If You Could Have One Travel Mulligan

Few editorial choices more plainly reveal a writer as a rank amateur than that of preceding a written piece with a dictionary definition. And so it seems fitting that I am choosing to begin this post with …

According to Merriam-Webster, to disappoint means:
to make (someone) unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected

The etymology of the word derives from Middle English; to disappoint originally meant to remove someone from an appointed office. Presumably the person being removed hadn’t lived up to expectations, and so the decision to remove – or disappoint – him was associated with a feeling of regret, and today the word has evolved to describe the feeling of regret when any experience doesn’t meet expectations.

Say, for example, the experience of finally being able to visit a place you have always wanted to see.

littlesheep recently asked fellow travelers to name the “most disappointing places you have been to”. Not necessarily the least picturesque or most boring – rather places people desired to go but once they finally got there it didn’t live up to the hype.

Fortunately for you, the reader of this post, the travelers who replied are much, much better and wittier writers than I (me?). Below are just a few of the responses:

Bucharest, Romania. Always wanted to see “Little Paris”.


It’s a dump and nothing works; the public transport is beyond infuriating. Don’t go. Ever. ~paul4040

For years and years I had wanted to go to Arches national park. I thought I’d be sleeping amongst red rock and getting up to watch sunrise through an arch and watching stars through arches and so on….


Once there, I tried for several hours to maintain a positive attitude. It’s popular because it’s beautiful, I said to myself.


That can’t excuse the masses of screaming humanity that scream their way through every nook and cranny. I saw one arch, well a double one actually, count them, and that’s that. Screaming. People. Adults.

I now hate arches as a natural phenomenon and never want to see one again. ~littlesheep

Sydney/Melbourne – it was a long way to go to see something that didn’t seem all too different than home. Not a bad place, just oddly not wholly dissimilar. ~OskiBear

Bratislava. Even Bucharest was better… and that is saying a lot. ~DesertNomad

Los Angeles. I spent much of my youth dreaming of living there (and I didn’t even want to be an “entertainer”) but now when I’m forced to drive up for meetings, I want to quit my job instead. ~KenS

And that is just a very small sampling of quotes from a thread that contains 140 posts at the time of this writing – most of which are as fun and entertaining as the next.

For me the answer is Rome. Don’t get me wrong, the city and sites were amazing and well worth the visit. But the crowds were beyond what I could have imagined in my worst DisneyWorld nightmares. I fell victim to the “scene in movies” trap described brilliantly by darthbimmer:

Take the notion of a romantic dinner for two in a beautiful city. A pleasant evening stroll leads us to a little cafe with an intimate outdoor table, candlelight, delicious food, soft music in the background, quiet moments with your companion…. Yes, we’ve all seen that scene in movies. That’s the point– it’s fantasy, not real life. In real life, the cafe may be crowded, the food may be so-so, the street is full of delivery trucks belching exhaust and taxis honking their horns, and even the stroll over there involves stepping over unconscious people on the sidewalk, aggressive panhandling, and being pursued by tireless scammers who can hawk fake luxury goods in 5 languages but seem don’t understand “NO” in any of them.


That’s where expectations matter. If you go in expecting it to be like a movie, you’ll be disappointed. If you go in with world-wise expectations, aware of and prepared to endure (or realistically minimize) the unappealing aspects, and knowing what good things to expect, you’ll enjoy it a lot better.

What has been your most disappointing destination? If you are a member of FlyerTalk, please post to the current thread. And if you are not, please share in the comments section below.

Read the thread in its entirety: Most disappointing place you’ve been to

Image: “Hauptmarkt” by James Jones. CC BY 2.0.


  1. Probably Milan. You think high-fashion, fancy Italians and whatnot. Instead it’s just another dirty city where you get propositioned by hookers outside of McDonalds and the answer to any request is invariably “no, is not possible”.
    I’d say a close second though is what KenS said, but I’d expand that to almost all of southern California. You grow up on the east coast thinking CA is some magical beautiful place, and once you get there it most certainly IS NOT.

  2. For my wife and I it was Tel Aviv in particular, Israel in general. Jerusalem is worth seeing once for the historical value, but Tel Aviv struck us as a dismal run down city with surly inhabitants at every turn.

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