On crowds and expectations

On crowds and expectations

Traveling comes with a certain level of expectations. You plan for months for your trip – looking at pictures, reading reviews online, and talking to people who have traveled the same path. But even for the experienced traveler, these lofty expectations can come with disappointment.

Think about Paris. Outstanding food, romantic cobble-stone streets, and of course the Louvre with Mona Lisa. But this is what most people see when they see the Mona Lisa for the first time:

Source: side78 on Flickr.com

In fact, unfulfilled expectations has become a such an issue in Paris that the Japanese embassy has set up a 24-hour help line to help Japanese tourists who are so distraught that their idealized and romantic version of Paris doesn’t match their imagination.

Another example is the intimate canals of Venice. Most people think of the following when they imagine Venice:

Shot during my trip in 2010
Shot during my trip in 2010

Instead, many people find a crowded, smelly, and tourist-ridden skeleton of one of Europe’s former greatest city.

But with proper planning, these destinations can help meet their expectations.

The first tip is to type in your location you’re visiting then “crowds” into Google Image search. Take a look at Koh Phi Phi, an island haven for backpackers in southern Thailand.

Normal search:

Source: tripadvisor.au

Adding crowds to the search criteria:

Source: live-less-ordinary.com

This will give you a better idea of what to expect.

Another tip is to wake up early. While other travelers are sleeping in or nursing from a night of heavy drinking, you can take advantage. Experience the early morning in St. Mark’s square in Venice or the Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia and you’ll have the place to yourself.

Shot in 2013 during my trip to the Balkans

Outside of waking up early, the other suggestion is to break away from the most popular areas. Take Angkor Wat for example. The ‘classic’ picture to take is this one:

Angkor Wat sunrise
Source: Arrixaca Gascó on Flickr.com

In fact, do a search for “Angkor Wat sunrise” and you’ll see thousands of nearly identical pictures. But what most people don’t realize is the crowd behind this beautiful scene:

Source: kevjblack on Flickr.com

While capturing this scene is on many people’s photography bucket lists (including mine – going to be crossed off in two weeks!!) here’s another way to do Angkor Wat:

Day 1: Wake up early and get the classic sunrise shot

Day 2: While everyone else is shooting the sunrise, walk inside the temples instead.

By breaking away from the crowds, you’ll get to see the sunrise glow on the ancient stones and only have to share the place with a handful of other people.

The common thought when it comes to crowds and traveling is “the raindrop never thinks it’s responsible for the flood”. Travel with the understanding that these places are popular for a reason. And with more realistic expectations, less hotlines will need to be set up.

2 thoughts on “On crowds and expectations”

  • Wow – great tips. I would never have thought to include the word “crowds” in the Google search. Will have to remember this next time we travel.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • Looks like it can be a real damper. It may be interesting to talk to other travelers at the hostel though and see what you can glean from their experience. Use it as an opportunity to meet new people and share wisdom! Safe travels in SEA soon.

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