top of page


How we find what we are looking for when we travel - about expectations, disappointments and insight

Can we travel without bias? Should we travel without bias? Can we discover a country without prejudice? Can we perceive people as they really are? Are we ready to discover the reality or are we looking for confirmation of our ready-made images? What is disappointment teaching us and why is traveling not just "vacation" but the chance for individual and personal development? An attempt to capture the abstract theme of expectations and perhaps prevent disappointment ...

Is the suitcase already too full?

When we travel to Cuba, inner images appear in our mind like "colorful old-timers", "salsa-dancing, joyful Cubans in the streets", "cigar plantations". If we think of Bhutan, we only believe in meeting happy people. In Argentina, every man sits on a horse and represents the gaucho lifestyle in the vastness of the pampas. In the Favelas Rios you will be shot immediately. And all children in Africa suffer from malnutrition and poverty. Sometimes these are just vague conjectures, images we've seen on the internet or television, newspaper articles or books we've read, things we've picked up from other travelers - sometimes taken out of context and dyed with their own perceptions. We pack all of this into our suitcase and take it with us on our travels. Sometimes, however, the case is already so bulging that it's hard to put it in additionally, which actually awaits us on the spot.

The sweet side of expectation.

However, expectations also play an immensely important role in our lives as well as on our travels: they create anticipation and bridge the sometimes long wait from the time of the inner decision to a trip until it actually happens. Expectations create inner images, emotions, and even anticipated sensations that we sometimes even anticipate nearly in a real way - the smells that we suspect when strolling through a Moroccan souk, the extraordinary feeling that spreads when we are at Circular Quay, and the Sydney Opera and Harbor Bridge landmarks in front of us, the colorful fish we see in our snorkeling in the South Seas within our grasp, or the feeling of liveliness, joyful excitement and overpowering when we first meet in the turmoil of the Times Square New York. The visualization of these expectations usually sweeten us a much longer time span before a journey, whereby certainly the experience on site - depending on character and perception - moves our feeling quantitatively shorter, but qualitatively deeper.

Expectations as a hedge.

By expectations, according to the "anticipation", the "premonition", the "hope" or "hypothesis", what awaits us traveling, we usually create a pleasant safety net, which decimates the discrepancy of strangeness in advance - we reduce the factor of uncertainty and surprise. The images of expectations create familiarity and security in advance. Man is in many ways loves habit and only for a few people, the new, the strange and the unusual invariably mean something positive. That is why the implication is inevitable that our character, our behaviors, desires and fears, which we embody in life in general, are always reflected in our way of traveling.

Distortion of expectations in one direction ...

Once we are there, an incredible number of other factors influence our perception as well as the balance between expectations and reality. A perceptual distortion seems inevitable.

Our emotions can increase very promisingly. Then the balance between expectation and reality is certainly very positive. We look at the sunset with our beloved partner in complete harmony and detachment from everyday life and just think: perfect! Certainly, after such an individually experienced event, then we will also consider the place and the setting as perfect. After all, the overall package was as perfect as expected. But in fact it was just a big construct of individual feelings and emotions. Something that maybe someone else would not have experienced under different circumstances. Maybe that's why it's difficult to follow recommendations and insider tips from people around us, because most people are never objectively and very seldom so empathetic when traveling that they can distinguish between these components and on top are able to consider the potentially different and character situation. In a nutshell: Tips from others are always their own subjective experience and should be handled with the utmost care. You should never build your own expectations on these „best tips“.

... and in the other one.

But of course there is a different way too. Is it really the place, the country, the people who do not fit, or maybe we ourselves, that we simply do not fit into this place right now? Maybe our environment confronts us with something we ourselves had hoped to leave at home?

What happens when we are tired, when we have an awkward topic that haunts us from home, when we have quarrels with our partner, when we are ill, when we may just have gotten off the wrong foot, when we feel homesick - then we are certainly no longer unbiased. It is a great art to "put away" your own feelings and emotions and start the discovery of a culture with a positive mind. Surely the place, the country and the people in such a situation are damned "lose". You can literally find only the hair in the soup. Is that why Cuba, Peru or Mongolia is a bad country? Are people negative or completely unappealing? Certainly not. In such a situation only and especially we ourselves, of course, are not in the position to judge objectively or subjectively benevolently, because in fact we only feel ourselves.

So: "You always travel with yourself." Or "You can not find anything on an island that you have not already brought with you“.

Detached from expectations.

But sometimes we also travel to a country and do not have any clear ideas, we did not get a rigid picture and did not put too many hopes and wishes into what we intend to find there. As a rule, one thing always can happen in this situation: we are able to be surprised.

Of course, the surprise of us can be rated as positive as well as negative, but the mere fact that we are not "disappointed" makes the real truth bearable and sometimes the more rewarding. And quite often we also notice facets that we would not have noticed with a predefined expectation and thus bias. Maybe that's why we also perceive things that otherwise would not have made it into our field of perception.

It's not so easy to be surprised. Maybe it's even more a outlook of life, ls life-style than a travel philosophy.

So back to the core question.

Is it possible to travel free from expectations? Certainly not. We can not free ourselves from certain ideas and images, even if we try so hard, and should not even do so in view of the valuable anticipation. But we should be aware of the risks of our expectations. Awareness and perception can certainly take us a big step forward. We should realize that we came with expectations. We should question ourselves when we are disappointed and, above all, wonder where this disappointment comes from. Does our disappointment really come from external reality or does it not come from the depths of our own thinking? If we can answer that question for ourselves, then we may have the opportunity to turn to what we did not expect. Maybe that does not make us feel comfortable, but at least understand travel as an experiment. As a great self-experience.


All posts 

bottom of page