The things I learnt while travelling that I'll never do again

Monday, 4 May 2015

I have always loved the quote, "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page". Well, if books are knowledge, then the more I've travelled, the wiser I've certainly become... mainly through learning some very tough lessons while on the road.

Like don't end a perfect week of culture with a stay in a tacky resort...


Just picture it. Myself and my best friends from my Masters degree headed off on a girls' holiday not long after graduation. We chose the glorious Spanish capital of Madrid for our fiesta, and we had a week of perfection in every way imaginable: tapas, churros and history, walks through parks and rowing on lakes.


Unfortunately we thought it would be a GREAT idea to round off this holiday with a short stay in Majorca for a bit of partying...which there is nothing wrong with at all, unless you've kinda run out of money by this point, and wind up staying in a substandard 2* hotel (complete with dubious looking hairs on the sheets) in the centre of the not so lovely holiday resort of Santa Ponsa. I'll let you conjure up the image in your own heads of what this place is like, but let's just say this is the best picture from this part of the holiday...because it's too dark to see very much.


We still managed to have lots of fun, because well, we always do. But we kicked ourselves for choosing to few nights at the back end of the trip slinging back Blue Lagoons in Diva Bar rather than cruising the Gran Via.
 

Like book your transport and accommodation in advance...


Back in 2005, during my summer hols at Uni, I made the brave decision to travel to Sri Lanka alone to teach in an orphanage for a few weeks. While I was there, I met an extremely fun girl called Nadia, who was on her gap year and took me under her wing for a while on her travels. As a na├»ve and inexperienced solo traveller, she convinced me that it was totally fine to turn up at a train station, jump on the first train that came along, eventually get off at any destination that happens to take your fancy, and then ask a friendly Tuk-Tuk driver to recommend a hostel for the night. ERROR! 

Cue us clambering onto a ridiculously over-crowded train where there were no seats left, and having to sit in the open doorway while the train built up speed and my life rushed before my eyes.


And then staying in a hostel which had no hot running water, no mosquito nets, no cover on the bed and most certainly no A/C!


But it's experiences like these that add to life's rich tapestry, and although I would never do it again, I would also never take it back.

Like check the expiry date of your passport BEFORE you get to the airport....



This experience however, I would take back in a heartbeat. My mum and I had organised a girls' trip to Venice. We'd been talking about it for weeks and I was incredibly excited. We packed our bags, headed to Heathrow, and queued up at passport control, chatting about the week ahead all the way. At the front of the queue I was told in no uncertain terms that my passport had expired ten days ago and there was no way they could let me travel.

Luckily, my wonderful mum reacted in the way that any wonderful mum would. Sensing how terrible I felt about letting her down, rather than berating me, she quickly arranged a last minute staycation. Luckily, we are finally able to look back on this 'incident' and laugh, and we're still talking about making the trip to Venice together one day...
 

Like take bad TripAdvisor reviews seriously...


The last girls holiday I went on was with my Essex crew to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Before we departed, I'd read some rather dodgy reviews about the brand new five star resort we'd booked ourselves into, but chose to ignore them, putting them down to 'teething problems'.

Five nights of severe food poisoning later, which culminated in one of my friends being put on a drip in our hotel room by the resident doctor, and we were berating ourselves for not taking the reviews more seriously. A question I only asked myself later was what kind of hotel requires a resident doctor anyway?!

This photo captures us at our happiest (and least green!) of the entire holiday.
 

 

And NEVER get into an unmarked taxi with a guy who speaks very little English...


Later in the same holiday when we were feeling well enough to peel ourselves from our sick beds, we headed out into the town for dinner and drinks. The taxi driver that dropped us off promised in broken English that he'd return at an agreed time to pick us up again. Having had our first night 'out' of the holiday, we were in good spirits as we met him to return to the hotel. However, as we were driving along, he suddenly veered off the road onto a dirt track started driving into the desert. We asked him where he was going, and when he didn't answer, we eventually screamed at him to turn the car around. Ten minutes later, after we'd convinced we were being kidnapped and taken off into the desert for God knows what purposes, and I was frantically plotting our escape strategy, we realised that the driver was, in actual fact, just taking us on a short-cut back to the hotel, but simply couldn't find the words to explain himself.

Save yourself a heart attack and stick to marked taxis ladies, and make sure both the driver and yourselves understand each other fully before you set off!

These are just a handful of my travel-related dramas which have taught me important lessons about what not to do in the future. I'm posting this as part of the travel link up with Emma, Kelly, Rebecca and their guest host Shikha and the topic is 'Things You'd Never Do Again.'

Are there any nail biting experiences that you have experienced while travelling that have led you to think "never again!!!"?

25 comments:

  1. The passport one I dread - I would have balled my eyes out! I hear you on trip advisor - whilst lots of the reviews are probably made up and aren't fair, we always have a look and with pinch of salt taken often they keep us away from near disaster!

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    1. That one was probably my worst experience - at least with all the others we could just keep our chins up and get on with things, but when an entire trip has to be cancelled because of you, it's pretty depressing! Very wise TA strategy Mrs P!

