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Admitting Mistakes & a Happy New Traveler :)

I was out to dinner with friends, and one was planning a trip to London, she was VERY nervous, saying she'll never be able to travel as well as all of us (who had experience). I said wait a minute, you're saying you want to travel like ME? and I told two of my most embarassing travel mistake stories. :) (getting lost and calling taxis to save me, one lady asked me in London "how do I get to Euston? and I asked in my American accent: "Texas?!" People asked me for directions cuz I have 61% English DNA and might look like I'm British....)
So I really got her to laugh, instead of being nervous.
And then the others also joined in, saying maybe you could travel like me also, and they told even more embarassing stories :)
By the end of the night, she was feeling much better, thinking that she'd maybe be able to do even better than we did on our first trips :)
Have you experienced travelers ever shared your mistakes with new travelers? Did it make them feel better too? it was fun seeing some of the experienced travelers who were getting a little egotistical turn a bit more human and tell their humbling stories too. We've all got 'em!
-Alison

Posted by
5011 posts

There are no "mistakes." Just less-than-ideal choices which provide valuable lessons. Most of us have plenty of those. That's how you become "experienced."

Posted by
31289 posts

Alison,

Hopefully your friend has a great trip to London. You might suggest that she pack along a copy of the applicable RS guidebook, as that will provide good information which will hopefully avoid those embarrassing mistakes.

Posted by
1043 posts

My view is that mistakes and misfortunes - while possibly irritating at the moment - make for the best memories and the best stories.

Posted by
18854 posts

I love to hear about other people's screw-ups and share my own. You do have to comsider your audience, though; you don't want to scare people off.

Posted by
14323 posts

craven - that's why I share mistakes I made that brought me to despair and that kindly locals went out of their way to bring me to a happy ending. The worst experiences (like mine on another thread) I would never think of recounting to newbs . . . not even if they were headed to Cyrpus.

Posted by
8889 posts

It wasn't me, but this is a classic: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39459471
I nearly did it once, trying to find a hotel at Newcastle airport (upon Tyne), it listed one with a price in $ instead of £. That was a clue, it was the Newcastle in Australia.

The first time my sister sent her then 14-year-old daughter to visit me here in Switzerland, she sent her with a supply of Euros, instead of Franks. What mother sends her daughter to a foreign country with the wrong currency?

I was getting off a train once, and someone in the next seat asked me in limited English if this was Zürich (no, it's Basel). He had a ticket to Zürich, and printed instructions on what trains to take. What he hadn't realised, was when it said Schaffhausen with arrival and departure times and two different platform numbers, it meant he had to change trains there. He was now further away from Zürich than when he started.

Again getting off a train, but a Eurostar at Paris Gare du Nord. Two confused looking east Asians asked "Is this Paris" - Yes (that is why everybody is getting off the train). But, he says, and points at the printout that says "Paris 15:40" and his watch that says 2:40. I then had to explain there is a time difference between the UK and France.

Posted by
3173 posts

Oh indeed there are mistakes and they come with travel! Sometimes they are such doozies that they make excellent cocktail party conversations. Maybe it's where we live, maybe it's our network of friends and business associates -- I don't remember the last time we met someone who hasn't traveled.

Posted by
533 posts

I was getting off a train once, and someone in the next seat asked me in limited English if this was Zürich (no, it's Basel). He had a ticket to Zürich, and printed instructions on what trains to take. What he hadn't realised, was when it said Schaffhausen with arrival and departure times and two different platform numbers, it meant he had to change trains there. He was now further away from Zürich than when he started.

That reminds me of a time I was taking a coach from Cambridge to London. We were about halfway there when a young woman timidly asked the driver what time we'd be arriving in Huntingdon (more or less in the opposite direction from Cambridge). Apparently there were northbound and southbound coaches leaving at about the same time, and she'd gotten on the wrong one. After she sputtered for a few moments to fully process that the driver was not, in fact, going to turn around and take her to Huntingdon, she asked "Why did you let me on this coach when I showed you a ticket for the other one?" He had no answer for that.

Last I saw her she was on the phone with her father trying to figure out whether it made more sense for her to exit the coach at Stratford (where she might have had a chance of catching a slightly earlier northbound coach) or to stay on it all the way to Victoria station (where there might have been more people able to help her). I felt bad for her.

