The 3 biggest mistakes even seasoned travellers make

The 3 biggest mistakes even seasoned travellers make

Avoid these mistakes even seasoned travellers make…

Becoming nomadic means you have a wonderful opportunity to explore – and learn more about the world, near and far. You can experience a different way of living each day.

But even if you’re used to travelling, you may still be making these three mistakes. They can stop you from making the most of wherever you are.

Mistake #1: Hanging out with other travellers all the time

I remember travelling through Malaysia back in 2000 and stopping at a tiny roadside stall for something to eat.

Street food and roadside stalls are some of my favourite places. The food is freshly cooked and is usually ‘real’ local food, delicious and very low cost.

At the little roadside stall there were some other travellers, including two other people from my home country. I found myself chatting with them and we shared a little ramshackle table by the road. Familiarity and finding someone who shares our own background and culture can be nice from time to time. They ‘get’ us – and we can share insights, tips and ideas with each other that automatically resonate.

But if we do that all the time it can be such a wasted opportunity.

There were all sorts of people at that roadside stall, and I could also have had a wonderful conversation with someone from outside my own familiar world – even if the language was going to be tricky. It would also have been so much fun trying to communicate.

Two food cart owners in MauritiusFast forward many years and I had the chance to explore the island of Mauritius on my way from Australia to Europe. It was a rainy Sunday, and there was very little open in the way of food outlets in the town where I found myself. But there was a single rickety food cart being run by a couple of local men (main picture and side picture).

At first glance it looked as though there was nothing on the cart, but then I realised they had a big pot of hot soup! It was lovely – and such an interesting and unexpected lunch.

It’s not always easy to engage people in conversation – and if you’re female and travelling solo that can bring its own challenges in some places. So if it does feel safer or easier to chat with other travellers from time to time, make a point of talking with travellers who are not the same as you.

I remember being in New Zealand one snowy winter. I met a Thai woman who was exploring the country for the first time. She’d never seen snow before, and it was magical seeing that strange icy white stuff through her eyes – and being her partner in her first snowball fight.

So hanging out with other travellers all the time is the first mistakes even seasoned travellers make. Now let’s look at #2…

Mistake #2: Carrying too much stuff

I remember when I was at school and I went on my first school exchange trip to France. Admittedly this was quite some time ago(!), but I remember being warned to take everything with me that I might need during my trip, as often you ‘couldn’t get stuff abroad’.

However, when I got to France, I noticed that it seemed pretty well-equipped with most things – so, to me, the advice we’d been given seemed strange.

Anywhere in the world where people live, the chances are you can find what you need, even if it’s not exactly what you might use in your home country. And much of the time you just won’t need as much stuff as you think you will.

I’m travelling at the moment – for a month – and I have packed enough clothes for only a few days. I’m house sitting, and so I know I can always wash my clothes. What’s more, I love exploring thrift stores/op shops/charity shops. Not only is it a great way to recycle, but it means you can travel really light – and just keep recycling.

Also, it’s amazing what you can find: I once found a beautiful Ralph Lauren cocktail dress in a charity shop in the UK for just few pounds.

This article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper highlights the damage that buying brand new clothes does to the environment.

When it comes to toiletries, avoid carrying big bottles or pots of lotions and potions. The amounts you will actually use are likely to be really small. If you really need to buy a big bottle of something while you’re travelling, simply use it to top up a tiny travel bottle and then give the rest away.

Having too much ‘stuff’ can really slow you down – not to mention the cost of having to check in your luggage if you’re flying.

Having minimal stuff, on the other hand, is liberating.

Now let’s look at the third mistake even seasoned travellers make…

Mistake #3: Getting everything done before you travel

This might sound like a strange thing to avoid – after all, isn’t it better to be ready and prepared before you go somewhere new? Well, no – not necessarily.

As I mentioned in mistake #2, wherever people live, you will also likely find the things/services you need. Not only is that handy, but it also gives you a wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with local people wherever you are.

Let’s take the example of a hairdresser or barber. I remember my first visit to Montréal, Québec. I’d been so busy I hadn’t had a chance to get a much-needed hair cut before travelling. It was a blessing in disguise, though, as I found a lovely local hairdresser. Not only did she do a great job with my hair, but I was also able to practice my French and ask her lots of questions about the local area. It was a lot of fun and it left me armed with all sorts of ideas for exploring some of the more unusual places where I was staying.

Going to a barbers shop in some countries can also be a wonderful experience (so I’m told) – for example, a traditional Turkish shave with a real cut-throat razor and naked flame is pretty memorable.

So break the rules – and you’ll avoid the mistakes even seasoned travellers make

Be unprepared, take only minimal stuff and find local people to chat with at every turn. It will make your experience infinitely richer – and by engaging more with local people we also increase our understanding of the place we’re in.

Do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment below.


  1. Oliver 2 years ago

    I totally agree. Those mentioned mistakes are the most common mistakes. I had to learn it by myself while I was temporarily living abroad , for example in parts of Africa.

    • Author
      Angela Sherman 2 years ago

      Thanks Oliver – good to hear they resonate with you. I imagine you have some good tips of your own too.

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