“Do You Have Any Regrets?”

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Dear Kate,

There will a come a time when you’re just settling into bed on your friend’s blow-up mattress, tipsy from a night of bar-hopping in a foreign city, browsing Facebook on your phone, when your friend’s good-looking roommate will return home from his own night out.

“Hey Kate, you still awake?”

You could go either way.

“Yeah, I’m up.”

You chat about your respective evenings. He puts on a Blur album; you suggest To Pimp a Butterfly instead. By the time Kendrick sings, “But your flood can be misunderstood,” he’ll have casually slid next to you on the air mattress.

Will it be a fun night? Oh, yes.

But there’s a casualty — it will make things weird with your friend. Your friend who was so kind to offer you a place to stay, to take you out for dinner and drinks, to catch up on everything that’s been happening in the years since you drank buckets together in ramshackle bars built by the water, cockroaches scurrying by your feet.

You’re over 30 now. And you still pull that shit?

You could have yawned and said, “Yeah, I’m going to bed now, though.”

There will come a time when one of your longtime blogger friends will be in Bangkok at the same time as you. Delighted to finally meet in person, you plan to grab lunch together before you fly south the next day.

He doesn’t eat seafood, but you do. Served up is a giant plate of shrimp, dripping in fresh lime juice and punctuated by zests of garlic and chili. This isn’t pad grapow on Soi Rambuttri — this is real Thai food for Thai people. And perhaps that’s why you’re caught off guard.

You’re fine as you catch your early morning flight to Ranong. You’re fine as you cross the choppy waters to Koh Phayam, gazing at Myanmar in the distance. You’re fine on the kamikaze motorbike ride to your guesthouse as you drink in the warm breezes of the Andaman Sea.

36 hours after your fateful meal, it hits you. Stomach cramps. Nausea. Fever. Diarrhea. Running to the bathroom four times an hour and feeling like you’re going to die each time.

Years into your long-term travels, this is only the second time you’ve fallen victim to food poisoning; you’re proud of your cast-iron stomach. But everyone has their kryptonite.

The diarrhea isn’t even the worst part. Soon, the stomach cramps get so bad that you can’t sit up — you can only rock back and forth on the bed, moaning in place. Staying still is impossible. Sitting up is impossible. All you can do is whimper and turn down offers of plain sticky rice from the concerned ladies checking on you.

The next day, it’s all over. You eat a bag of plain potato chips. They taste like sunshine.

Years later, you’ll invite that same blogger friend into your New York apartment for a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie from Long Island. Nobody will get sick that time.

Maybe, Kate, you shouldn’t order that plate of shrimp in Bangkok.

There will come a time when you randomly reply to a press release, saying you’d love to come visit their destination — and holy shit, it actually works.

It’s the Faroe Islands. You’re going to the Faroe fucking Islands. Nobody goes there. And their people want you there.

But flights from the UK are limited. What makes the most sense is to do a four-night trip over a long weekend, they suggest.

And you hesitate.

You have a boyfriend who is so good to you. And weekends are the times when you get to spend the most time with him. And you feel so guilty being away so much of the time, even though there are visa-related reasons for that, and being present on the weekend is the least you could do for him.

“Could we do it during the week instead?” you ask.

Of course. The only thing is, due to that limited flight schedule, you could only fit three nights, not four.

That’s fine. Of course you’d be okay with that.

You land in the islands, rent a car, and burst into shrieks of happiness as you drive down the island of Vágar. This is as close as you’ve been to being at the end of the world.

Driving down those smooth roads on the islands, hiking with puffins on Mykines, getting that iconic shot of the waterfall at Gasadalur (not to mention accidentally driving your car into a ditch). Gripping the steering wheel as you needle your way toward Gjogv, dining on lamb with fermented salt, sailing into dark caves to the sounds of Nordic singing.

This place is everything.

Your heart aches fiercely when it’s time to leave — you would do anything to stay longer.

Well, you could have stayed longer. And you chose not to. You didn’t even ask your boyfriend for his input; you assumed this was what he wanted.

