Same Place + Different Attitude = Different Experience. The importance of attitude when travelling + 12 tips for having positive travel experiences

Have you ever returned to the same place a second time and had a completely different experience to your first visit? You may have had a better experience… or wondered why you loved that place so much the first time you visited.

I’ve recently had a couple of these experiences, but I want to tell you about my two recent visits to Portland. These completely different experiences led to a realisation, or epiphany about how significant your attitude and mood can affect your travel experiences.

Located in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, Portland is the largest city in Oregon. Portland is known for being weird, cool, liberal, 420 friendly, environmentally-friendly and full of breweries and hipsters. To me, this picture sums up a huge part of what Portland is like.


When I first arrived in Portland in September, I was picked up by an Uber driver who raved about the city, boasting about how much she loved it and how it was the best city in the world.

I was bursting with excitement to check out this cool place, especially the food! I checked into my hostel, a Hostelling International property, and didn’t waste any time before I was out exploring the city. I wandered around and found quirky shops, cool breweries and incredible late night pizza. I found the city easy to get around and full of randomness to look at.

It was International World Peace Day so my hostel, being very environmentally and socially conscious, hosted a Speak for Peace event at the property. I got involved in cooking this incredibly yummy vegan meal and later returned to be part of a great workshop that had been organised by a staff member of the hostel. I met a bunch of great people.. and they even had free beer! Crazy right?!?

At this point, if someone were to ask me what I thought of Portland, I would say it was a super cool and interesting place with heaps to check out. I would rave about the amazing Blue Star donuts and great beer.

So my next adventure was a spontaneous road trip down to California to celebrate my birthday. I drove the whole way down to San Luis Obispo by myself and spend a week catching up with new and old friends in California.

By the time I arrived back in Portland I was completely and utterly wrecked. I had been on the road for days and had missed out on wayyy too many hours of sleep. I was also in serious need of a shower. I took my stuff to the hostel but it was too early to check in, so I dropped off my rental car and proceeded to head into the city to do some exploring.

I was approached multiple times on the street being asked for a lighter or some spare change. I stood around waiting for the bus while bunches of undesirable characters did what seemed to be drug deals around me. I was left standing there feeling pretty frustrated, uncomfortable and grumpy.

I heard raving reviews about Voodoo Doughnuts which originally started in Portland. How could I go wrong with doughnuts right? I consider them to be one of the best things on the planet.

So I made my way to Voodoo Doughnuts only to find a swarm of tourists hanging around, and a mob of them waiting in line to get into the store. Here’s a picture of the line to give you an idea.


In total frustration, I decided there was no way these doughnuts were worth waiting in such a massive line for (a bad attitude I know).

At this point, if someone were to ask me what I thought of Portland, I would say it’s full of tourists, drugs and that it’s dirty.

Finally, I took myself to Blue Star Donuts, a favourite of the locals in Portland. Now that my craving was satisfied, I killed some more time before I could finally check into my hostel and have a shower and a long nap.

After managing to refresh myself and lay down for a minute, someone opened the door to my hostel dorm room and came on in. While a little off-put at first, I got chatting to her and man was she lovely. She was this incredible young travelling nurse who was doing a solo road-trip across the United States and back again. We had a great chat and decided we should go and check out this ice-cream place, Salt and Straw which was known for having crazy ice-cream flavours.

The rumour was true, these ice-cream flavours were insane. They ranged from Dracula’s Blood Pudding (a Halloween special) to Creepy Crawly Critters (another Halloween special) to Honey Lavender to Arbequina Olive Oil to Pear and Blue Cheese. Crazy right?!?

Anyway, I got myself a tasting flight as per the picture below.

I was so excited that I turned my mood and attitude around (mostly because I was able to shower and lay down in this case). It also taught me the importance of spending time with other people who are friendly and pleasant to be around. Here’s a picture of Danielle & I at the ice-cream place.


As you can see, my experiences in Portland were both very different, and were both significantly influenced by my mood and attitude=.

So as per the title of this blog post, this little equation I created really rings true for me.

Attitude Equation

What I realised on reflection, nothing about Portland changed, I changed. So before you go blaming a place for being shitty, maybe think about your attitude first and if you made the best of your visit.

I want to link these two different experiences to a concept I learnt about during my business degree because I can see the relevance. The concept is called ‘Locus of Control’, which refers to the extent to which people feel they are able to affect their lives.

Some people have an internal locus of control, meaning they feel in control of their environment. They take responsibility and feel like they have choice and the ability to influence what happens in their life.

People with an external locus of control don’t feel they have any ability to control their environment. They possess a victim mentality and blame other factors for what happens in their life.

This relates directly to how you let your attitude and mood affect your travels. You can either;
a) Adopt a positive attitude and look for the best in each place you visit and each situation you are in; or
b) Blame the place or the people or the situation for your bad experience.

You have the choice of A or B… and I think you may have an idea about which one will lead to a better travel experience 🙂

So here’s my 12 bits of advice for having the best possible travel experiences:

  • Be aware of your attitude and mood. Make sure you consider how this is affecting your experience.
  • Do you research and choose your destination wisely.
  • Focus on maintaining a positive attitude and look for the good in each situation.
  • Get enough sleep – don’t underestimate that travelling can be extremely tiring.
  • Let go of expectations. It isn’t helpful to have unrealistic expectations. If you go without expectations then you can’t be disappointment.
  • Put things into perspective. At least you are not home working (that’s if you’re not a fan of your job)
  • Be very mindful about the people you travel with. Your travel partner/s can make or break your trip as they have the potential to dramatically affect your travel experiences based on their mood and attitude.
  • Do what you want to do, not what other people say you SHOULD do. For example, if you don’t like museums, don’t go to museums. If you like beer, check out local breweries and cool bars.
  • Don’t get caught up on little bumps along the way. They are all part of travel and make for a great story later.
  • Be open to trying new things and having new experiences. Travel is a great opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and do things you would never normally do at home.  
  • Remember that places will be different… That’s the whole point of travel. If you wanted an experience like home, you would just stay at home and save your hard earned money. I like to adopt the principle that nothing is weird, just different. Also, be tolerant of differences and don’t judge other people because they don’t fit into your idea of ‘normal’.
  • Don’t let others’ bad mood or attitude bring you down

And as a side note, it’s important to mention that attitude doesn’t just affect your travel experiences it makes or breaks anything…work, study, friendships etc. etc.

Oh an another thing, while my Portland experience was kind of the opposite way around (in a funny way), if you don’t enjoy your experience in a particular place, give it a second chance. I have done this a few times before and been pleasantly surprised that I went back and gave it another shot.

Before I bring this blog post to an end, here’s a quote I found along the way which really resonates with me:

_Attitude Quote

So to sum up my Portland story for you, here are my overall reflections on how attitude and mood can affect your travel experiences. 

  • Your travel experiences can depends greatly on the company you bring along, the time of year that you visit a place, you attitude, your mood and your personal taste.
  • Stop complaining and look for the positive in every situation.
  • Be open to what a place has to offer and don’t make judgements too soon.
  • Don’t blame the place – think about your attitude and mood first. 
  • Set yourself up for a positive experience – by doing your research, getting enough sleep and choosing your company wisely.

    So to finish off here’s my life lesson from this story: leave your bad attitude at home. If you’re not going to take a good attitude, stay at home.

    Do you have any similar experiences? Do you think that attitude affects your experiences? Please comment below and let me know your thoughts.

    Also, please like and share this article if you enjoyed it.

    Thank you for reading and please subscribe to get future blog post updates.

    Until next week,

    Thanks for reading.

    aLarkin Abroad


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