If I Could Turn Back Time: My Top 5 Travel Regrets

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I regret traveling around the world;
I wish I’d stayed home instead…”
said no one ever.
   Simon, the Kiwi as bloke from Man Versus World, started his post with that line that could very well have been on a Tui billboard (a popular kiwi ad for beer). He got us all thinking about the things we might change, and sharing them with others so in hopes that they don’t make the same mistakes. That’s what it’s all about, right? Sharing your experiences so others can learn from them.
   Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds wrote his this week, and kindly tagged me to share mine next. As I read both his and Bethany’s from Flashpacker Family, I noticed a theme. The majority of the ‘regrets’ are the things that weren’t done.
I share the same regret mentality, in that more often than not, I regret the things that I DON’T do, more than the silly things that I might’ve done, which maybe I shouldn’t.  Sure I’ve made a few mistakes and had come across some sticky situations, but I don’t regret any of those because they’ve helped me to become who I am today. I don’t dwell on them; instead I just carry on and take the lesson.
Now that I’m aware of my regret mentality, you better believe I make a conscious effort not to let opportunities pass me by!
travel regrets
If I could go back and do it over, these are the top 5 travel regrets I might do a bit differently:

Thailand, 2012: Telling the flight attendant I had food poisoning before take off from Thailand

   I could have kept my big fat mouth closed. I could have just waited quietly in line for the toilet. I could have taken a sleeping tablet and hoped for the best. Coulda, shoulda, woulda; as much as I ‘regret’ the way I handled the situation, at the end of the day it was a silly mistake which taught me some very valuable lessons.  Dramatic as it was at the time, it does make for yet another ridiculous travel story. If you read my birthday post, you’d know this isn’t the first bout of bad luck I’ve had, and I’m willing to bet it won’t be the last. I’m okay with that though.

Honduras, 2008: Not learning more Spanish before or while traveling

    I was only in Honduras for a very short amount of time in May 2008 (about 2-3 weeks, volunteering at a State childcare facility). I travelled with a friend almost immediately after we finished our degrees, leaving straight from university. Neither of us had any experience with Spanish prior.
The volunteer programme we’d signed up and paid for claimed to offer 2 days of Spanish lessons prior to being sent to the day care.  I was less than impressed with the Spanish lessons we received, as most of it was verb conjugations throw at us.  What we really needed an intensive conversational lesson!  To top that off, there were 2 other girls volunteering with us at the time, and they happened to speak fairly fluent Spanish. It was much easier to rely on them to ask for directions and deal with hostel staff in Spanish, but it didn’t teach me much.
Before leaving Honduras, I vowed to learn Spanish and return to central/south America to backpack through like the intrepid travellers we’d met along the way were doing.  It is still on my Life To Do List.
With my dodgey Spanish, I learned that ‘talapia entrada’
means the whole fish… literally!

Honduras, 2008: Not exploring and seeing more while I was there

Given the language barrier, this put up a few psychological roadblocks, and I wasn’t so confident to just ditch my friends and head off on my own. We’d made plans to go to the Copan Ruins, but didn’t end up following through, and went back to Tegucigalpa, the major city, for the weekend with the aforementioned Spanish-speaking girls. I wasn’t as much of a go-my-own-way girl at 22. Don’t worry, I have since changed those ways too.

New Zealand, 2010: Not going home when I had the chance, because of my job

   In my first year of teaching, I was up to my eyeballs in paper work and quite frankly shocked by the amount of attention my classroom demanded of me. Early on in the year, about February or March maybe, I vividly remember speaking to my  grandparents on the phone after my Grandad was hospitalized due to pneumonia. We exchanged stories, as I’d had the same just a few months before in Dunedin.

In August, he diagnosed with lung cancer. Being half the world away was extremely difficult for me.

