:

    Oh my gosh! I nearly killed my poor father in Vegas by making him walk from NYNY hotel to Paris! It looked walkable from my hotel window, but it wasn’t (not for a 75 year old man in the summer with a bad hip). Oops! I just wanted to avoid taxi fees, because in Las Vegas sometimes you luck out a get the cool cabbies that know all the back roads to get you there quick. If you get stuck with the guy that takes the main strip, you’re screwed. It’ll take forever and cost a small fortune. I am bit of a research freak, but even I still learn the hard way sometimes. I have some relevant blog posts. Ready. Set. Go. Las Vegas
    Amanda recently posted..Over-packing

    • On March 30, 2014 at 6:03 pm Sally said:

      Ha ha. Yeah, my dad came to visit me in Japan and I made him walk EVERYWHERE. Luckily, he’s fine with walking. In fact, I think I might have gotten that walking gene from him.

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