I’m guessing you travel to leave behind the familiar, see the world and experience something new. Whether it’s a stirring adventure, a few days of surfing and relaxing, or deep cultural immersion that you crave, you’ll want to return home with a memorable story – perhaps even one that gets you clapped on the back by your friends.
Sounds great, right?
But as you might have guessed from the article headline, not all travel turns out that way. There are ways to mess things up.
Here are 5 of the most common mistakes we’ve seen people make when they travel to San Juan del Sur.
1. Getting (too) caught up in their expectations
We’ve all come across travel brochures that do a great job of selling the dream of a perfect travel experience. We’ve read about tours filled only with endless sun-soaked beaches, amazing natural landscapes, and welcoming locals. But successful travelers know that no country is 100% perfect and no destination can claim to have a monopoly on great travel experiences.
They come to San Juan del Sur ready to experience its great beaches, the beautiful natural landscapes, and the rich local culture. But they also realize that some things won’t match their expectations and there will be times when the excitement of being in a new place wears off.
In other words, a successful traveler manages to let go of their expectations. They don’t over-romanticize a destination. They go in with curiosity, to explore and to really see.
Do the same and you’ll enjoy every trip much more.
2. Only sticking to the well-trodden tourist trails
None of us wants a diluted or contrived travel experience – the kind that comes when all you do is check a series of “tourist attractions” off a list. Most of us want to experience more of a destination and see more of the living culture.
The good news about San Juan del Sur is that it has largely been insulated from mass tourism. There are no zoned off “tourist areas” or attractions “especially for tourists” (And if there were, unless it’s something that is genuinely worth seeing, we’d tell you to avoid it.)
You’ll get much more out of your trip if you talk to locals, expats and long term visitors, eat at local restaurants, nose around the street markets and just watch San Juan’s social and cultural life unfold around you.
3. Not being open-minded
Open-mindedness is a phrase that’s often used in the context of traveling well. But what does it really mean? Well, it doesn’t mean giving up deep-seated beliefs or becoming wishy-washy in your views. It simply means realizing that context is different for everyone.
That’s why the kind of immersive travel that gets you deeply rooted in the region you are visiting can be such a learning experience. On such a trip you may be confronted by something uncomfortable. But rather than wasting time trying to convince people to agree with their perspective, a successful traveler looks for what they can learn from the situation.
They look for the net gain asking, “What can I learn from this person I disagree with or from this situation that I am uncomfortable with?” “How can I improve myself?”
(Caveat: You may not have this kind of learning experience if you stay in your luxury hotel the entire time. This is totally fine of course, sometimes travel is just about the resort experience.)
Often travelers try to do too much and end up frazzled and frustrated. Rushing around all day is not the best way to experience a destination. It’s important to build slowness and rest into your schedule, giving things their due and sometimes stopping just to be in a place.
San Juaneños do this by building a descanso – a rest break – into each day at around noon. (It’s generally not called a ‘siesta‘)
Don’t be on your tablet or laptop all the time. Try not to think about what you’ll be doing later or worrying about work. Slow down, be present and you’ll have a great time. (Oh and get lots of massages, they’re cheap here.)
5. Not having a plan
San Juan del Sur is well suited to traveling flexibly, but without some sort of a plan you may find yourself frustrated, stuck on the side of the road and missing the sunset at the beach.
It’s worth making advance reservations for your accommodation if you’re traveling during the peak season. At other times, if you’re not fussy about where you’ll stay, you should be fine without booking up-front. Still, if you’re heading to a remote location, arriving late at night or you’re traveling with children, it’s a good idea to reserve some or all of your accommodation. Also many businesses are closed on Sundays so booking your airport shuttle in advance makes sense.
How much time you have is another consideration. Most people on a tight schedule prefer to have everything arranged in advance in order to cut out the hassle and enjoy every minute of a precious vacation.
How about you?
What do you think? What do you feel is the biggest mistake people make when they travel? Is it one of these five or is it something else completely? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments area.
PS. Of course if you want an easy way to avoid making these travel mistakes, you can’t do better than joining one of our Insider Tours. We’ll get you deeply rooted in the region and in the perfect spot to notch up another great experience. Our friendly guides understand immersive travel and offer the kind of access you’d find it hard to do on your own. Check out our Relocation Tours here.