Travel: you're doing it wrong. Maybe not all of it, but you're definitely doing at least a few things wrong. Travel might be a very personal pursuit, an activity as subjective as any you could hope to find, but that doesn't mean you're not messing it up.
There are still mistakes to be made – errors every traveller, including me, has committed plenty of times. These are the sins travellers are most often guilty of.
Approaching other countries with an Australian sensibility
There's nothing worse than when you hear an Australian saying something along the lines of, "oh, I don't tip in the USA because it's a stupid system and that's not what we do in Australia". I mean, yeah, tipping in the US is a stupid system. But it's someone else's system, and when you travel to their country you have to play by their rules. Same goes with foreign bureaucracy, or the state of a country's roads, or the way its people drive, or the things they eat… Anything, really. Other countries are different to Australia. You should expect that. In fact you should celebrate it.
Moving too fast
There's an understandable temptation when you travel to attempt to cram in as much as possible, to see all of the sights and do all of the things and drink all of the beers until you're completely worn out and have to go home and can't even remember where half of your holiday happened. Slow down. Get to know one or two places really well instead of taking a tiny snapshot of 10. There's time to see the rest of the world on the next trip.
Not taking risks
You don't have to take big risks. You don't have to bungy-jump or heli-ski or hang out with one of the Corbys. Taking a risk when you travel can be as small as riding the subway in a city you're not familiar with, or trying food you hadn't heard of before. Great travel experiences are all about getting outside your comfort zone. If you're just doing the same things as you would at home, then you might as well have stayed there.
Thinking you need a long stay
There's a common perception that you can't go to South America unless you have about six months up your sleeve. Or that you can't go to the US for anything less than a month, or even somewhere like China without a good few weeks to spend. The thing is though, if you can afford the flights, even a short stay is easily worth the hassle of getting there. Spend a week in Buenos Aires, or take a short trip to Beijing, or drive the Californian coast in a fortnight. You won't regret it.
Locking everything in in advance
I take a nerdy pleasure in researching holidays, in finding out all the best places to go, all the restaurants I want to eat at, the pubs I want to drink at, the attractions I want to see and the things I want to do. The problem comes when you over-plan and start locking in your entire holiday in advance, not leaving any room for those fortuitous moments that will inevitably come along and change your entire trip. It's good to have a few things booked in. But leave time to just discover.
Not saving enough money
Everyone does this. You jot down all of your travel costs, your insurance, all of your accommodation, the amount you'll spend on food each day, the amount you'll spend on drinking, and on the general business of being a tourist. Then you chuck a bit more on there for good luck, total it up, and you've got the amount of money you'll need for your trip. Except, you're not even close. I don't know how it happens, but if you take a realistic budget and double it, you'll only just be getting close to the amount you'll spend.
Doing what you think you have to do
I'd call this "travel by guidebook" – the trap a lot of people fall into of reading a guide for a certain destination and taking its recommendations as orders. It says you should see the art gallery, so you go to the art gallery. It says you should check out a castle, so you go to the castle. Even if you're not into art galleries, or castles. The trick to good travelling is to just do and see the things you're actually interested in – not the things other people expect you to enjoy.
Not taking out insurance
There are still plenty of travellers who leave home without insurance. It might seem like an unnecessary cost, but it could also save you hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it really doesn't cost that much.
Eating Western food
I've travelled with people who insist on trying to eat all of the same food they get back at home, despite the fact they might be in a country where their risk of getting sick from a dodgy attempt at a ham sandwich is far greater than if they were chowing down on noodle soup. Eating local will not only help you stay healthy, but it's a huge part of the travel experience. Even wandering through a local supermarket is an experience.
See also: The new reason why we are travelling
Not bothering with the local language
English speakers tend to be fairly lazy with language, mostly because we're in the enviable position of already being able to speak everyone's second tongue. So there's no need to bother with any others, right? Technically that's true, but you get so much more out of travel when you take the time to learn some of the local language. Even the barest scraps – hello, goodbye, please, thank you – will get you places you never expected.
What mistakes do you think travellers make? Post your comments below.