Years later, that airline route won’t even exist anymore, and you’ll by chance sit next to Visit Faroe Islands reps at a conference. You’ll reminisce about how much you fell in love with their islands and how much they loved your content.

Maybe, Kate, you should go for four days instead of three.

There will come many times when you’ll be in the Italian countryside drinking homemade red wine out of repurposed Gatorade bottles.

This is almost always a mistake.

Homemade wine is much stronger than what you can buy in the store. Often twice as strong. And while it’s local and organic, it has way more of the stuff that settles behind your eyeballs and gives you a blinding headache the next day.

In fact, the following morning, after a twisty car ride through the Tuscan countryside, you’ll beg for the van to stop and dash off, vomiting between two olive trees.

Because yes, Kate, you do know you’re prone to severe motion sickness, ever since you couldn’t keep yourself from retching out the car door on camping trips to New Hampshire as a kid. But let’s not pretend that the wine wasn’t a factor.

For the sake of your body, Kate, not to mention your pride, you should skip the home-fermented brew altogether.

There will come a time when a nice boy asks you to dance.

Of course you say yes.

He takes your hand and pulls you onto the dance floor, light on his feet and holding you at just the right closeness.

It doesn’t hurt that he bears a resemblance to a certain good-looking friend of yours. The friend that can make you draw your breath in sharply with just a glance. The friend who has had a lovely girlfriend for as long as you’ve known him.

This guy appears to be more available, and a better dancer to boot. You dance to a second song. A third. You try some goofy steps and laugh through a fourth.

He whirls you around and pauses, looking into your eyes. “I really want to kiss you.”

You’re dumbfounded. “What…did you say?”

“I want to kiss you now.”

You heard him the first time.

“I…I shouldn’t.”

Why did you say no? You wanted to kiss him. But you had a narrative in mind for the night and that kiss would have taken it in a completely different direction.

Feeling a bit sheepish, you exchange numbers with the nice dancer boy and pose for a selfie. You’ll never see each other again.

Kiss him, Kate. It will go nowhere, but who cares? Imagine the narrative you could have chosen instead. Writers always need stories, after all.

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50 thoughts on ““Do You Have Any Regrets?””

  1. This is my philosophy 100%, especially when it comes to trying food while traveling. If it goes well – awesome! If it goes poorly – I got a new story! 🙂

    Sharing on my social today, great work on this one. I’m not sure if you consider this a compliment but I mean it as one when I say this has a lovely and particularly Bordainian tone.

  2. What a fantastic blog post! It’s so hard when you’re in the moment to realise what the right thing to do is, especially when other people are involved. Sometimes you can genuinely feel your head and heart fighting, like a knot in your stomach.

  3. Lovely post. I am always wondering about the what ifs especially travel related. But in the end it is what it is. The what if can only help to maybe make a different decision in a similar situation later on.
    Thanks for your blog and thanks for being amazing. Love your blog and posts!

  4. Reading the headline and seeing the photo of the Faroe Islands in the FB preview, I was worried you’d actually regret going to the Faroe Islands because of all shitstorm comments a trip there can attract (I got loads of personal attacks for going there on behalf of Travelettes) – I’m glad to find that it was just the other way around and you regretted not staying longer! I can’t wait to return – we had a week and it was still too short and rushed. Maybe you can find flights via Iceland with Icelandic & Atlantic Airways 😀

    1. That’s one thing that nobody talks about — when you become a blogger, you will receive constant attacks from animal rights people. If you don’t live a 100% vegan lifestyle, they will get to you eventually, somehow. (Oh my God, you’re WEARING WOOL?! You’re a monster!) But the Faroe Islands make a lot of people angry because of their whale hunt. You’ve just got to be ready for it.

  5. LOVE that last line! And also, writers often get caught up in the ideas and narratives wenspin, don’t we? Though I suppose all us humans are guilty of that.

