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Not-So-Great Expectations

I definitely wasn’t expecting this!

Expectations are a dangerous thing. In work, in relationships, and yes, in travel, nothing cues up disappointment better than high expectations. Who among us hasn’t felt the pang of anti-climax after realizing that something you’d really been looking forward to wasn’t quite so great after all? Or at least, so it seemed – because of your expectations.

Now, before you jump to conclusions about the point of this story, I’ll tell you that the solution to high expectations is not – NOT – to have low expectations. I believe in remaining positive, right to the bitter end. And having very low expectations is just as dangerous as having very high expectations: you’ll be so bummed out by expecting something to be bad, you’ll hardly be able to enjoy it when it turns out to be good. No, the answer is in managing expectations, and in finding that sweet spot between anticipation for what you know and openness to what you don’t.

In travel, as in life, you’ll enjoy yourself more if you keep your expectations in check. Some of the most delightful and amazing experiences I’ve had while traveling have been those that I had absolutely zero expectations about. I didn’t know what to expect, so I was completely open to whatever the experience offered. Like the time we were promised an excursion to look at penguins in Chile and ended up on speedboats in a choppy bay, zooming around ragged rocks like something out of a movie; it sure hadn’t sounded like much, but it turned out to be great fun. With an open state of mind, every experience will have something worthwhile or memorable to offer, if for no other reason than it surprises you.

Emptying our heads of expectations can be a tall order; embracing the unexpected can be even harder. But if you can’t quite pull it off in other areas of your life, try practicing when you travel. Expect your travels to be good, certainly, but beyond that, let go – and let the world surprise you.

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