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The Travel Disappointments of 2014

Coffee. Hubby. And travel. 3 things I can unreservedly say I love in this world.

Unfortunately just loving these things doesn’t mean they’re always good. Let’s face it, there’s some really undrinkable sludge passing for coffee in the world (Finland), and my hubby isn’t always a prince. Sometimes he turns into a slimy, horny toad, or in our case, an Ogri (my Jekyll/Hyde name for Agri/Ogri – get it?). 😉

Got my Ogri right where I want him...

Got my Ogri right where I want him…

Of course, the same is true for travel. There are letdowns and troubles, and sometimes, it just plain sucks. And while I’d like to say that our year in travel was only characterized by glee, rainbows and sunny skies, it just wasn’t the case. 2014 was a year with a few rather painful travel disappointments.

Seeing the Northern Lights, but being underwhelmed
I’d prepared myself for the chance that we wouldn’t see the aurora at all, but actually seeing them and being disappointed was something I couldn’t possibly have imagined.

Excited about possibly seeing the aurora...before we actually SAW the aurora

Excited about possibly seeing the aurora…before we actually SAW the aurora

After traveling for thousands of kilometres, spending thousands of dollars, and waiting in the bitter cold, we were “lucky” enough to see the northern lights appear high in Lapland’s sky. Unfortunately, they were lacklustre at best, and if I’m brutally honest, kinda boring.

If we ever find ourselves under an Arctic sky again (ya know, after we win the lottery), there’s a lot I’d do differently, to have a better chance at seeing the aurora borealis of our dreams.

Credit card issues in Stockholm
Imagine visiting one of the most expensive cities in the world and then realizing you can’t access your cash, for reasons that are completely unfathomable. Well that’s what happened to us in Stockholm.

Countless calls to our bank yielded no results, and our cards mysteriously worked in Finland and Norway, both before and after our time in Sweden. Mystifying and as yet unsolved. Thank god we had back-up cash, or we would’ve starved.

Olde Hansa, Tallinn’s Worst Tourist Trap
While Tallinn’s amazingly well-preserved old town was one of the most pleasant surprises of our year in travel, it was also the location of one of the worst tourist traps we’ve ever visited.

Modeled in medieval style, with authentic medieval recipes, the restaurant was expensive, the food was bland and service was beyond apathetic. If you should ever find yourself in Tallinn and hungry, make sure you skip this overpriced tourist trap, and head to one of the many other restaurants that actually cares about your business. We sure wish we had.

Have you ever been letdown by a travel experience? What were your worst travel disappointments in 2014?

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32 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hallie #

    I’m glad there are only three letdowns of the year on this list. I hope that means there were many many more upsides to the trips of the year. ^^

    January 9, 2015
    • Yes, I’m glad we didn’t have more troubles than this…and for sure, the upsides outweighed the downs… though I probably should’ve added our last minute canceled trip to the Philippines to this list too. 😦

      January 10, 2015
  2. Sorry to hear about your disappointments last year. Hoping for mostly positive experiences in 2015.

    January 9, 2015
    • You take the good with the bad, just like in life I suppose. 🙂 Looking forward to a new year of travels and experiences.

      January 10, 2015
  3. I’m still stunned that you weren’t awed by the Northern Lights. It’s a sight I’ll never forget, but to each his own, right?
    For me, the biggest travel disappointment is the Eiffel Tower. Pretty to look at, but not worth the trouble of going up.

    January 10, 2015
    • Tell me about it! I wish we’d seen something to be awed by, but unfortunately what we saw was just a green blob kind of floating slowly across the sky, not the flickering amazing show that we’d been hoping for. You’re so lucky that you saw something unforgettable!!

      My hubby felt the same way about the Taj Mahal as you did about the Eiffel Tower…but I enjoyed both. To each his own, for sure. 🙂

      January 10, 2015
  4. It is hard for some places/experiences to live up to the hype, isn’t it. They often make some of the best stories though. 🙂

    January 10, 2015
    • It really is Marie…and I think the northern lights may be one of the most hyped up travel experiences out there. Lol…they do make good stories and blog posts though… 🙂

      January 10, 2015
  5. It’s interesting to read about the travel disappointments. Stockholm is expensive and dealing with banks always suck, I’m glad you had some cash!

    January 10, 2015
    • It was especially disappointing because after years of budget traveling, we’d decided to throw all caution to the wind and really enjoy Stockholm, expense and all. Unfortunately the Universe had other plans for us. Lol….I’m just glad we didn’t starve to death and were at least able to sample a little bit of the amazingly fresh food there. 😀

      January 10, 2015
  6. Fun read! Though sucks you had to go through those 😦 I ditto someone else’s view in the comments about the Eiffel Tower – that was my biggest “meh” so far in travel. I guess with something so hyped up, it can never live up to expectations!

    January 11, 2015
    • Thanks Kendra! 🙂 Yeah, it kinda sucked, especially the having no money in Stockholm part. It’s no fun to worry while you’re traveling! I felt that way about the Pyramids…just “meh,” but I enjoyed the Eiffel Tower – maybe cuz I first saw it just as it was being lit up for the night.

