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15 Things We Pretend We Didn’t Do On Our First Big Trip Abroad


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Written by: Eleanor Aldridge

You never forget the first time you go travelling. Whether it’s a gap year adventure or a holiday with friends, nothing matches the excitement of discovering new places, meeting new people and getting a taste for exploring solo. It’s also likely that at some point you’ll seriously embarrass yourself. If you recognise any of the below, don’t worry: we’re cringing with you.

1. Make linguistic faux pas

Learning a few words of the local language is essential as you explore a new country. Just make them the right words. It doesn’t get much worse than accidentally asking your French Airbnb host to pass the preservatifs rather than the jams and preserves over the breakfast table. Unless you really do fancy condoms on toast.

2. Sleep through an amazing sunrise

However good your intentions, getting up at 4am is never going to be easy. Remember, nothing screams hangover like pretending your alarm didn’t go off: it’s the oldest trick in the book.

3. Get defeated by a hike

If you think a month of boozing, backpacking and late nights has made you into a superhuman, think again. That mountain trek might seem like a good idea, but you’ll quickly realise you’re underprepared and ill-equipped for scrambling up steep slopes and walking in the midday sun. Meltdowns, insect bites and sore legs are inevitable. Not that you’ll let on in your victorious summit photo, of course.

4. Over pack

No one packs perfectly for their first trip abroad, and most of us err on the side of taking too much. Numerous gadgets, “secret” money belts, bulky hiking boots, pop-up tents and smart clothes (just in case) are among the most common culprits weighing down backpacks.

5. Make a grave logistical miscalculation

If you’ve ever taken a chicken bus in Guatemala or a night sleeper in Vietnam, you’ll know that bus timetables can be some of the most confusing and unwieldy schedules to navigate. No matter how well you think you’ve cracked them, you’ll quickly learn to check the destination before boarding. It’s all too easy to end up making an unexpected detour, or even head straight back in the direction you came from.

6. Talk about “doing” destinations

There’s no surer sign of a traveller on their first trip than someone who talks about their tick-list of places to do rather than visit. “Myanmar? Yeah, I’ve done that. I’m gonna do Indonesia next.”

7. Eat at McDonald’s

Time to ‘fess up: we’ve all done it. While trying local foods is often the highlight of a trip, sometimes you’re just so knackered that all you want is an easy, quick and reassuring taste of home. At least it’s an opportunity to try the special menu items in a new country – Japan’s Cheese Katsu Burger is a cult classic, right?

8. Copy someone else’s photo

Whether you’re posing like your favourite Instagrammer with a “follow me to” hand-holding shot, or hovering behind the couple who found the perfect Grand Canyon selfie spot, originality sometimes goes out of the window. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.
'Follow me' travel photo

9. Get conned

It takes a while to get worldly-wise. If a market trader insists that a souvenir is made from real gold/jade/leather/kryptonite, who are you to argue? Luckily for them, by the time it falls apart you’re likely to be long gone.

10. Have an embarrassing hook-up

Sometimes things look a little different in the bright light of day. Especially when you wake up squeezed into a hostel bunk with your new bae, and you’re pretty sure the rest of the dorm knows exactly what you’ve been up to.

11. Hide valuables somewhere “safe”

Keeping your valuables safely stashed is paramount, but it’s all too easy to forget your latest ingenious hiding spot. Trust us, you don’t know true terror until you’ve raced across Panama City in an overpriced taxi to see if your passport is still tucked underneath a mattress in a grotty hotel.

12. Pretend to be from somewhere else

Some days you simply don’t fancy talking to new people, particularly when they’re from your hometown and want to endlessly reminisce and list all the friends you have in common. The simple solution? Pretend to be from a different town, city or even country. Just don’t attempt an accent: that’s where things start to go wrong.

13. Get ridiculously sunburned

On glorious sunny days there’s no point in wasting time, and stopping to put on sun cream is just unnecessary faff. Only later will you realise the error of your ways. Expect at least three days of pain, peeling and never-ending lobster jokes.

14. Wear the same bracelet every day

Whether it’s a festival band, club entry tag or totally original leather cuff you picked up at a market, this bracelet is now part of your identity. A mark of your adventurous spirit, it should never be removed ,no matter how grubby it might get.

15. Miss home

There’s one thing nearly everyone pretends not to do on their first big trip away: miss home. Sometimes independence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it’s okay to feel a bit homesick once in a while. You might never let on, but sometimes you’re ready for your trip to come to a close.

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