I’ve been traveling for enough years now that I have accumulated my share of “travel regrets.” Nothing that I cry myself to sleep over every night, but things that if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would do differently the second time around.
On my first ever international trip to Queretaro, Mexico in 2001, I went on a day trip with my group to the neighboring city of San Miguel de Allende. It was there that I came across a beautiful pottery piece that had painted on it the words “mi casa es su casa.” In case you’re not a Spanish speaker, that means “my house is your house.” A decade later I don’t know why exactly I didn’t purchase it. Most likely because I didn’t want to spend my precious pesos. I’ve been back to Mexico three times since then, including one stint when I lived there for a period, but I never saw anything remotely similar in terms of look or quality. Now that I have my own home, it sure is something I wish I would have bought.
As an adult now, I’ve become religious with note taking on my travels. I write down the names of restaurants and the streets they’re on. I write down what I eat. I write down impressions of places I’ve visited. I’ve found that while I remember the bigger picture of things, the little details I cannot. If there is one country that I lament the most upon the lost little memories, it would be my time spent in South Korea. Studying there was difficult for me on many levels, mainly due to the immense cultural shock. I had a hard time keeping mentally afloat at times but I sure wish I had been more descriptive in emails home for no other reason than more fodder for writing years later.
The program that I studied abroad with in Costa Rica offered students the opportunity to do an internship in either Costa Rica or Nicaragua following a month of intensive classes. I opted to remain in Costa Rica, specifically the capital city of San Jose where I had been living for no other reason than it was the most “familiar” to what I was used to. Although I encountered my share of problems with my first host family, I still led a pretty normal life that involved working from nine to five at a local English language newspaper, hitting up the supermarket for American indulgences, and even catching a couple of movies at the cineplex. Looking back, I wish I had opted for an internship in Nicaragua. Although I got to travel there for a few days at the end of the program, I feel that I remained too much in an American bubble while working in Costa Rica and thus lost out on a lot of unique cultural experiences. However, had I gone to Nicaragua, I would have tried to have gotten somewhere in which the bathroom was not “outdoors.” One of the girls who I still admire her to this day lived for two months in which her bathroom facility was an outhouse. She recounted how one evening in the pitch black with only a lantern for light, she encountered a slew of insects all inside the outhouse…
While living in the southern Spanish city of Seville for the semester, I was only a couple of hours from the Portuguese border and yet I never “crossed over.” Although I hopped on planes and buses to travel to Paris and Italy, two countries that are a lot further away than the capital of Lisbon or its gorgeous coast, I sadly and stupidly never deemed it worthy. There was one weekend towards the end of the semester in which I contemplated taking the bus to Lisbon alone but backed out. By this time I was spent from all of the traveling I had done and relished the weekends I did nothing. But now that an ocean separates me from Portugal, I do wish I had just done it.
The list could go on and go, but these are the ones that resonate the most for me. For anyone reading this, do you have a list of travel regrets? If so, please share.