Everybody makes mistakes when they travel – especially first time or newbie travellers like myself. A lot of different sites mention things like over-packing, or squeezing too much to do into too little time. But these are what I feel, are MY three biggest mistakes so far.
1. Packing too much.
So ahh yeah – I agree with the rest of the internet, over-packing is very easy to do and no matter how well you think you’ve packed, you always pack too much. For me, it was the clothes. Six months down the track and I’ve worn only about half of what I initially packed. I knew it was going to be hard from the start; trying to plan for arriving in Spain in the peak of summer – as well as planning for being in Scotland in winter. It was tough. I always planned on buying boots and a big jacket once we were in the UK; but I should have just not brought any winter stuff and bought it all here once we arrived. On the other hand, I was lucky to find a hostel with a clothes donation rack a few months back so I could offload a few things from the summer department. From now on when I travel, I’m going to decide on what clothes to bring based on the first destination – half it. And then halve it again.
Another thing I over-packed on was Go Pro accessories. This little obsession of mine could place me in the category of “all the gear and no idea”. Yes I have a go pro, and yes I felt the need to buy almost every single little addition and spare part you could think of, but no – I don’t know what most of them are for or how they work. So when it came time to packing I looked at all the accessories and instead of being smart and saying “Alicia, if you don’t know what it is, don’t bring it” – I said “I don’t know what it is, so I SHOULD bring it! Just in case.” And the best part – none of it fit in my bag so Luke had to pack it in his bag. That should have been the first sign that I had packed too much.
And don’t even get me started on the sleeping bag I’ve been carrying around.
Yep. Awesome packing Alicia. Well done. Zero points to Gryffindor.
So this one is a bit broad but in truth, Lagos as a whole was a mistake for us. A very good mistake though because it taught us a lot about travelling.
So waaaaay back in July, while we were in the beautiful, sunny (and very VERY hot) city of Granada, we decided our first stop in Portugal would be the beautiful beachside city of Lagos. We had one more stop along the way (Seville), but it wouldn’t be long until the three of us were on the beach, relaxing, drink in hand – and after days of walking around in sweltering 40+ degree heat, we couldn’t be looking forward to it more.
I’ll start with the hostel — I ummed and ahhed for ages about mentioning this place by name but Luke reminded me that if I was going to be negative……. I probably shouldn’t. Fair call – what I’m going to say will be pretty harsh, even if it is in dot point form:
- They didn’t accept bank cards, payment was cash only (which is fine except we didn’t have enough to pay in full and had to find an ATM).
- It smelt like poo
- The beds were old and creaky – and the top bunk we were allocated had a very suspicious looking stain on the sheets.
- It was incredibly noisy where we were (especially late at night)
- The girls bathroom was horrible (I ended up showering in the male bathroom)
- The fan in our room didn’t work so it was hot as balls
- The lockers weren’t great and we discovered the keys worked on all of them.
- Because of the stain, Luke and I ended sharing the bottom single bunk – and in the heat, plus with all the noise, we hardly got any sleep at all.
- The toilet closest to our room got blocked at some point so it smelt like poo more and more throughout our time there
- There was no vibe at this place – at all.
- And the worst part; once we actually decided to leave and check out early they wouldn’t give us our money back – so we paid for 3 nights that we weren’t actually there.
When we first arrived and checked-in (before Lagos broke us and we decided to leave early) we kind of laughed it off and thought “Oh well – this is backpacking. We were bound to end up in a shitty hostel sooner or later. At least we can escape to the beach”. Weren’t we in for a surprise.
The beach was crowded. SO OVERCROWDED. There were tourists everywhere. LITERALLY EVERYWHERE. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t find anywhere (where it wasn’t weirdly uncomfortable) to sit. I awkwardly perched myself on a rock and guarded our belongings while Luke and Chris went down and put their feet in the water. Everyone was super territorial of their space so we ended up walking about half an hour down the road to try and find somewhere less crowded. We eventually found what would still be considered a crowded beach, but at least there was sitting room. I don’t think we thought the beaches were going to be empty, but it was definitely not what we expected. The beautiful white sandy relaxing beach we had been picturing for days was not what we found.
