Underwhelmed, Overwhelmed, Travelling Free

As any traveller will know, some places surpass expectations and blow your mind. Others sadly disappoint and leave you feeling underwhelmed and fed up. For those places – at least you found out first-hand! Here are a run-down of the places which Underwhelmed me, and the places which Overwhelmed me. (and 10 points to anyone who got the fairly obvious Wombles reference!)

Places which Underwhelmed me Compared to my Expectations

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia: I was led to believe this would be an underwater paradise, with brightly coloured fish and a kaleidoscope of corals. Sadly this was not the case – it was essentially beige, with not many fish. And our experience was not atypical; a colleague who went there recently came back complaining of the corals being really bleached by pollution.

Carcassonne, France: I thought this would be a magical castle, and it was certainly nice, but it just seemed like a tourist trap and it didn’t grab me like I thought it would. After a couple of hours I was ready to go.

The Magic Kingdom, Disneyworld, Florida, USA: I was worried that this would be super touristy and twee, but it was much worse than I imagined. It was so busy and crowded I couldn’t walk at a decent pace for fear of stepping on someone. It was also cold (what?! I know – it was a record low temperature) and the rides were either so babyish you need to be 3 years old to enjoy them, or so fast they were scary (Space Mountain).

Washington DC, USA: This was just too big, raining all the time, and lacked any kind of soul. Plus we got scared when a policeman told us it wasn’t safe to walk to our hotel without a gun (what?!). We found the Capitol interesting, and we focused on the National Mall so maybe one day we will return and give Washington another go and focus on other parts of town.

Singapore: I did kind of like Singapore – it was hot, had a good variety of food, and had so many shopping malls that you can easily access air conditioning and clean toilets. But the same pluses can also become minuses – it was TOO hot and humid, there were SO many shopping malls that they became boring (although I always like a clean toilet!), and constantly going in and out of air conditioning makes me slightly ill. Plus several of the unique things were prohibitively expensive (eg. the Singapore Sling drink S$28 plus tax, plus tip, or the rooftop of Marina Bay Sands S$23 each). Therefore, although it was fine for a break and I’m glad we tried it, overall it didn’t grab me as much as cities normally do.

Marrakesh, Morocco: I expected a beautiful and exciting adventure, and I got mugged and sick. Definitely the worst anti-climax I have experienced, and much worse than it raining or experiencing too much air conditioning!

I should also point out that this is very subjective – this is based on my personal experience on the day and time I was there, and compared to my expectations. Just because I was underwhelmed doesn’t mean you will be!

Places which Overwhelmed me Compared to my Expectations

Whale Watching in Vancouver: I wanted to see whales but this was mostly outweighed by how nervous I was about sea sickness and i almost didn’t bother at all. As it was, I think we were just extremely lucky – on any given trip, you never know what you might see, and from what distance. We saw both humpback whales and killer whales, which swam really close to the boat. And we saw a killer whale attack and kill a seal really close to us. The whole trip was absolutely breathtaking and magical.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy: My expectations were fairly low – I thought it might be nice but at the end of the day, it’s just a fountain, right? A friend of mine thought the same and didn’t even bother to visit it when he went to Rome. Well that was crazy – we found it completely surpassed expectations; the sheer scale of the fountain, the whiteness of the marble, the beauty of the sculpting. Blog to Follow.

Machu Picchu, Peru: I always wanted to go here and it really surpassed my expectations; the beauty, the isolated location, the mist clearing to reveal the hidden Inca village. It was totally overwhelming and I couldn’t believe I had made it there.

American National Parks, USA: When I think of the USA I think bright lights, big cities, food and roads. National Parks pale in comparison, but I think the National Parks are one of the best things about America. Having visited the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Yellowstone, and Blue Springs (which is a state park), all of these overwhelmed me. Their sheer scale, the natural beauty, the wildlife spotting opportunities (where else can you see bears, moose, wolves etc – in principle – we didn’t see any despite our best efforts!) all made these experiences overwhelming.

Seoul, South Korea: My hopes were high but my expectations were low – I thought it might be interesting and a new city. But Seoul was amazing. The variety of things to do, the fantastic food, and the complete escapism while also being comfortable, made for a great holiday. Blog to Follow.

next post: Rome, Italy

previous post: End of the Normandy Road Trip

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