      January 11, 2015
      • That’s a good point – I still haven’t seen it at night despite having seen the actual tower a bunch of times. Next time I’ll have to make the effort to see it lit up!

        January 12, 2015
  7. Thanks for sharing! My friends and I are thinking of travelling to see the aurora borealis this year, I’d be grateful for your insight and any tips! Thanks in advance! Julia

    January 13, 2015
    • Hi Julia, when we were way up north in Karasjok, Norway, the lights were so strong, people in Scotland were seeing them, but we couldn’t because the sky was hazy. 😦 We’ve got a post with all our tips for maximizing your chances here: https://travel-stained.com/2014/04/14/what-nobody-wants-to-tell-you-about-the-northern-lights/

      Where are you going to see them? So much of seeing the lights is about luck…so good luck! 😀

      January 14, 2015
      • Thanks a lot! We haven’t decided on a destination, so your post will come in handy!

        January 20, 2015
        • I think one really important thing is to pick a place where there’s other stuff you want to do, because otherwise you’ll be disappointed if you don’t see the lights. In hindsight, I kinda wish we’d picked Iceland instead… Good luck with seeing the lights, and let us know how it goes! 😀

          January 20, 2015
  8. What a great idea for a post. It is good to always show that sometimes not EVERYTHING goes as plan 🙂

    http://www.thebeautyofwanderlust.org

    January 25, 2015
    • Thanks! For sure, traveling isn’t always good. There are many times on the road, when I wished with all my heart that I was back in my own bed! 😉

      January 26, 2015
  9. Too bad the northern lights were a disappointment. I’ve been in Alaska the last 10 years and last September I saw an aurora display that was absolutely mind-blowing. But I have also waited up all night in the cold for nothing!

    January 28, 2015
    • That’s what we were dreaming of, but Mother Nature is finicky I suppose. I think it feels doubly disappointing because it just costs so much to try to see them. Those areas of the world are definitely NOT cheap to visit. 😦

      How many times would you say you’ve seen something mind-blowing during your 10 years in Alaska? I have a theory that it’s not so easy to see, but of course, it’s totally untested. 😉

      January 28, 2015
  10. I undesrtand the disappointment, but I can see a lot of light pollution in your first picture. Maybe it wasn’t dark enough.

    January 29, 2015
    • We definitely saw them…(I think the light pollution is just because I’m not very good with the camera, and my Sony takes in a lot of light – I rarely have to use a flash)… they were just kind of boring…slowly blobbing across the sky in a big ball, instead of dancing/flickering.

      January 30, 2015
  11. Kan #

    Well, I guess we wouldn’t appreciate the highs without the lows… I faced similar issues in France, where my ATM card would just not work. It was quite a bit of a problem. It worked fine in Spain, which we went to right after. On our way back we were transiting through CDG and a guy approached us for help since he had no cash and his ATM card wasn’t working. Hubby helped him out, even though he might have just been taking us for a ride… you know JUST in case he was in genuine trouble.

    January 30, 2015
    • That is totally true. You definitely need the lows to truly appreciate the highs…and hey, it wouldn’t be travel without them, I suppose. Wow, you had the same experience as us with the card. It was SO weird…and my bank STILL has no idea what the problem was. Lol I did get some free apology air miles out of it, so it wasn’t a total loss at least. It was kind of your hubby to help that guy out… it is always difficult to know if someone is in genuine trouble. We bought prescription drugs (they were for diabetes) for a man on the street in India once. We weren’t entirely sure if we should, but the pharmacist said they weren’t drugs you could get addicted to, or that you could sell to others on the street, so we went ahead. The man was obviously very ill and poor… and the drugs ended up costing $85 – a fortune for most people in India! It made me sad to think about how difficult it would be for him to get them again. 😦

      February 2, 2015
  12. Travel isn’t always sunshine and rainbows for sure. I had a pretty good 2014. The only letdown was the rudeness of the locals in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

    February 2, 2015
    • Glad you had a good travel year. Ugh, rude locals really are such a letdown, and I always wonder if they are that way to each other, or just to tourists…

      February 3, 2015
  13. Nice post. I had done this kind of post before – Whoas and Woes. It lets other travelers be alert of disappointments they might encounter. That credit card issue sounds like a horror story! 🙂

    February 4, 2015
    • Haha Whoas and Woes is a much wittier title than The Travel Disappointments of 2014. 😀 Yeah, the credit card issue was bad, but we managed. Thank god I’d grabbed some cash at the last second!!

      February 5, 2015
  14. Hey Shelley! Places/people/celestial events not living up to the hype is a regular feature in travel. 🙂 As a rule, I tend to dismiss tourism ads and brochures. I read them, but don’t fall the pictures of smiling, happy – people syndrome. I prefer blogs/travel forums. Strangely,whatever be our experience, in hindsight, it always serves as a funny memory. You know, the one that sticks on. The one, when you’re 70 and thinking, “I can’t believe I did that or got through that!”
    cheers
    Cheryl

    February 13, 2015
    • It is indeed a big part of traveling, and I guess we take the good with the bad! Lol…after all, I’d rather be on the road and disappointed than not on the road at all. 🙂

      February 14, 2015

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