Sometimes when we travel, the destination is, in a bad way, nowhere near what we expected. No matter carefully you planned it, or how many hours you spent researching online by reading accounts and watching YouTube tourism videos, nothing can prepare you for disappointment.
This happened to me a couple of times throughout my travels, but the most recent episode left me dumbfounded and upset. Although I could not stand where I was, I had no idea how to abscond.
The place I am talking about is Kuala Lumpur. Now, before you get all huffy with me (I am looking at you, Southeast Asia backpackers), I do agree that Malaysia, especially Borneo, is beautiful. The people are wonderful. Kuala Lumpur, however, did not charm me in the slightest.
- My bank card kept getting frozen whenever I tried to use it. Right off the airplane, I was stripped of funds. I was later told by the bank that Malaysia is infamous for fraudulent bank activity, so even though I notified them of my travel plans almost every week, I was shut down every single withdrawal.
- The guesthouse where I stayed was super sketchy. At one point, the owner said to me, “I was worried about you… when I do not see people for some time… anyway, it looks bad when people disappear.” Whoa, okay.
- The oppressive humidity. Prior to headed to Kuala Lumpur, I was in Singapore. The humidity barely fazed me. I was surprised, because my autoimmune disorder is usually most active (and painful) when there is high humidity. As soon as I stepped foot in KL, I was a nauseous, rheumatic mess. At one point, an elderly gentleman had a heat stroke on the street, falling into oncoming traffic. I was the only one who rushed to save him. Thankfully, he was okay.
- The smell. I understand. Cities literally stink. But Kuala Lumpur was… rank. Every morning when I went for a walk, trying to beat the humidity, I was assaulted by the odor of excrement and urine.
- Danger. I am not implying that I felt fearful of the people, although I found myself avoiding all the hawkers and their aggressive sales tactics, like throwing themselves into my path and shoving advertisements into my hands or trying to “guide” me. No, what scared me was the 1-3 feet deep holes open in the sidewalks, the uneven pavement, the slippery messes on the ground, and the lack of consideration drivers had for pedestrians.
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Getting out of dodge
What did I do? I knew I could not motivate myself to stay in Kuala Lumpur and continue on with traveling Malaysia. Even though I had paid for two weeks of accommodations and could lose that, as well as a plane ticket, I immediately referred to Plan B through Z.
Here are my recommendations for when you do not like your destination:
- Think it through. What is the exact reason you do not like where you are? Is it unsafe? Unsanitary? Or are you being irrational and close-minded? Depending on the reason you find the destination intolerable, you may be able to deal with it a bit more.
- Look for alternatives close by. Sometimes, if it is your hotel or hostel, you may be able to find similarly priced rooms one or two neighborhoods away. The atmosphere is usually drastically different – in a good way. If you find you do not like the city, try the next city over. Usually, train or public transportation is not that costly. Or move to another region. For example, if you do not like the Selangor region of Malaysia, go north to the beaches or to the Borneo side of it.
- Try to find places you can tolerate. For me, after seeing the attractions on my bucket list, I found sanctuary at the library. If you are stuck in this unsavory situation for a while, just keeping going back to where you feel comfortable.
- Run, runaway. Seriously, if you have the flexibility to retreat, do it. Your happiness, money, and time are better spent in a location that suits you more. For me, it was Perth, Australia. I found a cheap ticket and had no hesitation booking it.
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In short, you should never feel trapped where you are vacationing or traveling. Though travel is always a risk, where you end up is as important as the route taken to get there. Do not sacrifice time, money, and happiness to stay somewhere that leaves you feeling uneasy. Stay flexible, and always be prepared to move on to the next leg of the journey.