Long ago I had trouble truly enjoying travel because I was always trying to find the ‘perfect experience’ or the ‘best spot’ that I had read or dreamed about. I couldn’t really get lost in the moment because I was busy thinking about how it didn’t quite measure up to the ‘ideal’. I have, for the most part, managed to shed that bad habit but I am still vigilant against it so it doesn’t lessen any of my experiences.
It’s impossible not to have expectations. I have read countless guidebooks, forums, blogs and books about all the places we are planning on visiting – expectations slowly build themselves. The trick will be to recognize them and allow the actual experience to usurp them.
There are a few tricks I use both during the planning and the traveling:
- When reading guidebooks, forums, blogs and books, I don’t read any detailed accounts of places we will visit. I read these to get an idea of what a place is like, to learn more about the writer, and to get a general sense of direction we might take but I don’t want to know all about what it is like – I want to experience it first hand.
- I don’t visit any photo pages of any of the blogs I follow. There are enough images out there of all the ‘big’ places that, already, seeing those places is lessened. I want the first time I see a place to be the first time I see it.
- When we are somewhere, I enjoy the experience for what it is rather than what I thought it would be. Sometimes it ‘might not be what you wanted, but it might be just what you needed’.
- I believe that bad experiences must happen and are just as important as good ones – how will you know how good the good ones are if there aren’t any bad ones to compare it to?
Every experience truly is perfect. It is what it is and it will make the story all the richer in its telling.
The picture above is a great example. It is from our cross Canada road trip in 2002. We were near Thunder Bay and had seen countless billboards advertising amethyst mines and the chance to ‘mine our own amethyst’. We took the bait and slipped onto the dirt road to start up to the mine. It went on and on and on. Part way we were laughing and joking about what, exactly, this amethyst mine might be – the most popular scenario being that it would be run by a crazy lady and her cat. We could not have been prepared.
We arrived to find a construction trailer plopped in the middle of what appeared to be a boulder field. The trailer held the ‘museum’, gift store and ticket booth. The old lady manning the station was a piece of work – seriously, I don’t think her breasts had ever seen a bra as they languished somewhere near her knees – but it was her amethyst purple sweat-pant and sweatshirt outfit that made her special.
Not to be deterred, we purchased our tickets and set out to view the mine. It was, of course, not at all what I expected but I learned a lot about amethyst mining that day. And, although I expected to be underground with a pick and shovel mining my amethysts, the picture shows me in the boulder field with a hammer cracking rocks and having a fabulous time!
It’s one of our favourite stories and one that still makes us laugh and giggle!