Posted by
32 posts

I totaled a rental car in rural Wales on Christmas Day and the rental car placed just laughed at me when I asked how to get a replacement car. We found a taxi driver who charged triple price to drive us to a motel and we managed to buy a bunch of candy bars and potato chips at a gas station before it closed for the holidays. That's all we had to eat for two days because everything was closed on Boxing Day, too. We only manged to get a bus to Cardiff because some nice person pulled some strings for us. That was the Boxing Day when the tsunami hit Sri Lanka, etc, and the airport in London was CRAZY due to everyone's cancelled flights, plus people trying to get back to England. We found plane tickets home to the US and booked them hours before the flight was due to depart, and in doing so, we raised red flags with airport police and ended up having our luggage cut open and full-body searches performed. It was...memorable. (Nothing compared to the people who faced the tsunami, of course.)

My advice to new travelers has always been...$hit happens. You will live to tell the tale, and be that much more experienced on your next trip. Travel of any sort builds confidence and my husband and I hope to be able to teach that to our kids. SNAFUs just give you good stories to tell your grandkids, and isn't that what life is all about?

Posted by
3474 posts

There are no "mistakes." Just less-than-ideal choices which provide valuable lessons. Most of us have plenty of those. That's how you become "experienced."

David, someone said the way to avoid making bad choices is experience. When asked how one gains experience, the answer was "By making bad choices".

Posted by
38 posts

No traumatic experiences -- but after 20-some trips to London, I learned that, for whatever weird brain activity going on inside my head, the South Kens tube station and I just did not get along. I route around it now!

Posted by
3418 posts

One of our (my) mistakes probably saved our trip, maybe even our lives. We were in London prior to heading to Hong Kong. Our flight to Hong Kong was at 8:00pm. We had planned to go to Windsor that morning then head back after lunch for our late check-out and then head to the airport. I overslept a bit and we missed the train we'd planned to take to Windsor. Hubby was fussing as we walked back to where the schedule board was to decide if we wanted to get the next train to Windsor or maybe just stay in London and visit some markets instead. We heard an announcement on the speakers- "Anyone wanting to leave London must board the train on platform # …. immediately. NO more trains will be leaving. We thought there must have been an accident on the tracks nearby. So we turned to head down to the underground station- and Bobbies were lining up across the entrance and not allowing anyone down. We looked at each other and I said "It's something more serious.". So we quickly returned to our room (we were staying at the hotel in Paddington Station). We saw hotel staff gathering in small groups, some getting walkie-talkies distributed. As soon as we got to the room, we turned on the TV and saw that the (now called 7-7) bombings had taken place. One had happened between Paddington and another station! We were afraid that we might not be able to get to the airport, or that flights would be cancelled. Luckily neither happened. But if I hadn't overslept, we could have been stuck in Windsor or possibly have been on one of the underground trains or the buses that were bombed.

Posted by
865 posts

"No traumatic experiences -- but after 20-some trips to London, I learned that, for whatever weird brain activity going on inside my head, the South Kens tube station and I just did not get along. I route around it now!"

That's me with Bank. I never manage to go in the right direction the first time, and once I do make it to the surface I get all turned around somehow. It's like the Bermuda Triangle of Tube stations for me!

Posted by
4700 posts

I'm a seasoned traveler now - I've been to Europe a dozen times alone, completely self-planned trips. And yet, I still make mistakes and do dumb things. I try to shrug them off.

Lately I've been getting a bit lazy and complacent about travel, maybe because I've been doing it so long that I take it for granted. A few years ago I was careless in Riga, Latvia, and nearly pickpocketed. Last week I got back from a 10 day trip to Portugal (first time there) that I had done almost no planning for. I "winged it" more than I should have, and I made mistakes, mostly that cost me wasted time. I booked two nights in a town and did a short day trip to a beach town I would up loving - now, why didn't I do one night in the beach town instead? Just dumb planning, being lazy. I survived but could have done it better.

Posted by
996 posts

I have learned more about travel from things that didn't go to plan than I should probably admit. And I'm still learning new things, but every trip is a learning experience for me. I'll discover something I didn't already know or realize that something I've done in the past could be improved.

Posted by
1063 posts

"I totaled a rental car in rural Wales on Christmas Day "

Blimey, how did you manage that. There's usually minimal traffic anywhere on Christmas Day??

