Travel Principle #2: Your expectations are almost always incorrect

Sometimes you have to change your expectations for your trip. Very few places in the world are uncharted today. In fact most places can be found to have thousands of hits by search engines. This leaves us with a wealth of information from which to plan our next adventure. But it also leaves us with the task of setting and managing our expectations for what a destination or experience might be upon our arrival.

If you can accept that your trip will be unique because it is YOUR trip then whatever expectations you had for it will be achieved. You simply have to go.

This too seems self-explanatory. But really, it is almost impossible to build a plan for future travels that will turn out the way you want it. We all look at the photos that our friends or other people post about a certain place and we think, yep my trip there is going to be AMAZING!

And it will be!

Your Trip Will Be Different, By Default

It just won’t be the same as their trip (reference Travel Principle #1).

  • They might have gone in summer. You’ll be there in fall.
  • There might have been sunny skies. You’ll get the rainy season.
  • A local friend might have taken them off the tourist route. You’re taking a travel guidebook and have no local connections.

You can’t look at someone else’s photos and expect to take the same. It just won’t happen.

Sometimes You Get Lucky

OK, it will happen – sometimes. I have an iconic photo of Machu Picchu, just like nearly everyone else who has been through Cusco. I have a photo of the Eiffel Tower just like nearly everyone else who has been to Paris.

But my photos, while they might look the way you would expect them to look under similar circumstances of everyone else who planned the same photo on the same sort of trip, were entirely different.

I was the first person to enter Machu Picchu the day I visited. It was cold and rainy and most tourists stayed away because the clouds ruined all visibility and the rain was all but unbearable. But I stayed until I was the last person to leave and, upon looking back, the clouds lifted just long enough for me to take the photo.

I couldn’t have planned it that way. It just happened. But if you compare my photo to any other you would have thought that my visit to Machu Picchu met my expectations of what it should be.

It didn’t. In fact this trip to Machu Picchu was my second attempt, two months separated from the first, because I had not planned well enough. And even on the second trip, I had not accounted for the rainy season.

There was a backstory that made my expectations so much different from the reality of the experience.

Your Perspective Makes Your Trip Unique

Like in Paris, beneath the Eiffel Tower. I took several photos that I thought were pretty par for the course. As one of a few hundred tourists in the area snapping photos left and right, I wanted to have an iconic shot to show that I was there.

But my best photo was the one I accidentally took. I was using my camera to try and find the person with whom I had arrived in Paris the day before. I had left Luxembourg on a train and had befriended an Australian over a bottle of wine. We were both intrigued by Paris and became fast friends.

In the course of our wandering I ended up holding both of our cash and he ended up holding our passports. (I don’t remember how this transaction actually took place!). So while he was taking an elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower I was snapping iconic photos from below. Then a moment of panic overwhelmed me as I realized I was without the most important item for international travel!

I spent the next hour running around trying to explain my situation to local police. They all shrugged, either not comprehending or not caring. And I was left alone with my camera to pan the tower above. My lens helped me to see whether this new “friend” of mine was still up in the tower.

Your Experiences Always Trumps Your Expectations

In the end, I had a beautiful photo of the Eiffel Tower. But it failed to meet my planning expectations because I could never have planned the experience to take place the way it did.

The expectations you set for your journey will almost always turn out unfulfilled. This is especially true if you hold them to the standard you have for the way other people’s journeys turned out. But try to set your expectations with the anticipation that something will happen along the way. This will change the course of your journey. Then you will find the journey itself surpasses any expectations you placed on it in the planning. Plan wisely, but enjoy the detours that follow failed expectations!


Other Categories

Helping People

We like to say that we “Travel With Purpose.” That’s a fancy way of saying that we look for any and every opportunity to help people wherever we go! This has taken the form of a variety of experiences and we’re sharing these stories to inspire you to help others as you wander the world!

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Enjoy her photo essays below as we continue our journey to explore the world!


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Alaska is truly the Last Frontier! If you own a truck camper or RV, let these resources help you plan your dream trip to Alaska!

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