Travelers are always quick to share their incredible experiences, but what about the times when things go drastically wrong? I’ve learned the hard way that high expectations often lead to disappointment. After all, the sun can’t shine every day – not even on holiday.
The following 5 places are ones that I won’t be venturing to again. It’s not because they are unsafe or undesirable destinations, but simply because my overall experience was not a positive one. I have curious, open eyes that are easily impressed, but it was difficult to find redeeming qualities through my experiences in these select locations.
1. Los Cabos, Mexico
Cabos lingers on the bottom lip of the Baja Peninsula. World-renowned for its stunning beaches, mild climate, and liquor-pumped parties, my mom and I found ourselves staying in a converted home out in the Boonies. While it was indeed beautiful, it was painfully boring. I stayed inside nearly the whole week, thanks to the torturous suntan I stupidly picked up on the first day – my own fault, I thought I was stronger than sunscreen. While there’s nothing outwardly wrong with the Baja, I found it lacking in Mexican culture and flavour when compared to other spots in Mexico. For more on my experience in Los Cabos, click here.
INSTEAD: If your heart is bound for Mexico, check out Puerto Vallarta. It rained nearly every day, and it is still my favorite place in Southern North American. Read my blog post to find out why. Playa del Carmen is another option – read about it here.
2. Toronto, Ontario
I hate to rip on my own country, but Toronto is really just another big city. My parents were both born and raised in TO, leaving a mass of family that we would routinely visit throughout my childhood. While it has some unique spots and really good shopping, going to Toronto and saying you’ve seen Canada is like going to Australia and only stopping in Sydney. This country has so, so, so much more to offer.
INSTEAD: I’m an advocate for the West Coast! If you’re into the city thing, why not go to Vancouver? The third biggest city in Canada with the mildest climate, Vancouver has everything Toronto has, with culture (and the coast!). Read about it here.
If you’re willing to get a little more adventurous, venture up to my hometown and see how us rednecks do it in Alberta.
3. Naples, Italy
When I was 14 years old, my parents took me on a month-long jaunt around Europe. After exploring the intricacy of Rome and Pisa, being floored by the canals of Venice, and picking out my summer home on the island of Capri, I was devastatingly disappointed with Naples. Shuttled into a small, dirty hotel by the train station, Naples was the only Italian city where I feared for my safety. I was used to the vendors selling illegal fake purses and sunglasses and I had even grown expectant of inappropriate compliments and grabs, but everything felt darker and more sinister in Naples.
INSTEAD: While Naples is not exactly charming, it is the gateway to the most magnificent island where I’ll one day have my summer home (if I ever win the lottery): Capri. The island of Capri is small, warm, and friendly. The community boats small boutique shops and the locals offer sight-seeing boat trips with unbeatable views.
4. Kuta Beach, Bali
After spending three weeks volunteering at an orphanage in Northern Bali, my travel buddy Karishma and I were ready to relax at Kuta Beach. We rented a gorgeous villa, indulged in inexpensive massages, went scuba diving, and ate massive amounts of fresh food. I was ecstatic to get to the world-renowned surfing beach – and immediately disappointed on arrival.
The amount of garbage floating in the sea would fill several landfills. The water was murky, and brown, and frothed slightly. Peddlers continuously pestered sunbathers with toys and unwanted items. I let my disappointment soak into my skin, and left to get another full-body massage.
INSTEAD: If it’s surfing your after, Australia is the place to be. I stayed at the YHA in Yamba, a small surf town between Sydney and Brisbane. For $5, you can rent a surf board for the day. (And if you’re kind, charming, and lucky, you might even get a free lesson from the hostel workers, as I did. Score!)
5. London, UK
I know what you’re thinking: how in the hell can I not like London? Before you completely discredit me as a travel writer, hear me out: I don’t dislike London itself. I love Hyde Park, the small, inescapable alleyways, the Red Lion pub, and parrosing Harrods. What I don’t like is what London’s become: a transit zone for travelers.
London is one of the cheapest and most accessible cities in Europe. As I mentioned before, I’m not a fan of cities. London is an overwhelming clash of culture. Tourists flock to the well-known attractions, paying little attention to the hidden British gems that surround.
INSTEAD: Spend a few days in London, but then get out of the city. The English countryside is beautiful in spring and summer. Brighton is easily the most eccentric city in England, made more attractive by it’s openness to diversity and perch upon the coast. Read about my experience living in West Sussex here.
In my opinion, the most redeeming quality of travel writers is integrity: one’s ability to be ruthlessly honest. As explorers, adventurers, and wanderers, it is important to be as open with our negative experiences as it is with our enlightening ones. It’s been said that trouble makes a story, and if that’s true, I’ll be writing for years.
I like the way you suggested alternatives.
Enjoyed reading your blog, surprised you included London but your comments are true! Also liked your alternative suggestions. You were also right about Brighton but I went recently and was disappointed (I usually am when something/where is hyped up so much). Worth a visit though if only to make up your own mind about it.
Thanks so much for your input! Every experience in a location is unique, so I’d suggest giving Brighton another try. I loved it in late June, when the sun was in the sky but it wasn’t too busy. Various factors always impact our visits; disappointment is really common with high expectations.