The worst part about Lagos for me though was the main demographic of people – young drunk idiots. It was as if the whole town was just one big party and almost everyone around us was there to drink until they threw up, and then take some drugs. And then do it all again the next day. And to top it off, most of the tourists were Australian (now, I’m not saying I hate Australians – but it made it feel like I was back at home on a bad night out). We were offered “hashish, cocaine, marijuana” so many times by locals, it got to the point of annoying. It wasn’t fun. It was a chore. We didn’t want to party – well not too that extent anyway. We wanted relaxing – and that crowd definitely wasn’t relaxed.
I’m reading this back and it sounds like a whole lot of whinging, but this is just my opinion and my point of view. A lot of people go to Lagos and love it – saying they had the best time and met the best people. “Go on a booze cruise and then rent some kayaks” – was what most people suggested before we got there. But it just wasn’t for me. I feel like it was a combination of things which made us all feel the same way about this place. It wasn’t just one of us, but all three of us decided to leave the next day and head to Lisbon – we hadn’t even been there for a full 24 hours.
Having said that though, I didn’t hate Lagos, I actually love that we went there and had such a bad time. It’s taught me to not have such high expectations for a place – because there is always something that can disappoint you. It’s also taught me that no matter how shit a situation may feel, it’s not hard to find your way out of it. And it’s also fun finding the beauty in a bad experience as well; although I didn’t have the best time at the beach, the cliffs were absolutely stunning – really something you need to see. And we ate the most awesome fish and chips at this place called Ol’ Bastards (run by Australians obvs). #weareeverywhere
And for my last and most recent mistake:
3. Thinking finding a job and place to live in Edinburgh was going to be easy
(I’ll try to keep this short seeing as I overwrote about Lagos).
So when we first arrived in November my plan was to have found a place to live before the end of the week. I gave myself three days and I was determined. I wrote to letting agents, I called different places, and I wrote to every good looking available place listed on Gumtree. Nothing – after three days we had nothing and we left the security of our Airbnb not knowing where we going to sleep that night. All of that disappointment and negative thinking that had slowly been building over the three days finally caught me and I decided I was a failure. If I couldn’t find somewhere for us to live – even though we had more than enough to pay for somewhere upfront and in-full; then why would anyone want to give me (a failure) a job and pay me wages. That put me in a good mindset. I had lost my spirit, and I didn’t want to do anything anymore. Every single little decision (like what to eat for the next meal) was making me anxious and we were stuck in a serious rut. We realised all we were doing was stressing out and wasting our time overseas. We had been in Edinburgh for almost a week now and all we had seen was the inside of our Airbnb, the drive from Comely Bank to the caravan park, and the caravan park. We ended up deciding the best thing to do was ignore the whole situation. Well just for a couple of days anyway. We checked into a hostel in the centre of Old Town for a few days and tried to “travel” again and be tourists. This really helped actually.
Seeing the beautiful city of Edinburgh and enjoying life again really helped us refresh our minds and get into the job and house hunt again. We were recharged and better at making decisions. We ended up deciding it would be easier to find a place to live first – and then focus on jobs (as we found a lot of places ask for your address as part of their recruitment process). I guess we’re lucky in the way that we had the luxury to be able to pay for accommodation upfront for a couple of months. That way we would be able to focus on finding jobs and then once we had employment we could look for a more suitable place to live – instead of just whatever was available at the time (which I can assure you, around Hogmany, is literally slim pickings).
So there you have it – my three biggest mistakes and what I’ve learnt from them.
- Don’t pack too much, you can always buy want you need.
- Even if you end up somewhere you don’t like, it’s still an adventure
- Don’t be a naïve muppet, and if times get tough, ignore it and things will eventually work out once you stop worrying.
What’s your biggest travel mistake? And how did you overcome it?