Posted by
238 posts

We still laugh at this one. Once in Rome (first time for DH), we were getting on the underground to head somewhere, I can’t even remember. Just as the door closes, DH says “we are on the wrong one”, I’m “no, we are on the right one” he panics and steps backwards as the door closes just as I was going to follow him out, even though I knew we were going the right way. You should have seen the look of terror on his face as the train pulled away , me in it and him on the platform. I motioned “don’t move”, I’ll find you. So off I went on a little trip, found my way back to him, leaning against a pillar, confident in my return. I was like”wth”, I’ve done this before many times and he said he just for some reason got a feeling....well, the wrong one. So we got back on the next train, and off we went.

Posted by
1776 posts

My mistakes have mostly been with hotel choices......too much noise to sleep, awful beds, too hot in room to sleep etc. I have now become very picky! Accomodations and food are more important to me now and it has made me a better planner!
Oh and on my first trip to Europe I got pickpocketed! More aware of my surroundings now!

Posted by
3532 posts

The Sydney screw-up seems to happen every couple of decades. Hard to believe, considering how small the Canadian place is.
The Euston Tube/train station, on the other hand, is big enough to qualify as Texan.

My father used to describe getting lost as "taking the scenic route". Electronic maps sometimes seem to share his attitude.

Posted by
4866 posts

Back in 1983, we had an overland three week tour that started in Rome and ended in Paris. We flew Pan American, which is bankrupt these days. I didn't know that Pan American only flew out of Orly Airport, not CDG Airport. Unfortunately, I didn't check and went to CDG. By the time we got to Orly, our flight had departed. However, Pan Am was able to put us on a flight to the US in three hours on a charter.

Posted by
238 posts

Also, I would like to add that my Mom and Dad, both immigrants to Canada in early 1953, via London, Latvia and Austria, came to Canada. Many years later, were able to finally go back to London to see friends and make that old connection. I said to Mom, how did you book your trip ? (This being many years ago). Oh, she said, we got off the train, and walked around until we found a house that looked “ok” and we knocked on the door and asked if they would rent us a room"............ 15$ and nobody killed us... ha,ha,,,, And now we have Trip Advisor and Rick Steve’s. I tell her now what we do and she shakes her head, so many questions now.....love it

Posted by
378 posts

When I was staying at the Malt House in London, I popped in to its pub for a pint or three. I ordered a Fuller's ESB and dropped a fiver on the bar. The bartender slid me my change in the form of a coin, which I pushed back as a tip. I thought it was a 1-pound coin. It was only a few minutes later that I realized my pint was actually 4.99, and I'd "tipped" the bartender a pence.

By the time I got up my courage to correct my faux pas, the bartender was gone off-shift, no doubt calling me an a**hole under his breath.

Thank god I was pretty well tanked by then or I would have been really embarrassed!

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
860 posts

Being terrible at something is just the first step to being awesome at it.

On my first trip to London I almost bought a bus ticket to Leeds when I was trying to get to Leeds Castle. Not even remotely close!

DJ

Posted by
257 posts

Thanks guys! We may have found the next Rick Steves book title, The Humor of Travel :)
-Alison

Posted by
8889 posts

There is the possible urban myth about the Japanese/Korean/{choose your stereotype} tourist who got off a train at Stratford tube station (where the London Olympics was held), and asked passers by how to get to Shakespeare's birthplace. This is why we get so boring about using the full and correct names for places: Stratford upon Avon

Or the (genuine) post on this forum asking about restaurants near Gloucester station. The responders did figure out the poster meant Gloucester Road station, in London.

Posted by
1063 posts

"Or the (genuine) post on this forum asking about restaurants near Gloucester station. The responders did figure out the poster meant Gloucester Road station, in London."

There was quite heated post on another travel forum regarding the American habit of truncating street and road names but nobody seemed to know why they do it.

There was quite heated post on another travel forum regarding the
American habit of truncating street and road names but nobody seemed
to know why they do it.

I know it can sound pedantic when us Brits point this out, but it can be genuinely confusing. Ask the way to “Oxford” - even when you’re just a few blocks from Oxford Street - could definitely get you pointed to the train station or the bus to the city of Oxford.

