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Five Travel Mistakes I Always Make

Practice and experience always lead us down the shining path of eventual perfection, right? Maybe for you. Apparently I can repeat some tasks multiple times throughout many years and learn nothing. This makes me feel great about myself. In the travel arena I have come to realize – actually, accept – that I am deeply lacking in perfection borne of experience. Here’s five careless mistakes that I still make while traveling. May I some day learn…

1. Harbor Cluelessness Regarding Local Currency – When you enter a country for the first time or re-enter after a period of absence, taking a good long look at your new spending money is probably a good idea. I wouldn’t know. Endlessly I wind up making my first purchase without any concept of what different denominations look like. This isn’t an issue when forking it out. When receiving change, though, I either have to hold up the line while carefully counting the numbers on the bills and coins, or jam it in my wallet and trust they haven’t ripped me off. A few up-front minutes of studying the currency would save time later – and probably prevent a rip-off or two.

2. Don’t Bother Learning Tipping Etiquette – The second mistake I make without ceasing is also money related. I never seem to care enough to learn – until it is too late – whether or not I should tip. Not knowing works beautifully when tipping is not expected. I trot off on my way, the cab driver or waitress goes on to their next customer, and everybody’s happy. Unless they’re not. Unprepared, I must watch for subtle lingering body language and expectant eyes to prompt me to hand out a little bit extra. Evidently I find this more convenient than googling the topic for two minutes.

3. Pack Heavy – I am a heavy, heavy packer. I don’t drag five steamer trunks around, but I do often exceed airlines’ weight limits, causing me to pull shoes out of my luggage and ram them in my little backpack and wrap jackets around my waist while an angry mob waits behind me at the ticket counter. Lugging the extra weight around is not a problem. I do find it disheartening, however, when I return home to find two or three items of clothing I never even got around to wearing – an odd form of waste that not many other humans can fathom.

4. Buy Gifts at the Last Minute – Scampering from shop to shop on the last day of a great trip is not a happy finale. Yet I persist in inconveniently forgetting to buy little items as travel along, trinkets that perhaps could tell a cute and fuzzy little story of the circumstances under which I found them. Instead, I rummage frantically through racks and shelves of meaningless nothings which I must hurriedly cram into outside pockets immediately before departing for the airport.

5. Fail to Pack Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – I’ve always had to endure lonely bouts of peanut butter and chocolate withdrawal while traveling because I’ve never found my favorite comfort candy outside the U.S. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I noticed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the little supermarket across the street from my apartment in Sharjah. Looking at them lying there amidst all manner of other American candy, I realized that Peanut Butter cups must have made their way overseas a long time ago. I just hadn’t noticed because I’d already stopped looking. Did I buy the ones I saw? No. Learning to live without is a skill I don’t want to surrender.

How about you? Do you still make travel mistakes? Please come forth and spill ‘em.