Don’t be too specific with your travel expectations
Traveling is a different experience when you go for a month. Ordinary travel becomes outrageous travel. For most of us the difference isn’t obvious. Each travel lesson only comes from experience and you learn by doing. You pack differently. You make different living arrangements. What is most important and not at all obvious however is that you have to change your thinking. Staying for a month transforms ordinary travel into outrageous travel and requires you to step up from passive acceptance to active engagement. You aren’t following anyone else’s program. You are in charge. Planning the trip and then going is a great start but the real test begins once you arrive, especially if you think you know what to expect because it can blind you to reality.
This travel lesson will be obvious to serious travelers but it was the most important lesson to me from our recent one month outrageous travel trip to Buenos Aires. Anticipation and expectation are wonderful things and great motivators when you are planning your outrageous travel but unreasonable or inaccurate expectations can turn that travel into torture once you get to your destination.
Our recent trip to Buenos Aires was wonderful but because I had inaccurate expectations about what the experience would be like, I was ready to declare the trip a big mistake on our first night there. I recovered but it could easily have turned our wonderful month adventure into a hasty and expensive retreat and disaster. Fortunately I learned travel lesson 1. Let me explain.
My only knowledge about Buenos Aires was based on a glowing testimony from Tim Ferris and reading the guidebooks. I created a fantasy. I pictured a large bustling city with some fine old architecture, lots of monuments and similar amenities and services to large cities in the US. What I discovered as we traveled from the airport to our apartment was a city with serious infrastructure problems and very little charm as we threaded out way through seedy suburbs and backwater neighborhoods.. Our apartment was exactly as the pictures showed, stylish and comfortable, but the street was a mixed bag of 21st century modern and 19th century decrepitude and noisy as a stock car race track. The stylish shops and restaurants we had read about were scattered in other sections of our neighborhood beyond walking distance. I went to bed that first night beating myself up for committing our resources to an obvious bad choice.
My wife was never enthusiastic about Buenos Aires and I was convinced that if we stayed, she would blame me daily for my mistake. (More about that when we get to Travel Lesson 2) The traffic noise was so loud that I didn’t think I could sleep and I didn’t even want to think about what we might learn tomorrow. I was ready to give up and go home.
The good news is that we woke up the next day, went out for breakfast and began to discover the real Buenos Aires. My wife didn’t demand that I change the reservations. We kept moving, We stumbled through our first meal in rudimentary Spanish (Portenos don’t normally speak English), discovered that you can get fresh squeezed orange juice nearly everywhere and wonderful coffee. We learned that in Buenos Aires, tostada doesn’t mean a Mexican salad. Tostada is toast- just dry toast- but they give you butter, jam, dulce de leche and crema- something like sour cream except not sour.
One month later, we were part of the neighborhood. We had our laundry done at the shop down the street. We knew which of the supermarkets to use for our needs and we took the subway to get around town and taxis to get where the subway didn’t go or when we just couldn’t face the crowds. We loved that wherever we went you could find a coffee shop- usually with sidewalk tables where you could get a coffee or bottled water and sit as long as you liked.