  6. Loved this post…refreshing and a bit personal. <3

    Food poisoning…omg the worst. And then there's the regrettable one night stand. We've all got a story with that experience. :shudders:

  7. You’re a great story teller…felt like I was right there with you in each situation and wondered how I’d react and WANT to react.
    We do what we do and all the hindsight in the world doesn’t necessarily make one course better than the next. Our decisions define us and yes, teach us for future similar scenarios.
    Nonetheless your recountings are so well chronicled and I loved them.

  8. Such wonderful stories! I have also regretted not staying somewhere longer – or not going at all – over a boyfriend. It’s nice to see we all go through similar feelings and choices!

  9. wow. I loved this piece – and it’s extremely timely for me. Earlier this week I lost a family member and I have been thinking “I should have visited more” etc and reading this made me realise that I apply the same “what if’s” and “should haves” to my travels.

    My new life and travel philosophy is to do what feels right in the moment. Our feelings and emotions are our most powerful asset.

  10. Wow Kate, awesome article! I think you did a fantastic job of expressing how a lot of travelers really feel. This article helps put things into perspective and you captured the beauty of travel so well in this article.

  11. I love the honesty in here. I had food poisoning once, but back then I didn’t know it, I thought it was just a bad tummy ache. I later found out one of the women I was with had been sent to the hospital. We ate the same food. Ugh. Not really an exciting story to tell. 🙂

  12. Ugh! I loved reading this, and I totally understand that regret feeling! Thanks for sharing this so that hopefully we don’t make the same mistakes 🙂 Cheers!

  13. Lilla/ climbinglights

    Loved it 🙂 I still truly think there is more possibility of regret in not doing something rather than going for it.. the best stories of my life usually came from super random things 😀

  14. Love a good series of what if! As writers I think we can create so many narratives in our heads that our lives could have gone in so many directions! I always come back to the idea that regardless of the decisions I’ve made in the past, I’m where I’m supposed to be…even if it would be so nice to know what would’ve happened, just for the laugh!

  15. oh!! Great stories!! They reminded some similars stories!
    Actually, you should not think twice 🙂 When it feels right and you want to do smth, just go for it… 🙂
    Love your blog!!!

  16. I just started reading your blog and I love this post because you illustrate the crossroads that decisions present the every day person and it is extremely relatable. There have been so many times where I had to choose between a trip or time with family/friends. Loved the insight into who you are as a person and appreciated you sharing candidly!

  17. I read your posts with such delight! All of them.
    Keep writing your stories, Kate, the world needs them. I am not a writer, just a mere traveler, currently living in Ghana after years in the US, Kenya, Tanzania, and Thailand. I appreciate your insight and your honest writing. Such a talent.
    Thank you.

  18. Definitely not what I expected this to be, but I loved it. Life is definitely about the different roads we can take, sometimes for the better or worse. Either way, the experiences are adventures and memories you will always hold on to. Thanks for sharing!

  19. I loved reading your story! I try not to think about regrets or what could’ve been too hard because it always leads to a similar place. I think so many of us get so hung up on the past we forget to look right in front of us and we miss what’s really going on – now that should be a regret, because why ignore what’s here only to miss it when it’s gone? Like you say, we’ve got to live for today! great blog, best wishes!


  20. I’m so bad for the what if’s what if i said that or did that or didn’t do it. The thing is you can guarantee with about 98% of those things in a few days, or weeks or months they won’t matter because you’ll be on a great new adventure doing other regrettable things instead haha

  21. Aloha Kate! This post is awesome! Found myself reminiscing back to all the fun I had in Bangkok and Italy and everywhere in between… LOL!! Love this piece so much, thanks for sharing! 😀 xo

  22. Such a well written piece Kate. I tend to think you regret the things you don’t do far more than those you do (except in the case of severe food poisoning I imagine)

  23. Kate, I have been a long time reader from back when you went on your first blog adventure in Southeast Asia. I thoroughly enjoy your posts and reading them always connects me back to that feeling associated with travelling, that feeling that is a mix of ecstasy, happiness, intense bliss and peace that you can’t quite understand until you have lost yourself in travel. I have never commented until now, but I wanted to say that this post was beautifully written and it captures the wistfulness of “what if” so well.

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