Whether your going on a six month backpacking adventure, or a three day girly weekend, you can’t help but set expectations of your trip. You research the area, you plan your route and all your activities, and you no doubt day dream about all the fun you’ll have…
I thought I’d just touch on this subject because I mentioned in my last Backpacker Life post (3 things you must acknowledge before you go travelling) that you can’t always plan your trip, and I think Travel expectations falls under this category. I have found that it is best not to have too many expectations and too many carefully made plans when you go travelling, but instead just go with the flow.
Whilst I advise researching the culture, language and basic ‘need-to-knows’ of the area, sometimes it’s best to just turn up with no expectations and be blown away. Our first destination in Asia was Beijing, and I had researched this city solidly. Most of the bars and restaurants we went to had been pre-planned and obviously all the temples had been on our itinerary. Of course I was amazed by the city, it’s wonders and it’s culture, I had an amazing time, I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was. But it was all expected, all planned. We made a few changes along the way, sure, but looking back we weren’t spontaneous enough in Beijing.
However, when we headed to Vietnam, I literally knew nothing about the place. I was looking forward to it, but I wasn’t exactly peeing my pants in excitement, in fact I was pretty bummed to be leaving Laos. I knew nothing about Vietnam; I assumed I would have plenty of time to research it whilst I was travelling through Thailand, but I never got round to it (too much partying me thinks). So when I turned up in the Northern city of Ha Noi with no clue what to expect … Wow … Mind. Officially. Blown.
There was so much hustle and bustle, soooooo many people, and I’ve never seen so many bikes; I didn’t even know how to cross the road properly. It was scary, exciting, fun, just amazing! At night there was so much noise surrounding us, the streets filled with backpackers exploring, locals selling food, and so many children out and about. Yet during the day couples and families sat by the lake and it almost seemed calm and romantic. To others it may not have been their cup of tea, but for me not knowing what to expect left me falling head over heels in love with this city. The whole country in fact. I’d never even tried Vietnamese food before and oh my gosh, I became obsessed with it straight away. I assumed most Asian foods were the same, but I think Vietnamese food stands out from them all.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I really didn’t know much about the Vietnam war prior to my visit. But going to Vietnam and visiting the tunnels, the museums and learning all about it was incredible, something I never thought I’d find interesting or expected to happen.
Rather than have a strict schedule or itinerary, each new Vietnamese city or town we visited, we would just walk around with no clue where we were going, often stumbling upon bars, cafés, or cute little shops that we didn’t intend to find, but are so glad we did. Obviously we still went to important sights and recommended places, but not nearly as much as we did when we started out backpacking back in Beijing.
It’s great to have some expectations and plans, but I say be spontaneous, see where your travels take you, keep an open mind and just go with the flow.