Expectations before you leave that’s not a good thing before setting off on a trip. Hardly every the world meets our expectations so you are likely to be disappointed. I know perfectly well it works like that, yet, I cannot help myself and try to imagine what’s there in front of me. I’ve seen too many pictures and to many stories not to have any expectations.
I’m happy with all the trips that I make, but it still happens that I get somewhere and say to myself: This is not how it was supposed to be!

So… what might be not as I’ve expected?

Blue Hole, Belize

Long before I got my diving certification, I’d dreamt of Blue Hole in Belize – what I saw in the photos appealed to my imaginations and I thought it must be like paradise.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about look at the photo below – this is exactly what you’re going to see when you google “Blue Hole+Belize”. A magnificent view,isn’t it?

I can’t put into words the anticipation and excitement I felt flying out to see the Blue Hole in Belize. The pictures don’t do it justice — you need to see it in person. I couldn’t have asked for better weather the day we flew over either. ✈️ Book a tour with @flymayabelize and head out on a private charter to experience the Blue Hole from the air – a whole different experience than seeing it from a dive boat!

Zdjęcie zamieszczone przez użytkownika Erin De Santiago (@erindesantiago)

Yeah, it’s truly wonderful! Somehow, looking at such photos I never realised that this is what you can only see from the bird’s view – not something you experience when on water! So, when I finally got to Blue Hole and was about to take a dive forty something meters down, I looked around with disappointement  – dark water surrounding me and nothing more. I have no photo to prove it, but believe me, it was so boring I didn’t care. (The diving was amazing, though).

Atitlan Lake, Guatemala

This trip took place at the beginning of my faraway travels which means also that I used to make serious preparation before leaving on holidays. Atitlan Lake seemed magical and the pictures and I was sure it was the place I couldn’t skip. I found my favourite view in one of the article: a long pier with two volcanoes on the sides.
When I finally got there I ran to the shore to look for ‘my’ pier and then suddenly stopped. There were MANY little piers, one almost next to another. As the golden hour was short I was madly running from one pier to another in search of the right one.

Desperately running and slowely losing hope I finally… managed to find the right spot!

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Cminda Sameba Church, Georgia

Just one more example of “it’s so beautiful, I want to go there and take a photo like that!’.
All my friends who’d visited Georgia went to Kazbegi and took a beautiful postcard-like picture of the famous chuch on the hill with the mountains in the background.
What happened when I went there? Well… it rained! For one day, then another, and then one more…Still, I was there so I needed to see the church. Check below to find out what I saw – I guess I need to go to Georgia again to take the photo I had wanted.

(On the left: a photo taken by Ewa from the blog Daleko Niedaleko, on the right: mine)

Paris of West of Africa

It was my first visit to Africa and I couldn’t even imagine what it was going to be like – I had no friends who had visited this region so there was noone to turn to for help. The guidebook described Lome, the capital of Togo as the former Paris of West Africa. I focused on the worl ‘Paris’, while I should have paid more attention to the word ‘former’ – the mistake I realised only when I got there.
It might have been Paris of West Africa long time before, but when I was there it was distant not only from Paris but from Europe and my home and it was not only the matter of kilometers.

 Lome – the capital of Togo

The real chocolate

I’m a big chocolate lover so a trip to the countries where chocolate has its origins was a big event in my life. Was it as good as I imagined? Not at all! I didn’t like chocolate in Peru, Guatemala or Mexico – not at all! I missed the delicate and smooth flavour so present in European chocolates. In Ghana,the country which is the second biggest producer of cocoa plant I don’t think I found any chocolate…

On the left: chocolate-making workshop in Lima, Peru.
On the right: a man selling cocoa fruit in Togo. 

See the animals!

That’s the most stupid expectation possible! The animals don’t wait for us just behind the corner waiting to pose for our photographs. However, when I was in Mexico I did want to see a group of flamingoes…
You can’t even imagine my disappointment when I actually saw ONE flamingo. ONE! The very one you can see in the picture below on the left.
On the right is a group of flamingoes in Bolivia where I totally didn’t expect to see them (many years later)

Polish cuisine

I love my country and I love Polish cuisine – there are many amazing dishes worth trying and it always makes me sad that very often the only thing the foreigners heard of are pierogis. Whenever I have guests from abroad I try to show them something either by cooking or taking them to the right restaurant. This year however I decided to take a long road trip in Poland sightseeing and looking for good places to eat. It was not an easy task – when I enjoyed dining in many places, there were a lot which were less than average.
Look at two pictures below which present exactly the same dish: potatoes, perch and white cabbage. The first one not only looks perfect in my pictures but was only absolutely delicious, the other one was a disaster both in looks and taste.

Often what I experience is not what I expeced. It is different, but it doesn’t mean it is worse.

