Monday, 12 January 2015

5 travel mistakes I'm glad I made

Leaving Russia turned out to be easier said than done. (Photo: Rebecca Lyons)

To say I am glad I made the following mistakes is possibly an overstatement, as at the time I was probably seething, but each one has taught me a lesson and has shaped the way I travel now. It is therefore fair to say that I'm glad I made these mistakes when I did, as if I hadn't, I would probably make them at some point in the future.

Mistakes are a vital part of travelling, and although we all try and avoid them, especially the serious ones, they help the learning process, which is what travel is all about. They also make life more interesting, so I would encourage you to embrace such misfortunes and move on, taking the appropriate lessons with you.

Missing the train in St Petersburg

After a wonderful time in St Petersburg it was time to leave and my companion and I set off for the train station. This is the same train station where we had looked at the schedules and booked our tickets, but despite giving ourselves plenty of time, we struck a problem - nowhere on the departure boards was our train listed. It took us a while to realise that St Petersburg had more than one train station and we were not leaving from this one.

We jumped in a taxi and raced across town, but it was too late. Our train had already left. We returned to the hostel where we had been staying, somewhat red-faced and rejoined the group of friends we had made, before departing for Latvia the following day.

Sleeping in a bed bug infested bed in Tarifa

Bed bugs are horrible little blighters and once you have them, they can be difficult to get rid of. There are tell tale signs, however, such as blood spots on sheets or the bugs themselves along mattress seams. These days I give my sleeping area a good look over before getting in, but safe to say I didn't do this at the hostel I stayed at in Tarifa a few years ago. I only knew there was an infestation when I woke up with itchy red bites. The room had to be fumigated and disinfected, while I got a free drink out of it, but it was a pretty unpleasant experience.

A hat and covered shoulders are essential in Malaysia's hot sun

Getting sunburnt in Penang

It is very easy to underestimate how strong the sun is when you first arrive in a place, especially if you haven't worked out your plans for the day. This is exactly what happened to me in Penang. I set about exploring Georgetown without a hat or anything to cover my shoulders, thinking that because I was in the city I would be indoors a lot of the time. I ended up walking the streets a lot to get my bearings and despite lathering on the sun lotion, got pretty burnt.

This was a very stupid mistake and one I shouldn't have made. Consequently I bought a hat and always ensured I had a thin top with me to cover my shoulders for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately I also sported a vivid scarlet farmer's tan long after I returned home - ouch.

Running out of money in Spain

Not budgeting properly and spending the entire 36-hour ferry trip from Bilbao to Portsmouth eating cheese sandwiches and hiding in my cabin is a mistake I would probably make again in all honesty. After all, I'm glad I spent the money on pintxos in San Sebastian than on the unexciting food on the ferry. It would have been nice to have been able to afford a drink though!

Booking a flight to Berlin when I was ill

This final mistake was particularly silly, as I broke the golden rule of travel - listen to your gut. I was supposedly over my illness, but knew deep down I still wasn't right. It may have been wishful thinking, but I booked a flight to Berlin for December 2014. Just weeks after securing the flights I had emergency surgery and had to cancel the trip. I seem destined not to go to Germany, but am determined to make it my mission this year.

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