By late October, Grandad wasn’t doing well and by some stroke of luck, Air New Zealand’s discount  site Grab-A-Seat offered a return ticket flight from Auckland to Vancouver for $999! Being the ever-so-obedient beginning teacher, I consulted the principal and told her the dates (as Grab a Seat offers very specific set dates). These dates happened to coincide with the Education Review Office’s visit, and the principal said I needed to be at school prior to and during their visit.

   I begrudgingly obliged, but there was a faint change of heart and it was all go ahead it was crucial for me.  Except that the Grab a Seat deal was gone by the time I woke up in the morning to book it. That was a rollercoaster of emotions in itself…
   My Grandad passed away a month later, 3 days after Christmas.  My parents and sister were visiting for Christmas, and we were together when we got the news. I learned a very valuable lesson from that ordeal; regardless of the distance, I will never put my job before my family ever again, or let anyone make me think that I ought to.
I did return home for the funeral, which turned out to be so important to me and I’m really glad I could be there for that, with my family.

Hanging out with my grandad post university graduation
in June 2008

The only other time I have EVER seen tickets from Auckland to Vancouver on sale, was this past October, and you can bet your bottom dollar I booked those tickets ASAP for our Great Canadian Roadtrip in May!

New Zealand, 2009-2011: Not setting up a travel blog when I actually started traveling/being an expat 4 years ago!

This is probably my biggest regret, as so many stories and memories have gone untold. Better late than never though, I suppose. I’ve fixed that all up, and I’m getting ready to migrate over to my very own .com very shortly to document and share all future adventures.
Look out!
Now here’s the fun part – I get to nominate 5 more awesome bloggers to share their regrets or things they wish they’d done differently. Think hard, give us your best!And go!

Melissa from The Mellyboo Project
Beverley from Pack Your Passport
Toni from Reclaiming My Future
Erik from On My Feet or In My Mind
Ryan from Just Chuckin’ It

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{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Kerri Ware December 18, 2012, 12:13 pm

    I went travelling with my then boyfriend back in 2008. We hadn’t been together THAT long so although I had a truly amazing, life changing time, I wish I had waited a bit longer before spending 24 hours a day with someone for 6 months that I didn’t know as well as I thought I did! Still, its all good, had an amazing time still and it opened my eyes to the world of travel :-)

    • Kate Clarke December 18, 2012, 7:37 pm

      All part of the experience, aye! They always say “hindsight is 20/20″

  • Andy Andersen December 18, 2012, 7:26 pm

    Kate, what you say is so true. We always regret what we don’t do, but we cannot be perfect. It is a difficult lesson to stomach, but even through mistakes or regrets, we just have to keep on moving forward. Every decision that we make has consequences, both good and bad. I suppose we must just learn from our choices and move forward in the hopes of making them in the future. I enjoyed reading your post! Thanks

    • Kate Clarke December 18, 2012, 7:34 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Andy, I’m glad you enjoyed reading :) I think being aware of it is a big thing, considering whether I’ll look back and wish that I had done it plays a part in my decisions to do or pass up, among other things. But learning from past experiences is all you can do… nothing worse than making the same mistake over and over again.

  • Bethaney - Flashpacker Family December 21, 2012, 11:52 am

    Not having a blog for all my previous travels is one of my big regrets too. I’ve got years and years worth of great material just gathering dust in my head.

    I just read your story about getting offloaded in Bangkok. That must had sucked!!! I will definitely learn to keep my mouth shut when it comes to things like these. I’m sure all the extra stress of sorting insurance, finding new flights etc was more annoying than if you’d just suffered through your dodgy tummy on the plane!!!
    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted..Five of the Best Beaches in Hong KongMy Profile

  • jun April 8, 2013, 7:34 am

    i agree, being able to speak the local language (or at least some) would be so much easier getting around the country. And well i regretted not starting a blog long ago too, but hah better late than never right?!

    • Kate April 12, 2013, 7:59 am

      Definitely, Jun! Can’t change the past, so working on the future :)


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