Micah and I travel a lot, which gives ample opportunity to royally mess things up. The good news is that a mistake made is usually a lesson learned. Even better: You can benefit from our mistakes and travel with more fun and less hassle.
1. Getting your feet wet: Coron Homestay.
The Coron Islands are beautiful. Fresh water lakes, fireflies, island hopping and secret beaches (that is a different story). But then there is the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Coron City. Dirty, loud and hopelessly overpopulated, it bears all the signs of a place that got more tourists in a shorter time than is good for it.
Unfortunately, we didn’t know that at the time. Being the budget travelers we are, Micah and I went for the cheapest homestay in the most central location we could find. No A/C, but hey – we were not going to spend much time indoors anyway.
When we arrived, the landlord seemed nice. He even turned out to be an expert on secret island beaches a few days later. But then there was the room. Coated entirely in aggressive pink, with a fan rattling so hard it sounded like it was running on a combustion engine. But the kicker was the bathroom, which came, by default, with a several centimeter-strong layer of water just constantly lingering there.
If you never want to experience needing the bathroom in the middle of the night, only to then step into a puddle of water in the dark, then make sure not to repeat our mistake: Even when traveling on a budget, get the second cheapest room. Also, don’t stubbornly stick it out for several days, you deserve better than that.
2. Technically correct: Visiting Macau.
I needed a visa-run and, of course, we wanted to do it on the cheap. Where does the cheapest international flight from The Philippines go? To Macau! How do you spend as little money as possible in a place? Just stay for three days! Easy, right?
This is what we thought when we (actually, probably I) booked our flights with the intention to arrive early the first day and leave late on the third. We wanted to make the most of our stay, meet an old friend of Micah who was going to pop over from Hong Kong and have one of the infamous Lord Stow’s Egg Tarts. Easy.
Unfortunately, I messed up the booking. Instead of arriving early, we pretty much took the last flight to Macau that day. So, we technically had two days in Macau, but in reality, it was more like 24 hours. We ended up landing at around 10pm, waiting one hour to catch our bus and then spending two more hours walking through the city at night searching our hotel.
Granted, the walk turned out to be really nice and we (incredibly) managed to meet Micah’s friend, find the egg tarts in Coloane Village and rush back to the airport to make our return flight. But just five more minutes during the booking process would have probably saved us a lot of headache – and made for better sleep.
3. The road less traveled: Batanes Burial site.
Yes, we took the road less traveled by. While scootering across Batanes, we noticed a small sign on the side of the road: “Burial Site”. It looked just like the other attraction signs we had seen before, just that it lacked the usual well-built road leading away from it. Micah was not sure about this, but I said: “Let’s check it out!”.
First, we made our way through tall grass, until we came upon a stone path that looked like it had not seen a human being in decades. “Exciting!” I thought, as Micah shot increasingly worried glances around and above us. Fortunately, we had prepared for our day on the scooter by trading our usual slippers for proper shoes. I was about to relent and give up when the path suddenly took a turn. We finally seemed to be getting somewhere!
And get somewhere we did: We emerged from the dark canopies of the rainforest to find a wide field full of tall grass, surrounded by a razor-sharp fence with a sign next to it. “Welcome to Nakamaya Burial Site”. So this path was actually meant to be followed? But since the prospect of finding snakes in the tall grass was too much even for me, we turned around and walked the 20 minutes back through the jungle to our scooter. Kind of anticlimactic really. The lesson here: Sometimes a road is less traveled by for a reason.
4. (Not) packed for purpose: Yoga in India.
This one is dedicated to Micah. At the end of 2018, Micah and I did our 200h Yoga Teacher Training in India. When you hear ‘India’, what do you usually think of? If “extremely warm” was one of the things that crossed your mind, then check your assumptions! Because as it turns out, the subcontinent India contains all kinds of climatic zones.
This means that yes, if you were touring the ancient Tamil Kingdoms in the south, then expecting hot weather is right on the money. However, if you are going to Rishikesh, which is in the very north at the foot of the Himalayas, then packing exclusively for a beach holiday may get you into trouble. But as you can guess, this is exactly what happened.
After both of us felt cold for pretty much three days straight (me as well, because guess who was wearing my warm clothes?), we were luckily able to find some nice clothes in Rishikesh that helped us weather the pre-winter climate. The lesson: If you have never been to a place before, research it.