What else? I wanted to have 10 points on my list but nothing else comes to my mind. It doesn’t mean I have no expectations, on the contrary, often what I experience is not what I expected. It is different, but it doesn’t mean it’s worse.
You must have seen pictures on Bored Panda which show what tourists expect and what they really experience – it might be true in the peak of the tourist season or in the middle of the day, but sometimes it’s enought to get up earlier or go off season and they we find what we were looking for.

The two photos below where taken in almost the same spot – ten or fifteen meters separates them, yet, they are totally different:

Travellers often exagerate trying to scare you, but the reality is usually not so bad.  

Before I went on a safari, everybody warned me how touristy it was and what crowds of people I was going to experience with several jeeps chasing a few animals all the time. While in happened once – when a rhino decided to cross a road in Ngorongoro, it was not what I remember – we often travelled with no other tourists in view and it turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

Books, films and stories made me sure you are always supposed to run away when you see a shark, that riding down the Death Road in Bolivia is one of the most dangerous expriences ever and Somalia is only a country of pirates.
The reality? Most sharks are a big attractions for divers and are not dangerous, going down ‘the most dangerous road in Bolivia‘ is fun and a part of Somalia is Somaliland (an independent country, not recognized by many which is why is often shown as a part of Somalia) which is an amazing experience to travel to.

What should you do? Do what you want, but try to check out for yourself how good or bad a place is – you might like it, or you might not, but it’s going to be your own experience!

Have you had any experience like that?

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  • Katie

    This made me giggle, I totally feel you on the expectations vs. reality. I’ve visited both Blue Hole and Lake Atitlan, luckily where I was staying in Lake Atitlan had the “one” pier that was perfect for photographs.

  • Haha!! The Blue Hole totally makes sense, but you are so right, I didn’t even think of it from a diving perspective (also a diver myself) and I have to argue w/ the Polish food. I’ve been over there several times and am never disappointed in a strange dish. One of my favorites has been a creamy soup with sausage, potatoes and…..boiled eggs! lol YUM!

    • I’m really happy to hear that you like Polish food. I know my attitude is very critical, but, I guess, that’s because all my family is fond of cooking, so I find it hard to accept cooking which is not good enough – I know how perfect dishes should taste and I expect them to be if not perfect, at least good :)

  • The Blue Hole looks extremely fascinating – didn’t know about it and heading up there later this year from South America. Georgia’s also a place we’ve always been tickled by. Great post btw – have pinned to one of our favourite Travel Tips boards.

  • Curb Free with Cory Lee

    Hahaa this is such a true post! However, I do think that sometimes reality is better than anything that I expected.

  • I can be totally convinced to visit a place based on a few idyllic photos. But, you also have to create your own travel moments. Like that flock of flamingoes in Bolivia, unexpected moments are often the best and most memorable.

  • carlingdoodling

    Hahaha I had the same feeling when I went to visit Maya Beach in southern Thailand. It was so crowded and I cannot find a decent place to lay down my beach towel and sun bathe.

  • Haha. I agree with you)) Especially when you look at the pictures of a tour company that are edited or even Photoshoped neatly you imagine a paradise vacation. Since few years back I started giving preference to cultural experiences while being. They always give a special flavor to any experience))) And btw, I liked Polish cuisine while visiting Poland, especially types of placek and zrazi (not sure about spelling)

  • Carol Perehudoff

    Ah ha ha. I laughed out loud when I saw your photo of Cminda Sameba Church in Georgia, and again with the sole flamingo. But isn’t finding the real thing so worth it, warts and all? Except maybe that horrible looking meal. Ick.

  • Christina

    I can really relate to this post. Laughed out loud at the Blue Hole one especially. Such a long boat ride to get there too! Although, sometimes I feel like I do too much research about a place. So, if the place doesn’t match my expectations I am disappointed even though there is really a lot to be excited about!

  • megan_claire

    Totally agree with you – we try and travel now with very little to no expectations, though it’s very difficult when it comes to touristy well promoted locations. I’ve found the destinations with the best reputations have always left me the most disappointed! Too high expectations and way too much hype in the lead up.

  • This is really interesting! I’ve been to places where I was slightly disappointed, either because they definitely look much better on videos/photos or because they were a bit too crowded. One thing no one can replace is the experience of being there, that’s priceless! I’ve also been to places that surprised me and that I would love to go back.

    I usually say any place is a good place to visit. Even it rains and the photos come out terrible.

    That blue hole picture is amazing!

  • Erika Bisbocci

    Travel will never be exactly how you expect it, and that is what makes it so special! I’ve always wanted to see the Blue Hole myself, but you are right that sometimes the birds-eye views can be deceiving. I had a similar situation in Palau, with the Rock Islands. I love your photo of the flamingoes!