Westminster Abbey needs its full name as Westminster is a big part of London. Edgware & Edgware Road are two very different parts of London, as are Tottenham and Tottenham Court Road. And even those that aren’t misleading - like saying “Trafalgar” - just sounds wrong to English ears. If a tourist asked me the way to Trafalgar I genuinely would have to think twice before I realised they meant Trafalgar Square, as the word Square is so much part of its name.

Posted by
9766 posts

Mike Beebe you always have the funniest stories.

I have two tales to tell.

In 1972 I took a summer trip to Europe with a friend. We often met up with other students and in one instance, eight of us shared a compartment on a night train to Oostende, Belgium. Emerging wearily into the cafe at the terminal, we wanted to eat but no one knew any "menu French." There was an item called Parisier Toast. Yea! FrenchToast! Ha! It was basically a grilled cheese sandwich.

in 2011 my husband and I were en route to Sorrento via Napoli. Searching for the right platform, we were directed by a local. We jumped on the next train, excited to get to Sorrento before dark as we were traveling in December. After a while, it seemed to me that the station names were not what I expected. No conductor was present and we were in a car crowded with students. My Italian was not up to the task at that time so I had no one to question, but I finally figured out the Circumvesuviana was going around the other side of Mt. Vesuvius! We jumped off at the next station, by now almost the end of the line, and the station agent helped us reroute and, of course, we had to buy new tickets.

Our mistake was not realizing the track in Sorrento was used for two routes. Fortunately the price to pay was an after-dark arrival and a few Euro for new tickets.

Posted by
3523 posts

It's puzzling to me too, Emma, and I am an American!

Especially when in the US we have so many "types" of designations like: street, road, highway, way, court, place, circle, avenue, boulevard -- you get the idea -- all of which can be preceded by the same direction and name and could have the same address number. You'd think we'd be more specific.

Posted by
1063 posts

When I lived in the US for a short time I asked a fellow worker (American) why they did it and his answer was "it sounds more snappy and slick, not like you stuffed shirt Brits", Well what more reason do you need.:-)

Oh, and Buckingham is another one that gets me when it’s used on this site. Half of my brain knows the person means Buckingham Palace but the other half of my brain hears Buckingham and can only think of the small town a short way north of London.

Posted by
3418 posts

If you want to get confused about street names, come to Charlotte NC. We have an intersection of Queens, Queens, Kings and Kings (Queens Rd., Queens Rd. (it makes a loop), and Kings Drive, and Kings Circle). There are no-telling-how-many Sharons… Sharon Rd., Sharon Lane, Sharon Drive, etc. And most Charloteans have a bad habit of saying only the first part. I have yet to determine what Sharon did (wink, wink) to get so many streets named after her. Then there is the 'habit' of roads changing names... Tuckaseegee Rd. becomes 4th Street, which becomes Randolph Rd., which later becomes ….. and that is not the only example. Really fun giving driving directions to someone from out of town.

Posted by
3474 posts

If you want to get confused about street names, come to Charlotte NC

Try Atlanta and the infamous "Peachtree". Last time I counted (a number of years ago), between streets, avenues, and such, there were at least twenty seven variations.

Posted by
623 posts

I must be enough of an Anglophile - I'm certainly a repeat visitor to London - that some of those truncations also sound odd to me. (I swear, just today, I rolled my eyes at an inquiry elsewhere on the Innernetz about transport from a London airport "to Tottenham Station." Which of course drew the response, "do you mean Tottenham Hale station or Tottenham Court Road station?")

I have no explanation for them, either. Maybe it indeed has something to do with wanting to sound "snappy."

And then of course we have our own regional quirks. Where I live we refer to our Interstate highways as "I-25" and "I-70" and "I-225." But in other states/cities, they use "the," as in "the I-5" or maybe "the 5." It sounds very strange to us when someone starts talking about "the I-25" or "the 25."

As noted above, the tendency to verbal shorthand is crazy-making when you have the same name as a Street, a Circle, etc.

Posted by
257 posts

My biggest challenge with getting lost/misplaced in London seems to be the direction changes that the Thames makes. I was born & raised in the Hudson River valley in NY, so the river Always went north/south, no other options. In London I never feel like I know which way is north or south cuz the direction of the river is always bending somewhere. I find Transport for London's site good, and also Google Maps has helped me out of a jam many times, with good bus directions too. Has anyone used a compass app that works well? The one I tried was not so great.
Thanks again,
Alison