      Polly xx

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  2. Well, you know now that I've done the first one and I'd never ever do it again. But it was the passport one I really felt for you on! It's never happened to me but when we went to Miami, I didn't realise my Esta was still in my maiden name cue a heart-stopping half an hour waiting for a new one to go through! It was all ok in the end though.
    Lots of love,
    Angie
    SilverSpoon London

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    1. Yup! I thought you might be able to relate to that one! Ahhhh that Esta issue must have been so stressful! Thank goodness it all worked out in the end - can you imagine if you had to turn around and go home again?! Doesn't bear thinking about.

      Polly xx

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  3. Hahaha, that taxi story had me in stitches! I am that person all over, I start panicking but I do it in a really overly-polite British way...such a way that if I was being kidnapped I probably wouldn't get out of it 'just in case they're not kidnapping me and I hurt their feelings'.

    C x | Lux Life

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    1. Hahahahaha! Catherine, that's hilarious - I'm EXACTLY the same! #verybritishproblems.

      Polly xx

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  4. I'm guilty of the passport expiry one too! Looking back, all these experiences sound hilarious but I can imagine how awful they were at the time. I've travelled with ex-boyfriends who wouldn't book hotels in advance, then we've spent half a day looking for accommodation!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

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    1. Yes I remember you saying about your passport disaster in luxtravelchat! You live and learn hey?! That does not sound fun - when you have a limited time away, you want to spend every second you can enjoying it! Thank goodness that the internet is so helpful for booking accommodation these days.

      Polly xx

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  5. I would have been so terrified in that taxi! At least there was a group of you. So funny looking back at travel mistakes, I'm hoping I have learnt from at least some of mine.

    Ash | Liakada Travel

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    1. It was up there in my top 3 scariest moments of my life - which is hilarious when you consider how it actually turned out! I think you learn all the time when you're travelling, even when you don't know it!

      Polly xx

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  6. Oh Polly, I'd have been so upset if the passport one happened to me but so sweet of your mum to arrange a staycation instead ☺ And I pretty much rely on TA for everything - there are certain things I just ignore, the ones that go along the lines of "the waiter took too long to bring my fruit skewer to my sun lounger" (!!)but hair ton pillows, dirty toilets, bed bugs, food poisoning etc I'm reviews totally puts me off! And agreed on the resident Dr thing - how many people are falling ill there I wonder for them to consider it cost effective to have a Dr there permanently?!

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    1. I cried...a LOT! She's a bit of a legend, my mum. I don't know how I would have coped in that situation without her there! Haha, laughed at your stock TA review. These are all too common!! But it can be useful if you have a spare 3 hours to scroll through everything. And absolutely about the Dr thing! I've never seen it before and thank goodness I haven't seen it since.

      Polly xx

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  7. I think you have to take the courage cake of this linkup - some of those situations could have been awful. Thank goodness they weren't!

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    1. That is absolutely right Emma, I think I had a few lucky escapes and I'm pleased I can laugh about it all now!

      Polly xx

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  8. If that passport thing happened to me, I won't ever forgive myself. Lol.
    I don't trust Tripadvisor bad reviews that much specially since some people are just very hard to please. But if something is repetitive, then that's the only time I'd consider it. :p

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    1. Haha, I am still working on forgiving myself (mainly because it also implicated my poor mum!). That's so true about TA, and the types of people who are more likely to post a review are definitely of the fussier variety!

      Polly xx

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  9. OH. MY. GOD. You've listed every single one of my worst nightmares - I can't believe you've actually experienced them! Somehow, I think you are a MUCH better sport at dealing with these situations than me ... I get unreasonably grumpy/angry when confronted with similar scenarios. Well done you for being brave! xx

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    1. Hahaa! I don't think I was. I neglected to mention all of the f-ing and blinding and cursing the world that accompanied all of these experiences! But thank you Jaime, I got through it all in one piece I spose, and that's the main thing!

      Polly xx

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  10. Yikes! Some horror stories there - glad you survived to tell the tale :) I definitely would have freaked out in the taxi situation!

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    1. Thanks Jessi :-) That taxi story still freaks me out just thinking about it!!

      Polly xx

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  11. I'm always slightly worried when I take a taxi and there's a language barrier and I definitely would have been freaking out so much in that taxi situation! Myself and a friend were picked up by a driver in St Petersburg who tried to convince us we should stay at a hotel that his friend owned instead of the one we booked, for a while there I was convinced he was going to take us somewhere strange but thankfully we arrived at our hotel without incident.

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    1. Why do taxi drivers do that?!!! Obviously if you've asked him to drop you off at a hotel then you're already pretty sold on staying there!! Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate it when taxi drivers are friendly and helpful, but pushiness is not fun. Pleased you got to where you wanted to go though!

      Polly xx

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  12. Ok, some freaky stories here girl, but you sure have lived! x

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    1. Just need to kiss the Blarney Stone now and my life will be complete.

      Polly xx

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