Managing Expectations: My Recent Experiences in New Orleans

Have you ever heard raving reviews about a place and been thoroughly underwhelmed when you went to check it out yourself?

I’m going to tell you about my experience of this on my two recent visits to New Orleans (NOLA).

In the lead up to my first visit to NOLA, a number of people had spoken incredibly highly of the city. When I’d mention I was heading there, people’s faces would light up with excitement and they’d continue to boast about how it’s such an AMAZING place.

Eventually all the hype had me so excited to visit NOLA, and I expected that I would have this incredible out-of-this-world experience.

New Orleans Visit 1  – November 2017

I first arrived in NOLA with back in November of 2017. My friend and I were so excited about exploring the city that we booked two hostels in different areas for our 7-night visit so that we could explore different areas.

The first hostel, Auberge NOLA was a nice place but the ‘great nightlife and bars’ along Magazine were certainly average and underwhelming without any street atmosphere. We thought we may have got a bad night so we went back again the following night (a Friday) to be disappointed yet again.

Our next hostel, India House Backpackers was also great (actually I must say it was pretty awesome) but again, we were pretty underwhelmed by the area and lack of ‘wow factor’ anywhere close by. Eventually, we made it to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street which was definitely where the action was at.

While I’d say we enjoyed our time in New Orleans, I think our expectations were WAY too high which lead to a certain level of disappointment. It’s also important to note that we weren’t looking for a crazy party, although we certainly would have joined in on the fun if a good opportunity was there.

The famous beignets from Cafe du Monde

New Orleans Visit 2 – Mardi Gras February 2018

Now I’d heard some pretty epic things about Mardi Gras in New Orleans so I added it to the top of my bucket list and made it a priority to get back for the festival. In saying that, I was excited, however, I definitely wasn’t expecting too much this time.

I definitely felt more comfortable being in NOLA this time so I enjoyed that aspect of my visit because I knew my way around and where to get AMAZING fried chicken (Willie’s Fried Chicken Shack).

I would say Mardi Gras wasn’t quite as thrilling as I expected. There was certainly a lot of fun to be had but I found the streets were incredibly crowded and the parades became repetitive after a while as they basically rotated between floats and marching bands.


What I’ve learnt about managing expectations:

  • When there is a lot of hype around certain destinations, make sure you set realistic expectations (or avoid setting them at all)

  • Think about other people’s personalities and what they enjoy. As an example, my good friend Cam absolutely loves to party so he LOVED New Orleans. In hindsight, I’m sure this was a key aspect of why he had such an amazing time in New Orleans

  • It helps not to compare to other places/experiences/visits. This has happened to me many times when I revisit a place and try to recreate my last experience because it was so great. Just focus on being in the moment and enjoy what’s in front of you

  • When your friends give you mind-blowing reviews of a place remind yourself that this was THEIR experience, not necessarily the experience of everyone who visits said location. There are so many variables at play that can influence whether or not you’ll enjoy that place

  • I’ve noticed that it better to focus on creating your own experiences. Yes, of course, take recommendations on board, just take them with a grain of salt and also consider what YOU enjoy and what YOU want to do.

So to wrap up, I find having certain expectations can set you up for failure and disappointment.

My recommendation is to travel without expectations, be in the moment and bring along a positive attitude.

Have you had a similar experience where your expectations didn’t become your reality? Feel free to share your thoughts and share this article.

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