Sometimes people confuse and confound me – especially folks who should frankly know better. Travel isn’t perfect, but some people tend to overcomplicate it in any number of ways. While in France recently I saw some fairly egregious examples of bad tourists, and online I’ve heard travel complaints that really should never have been complaints in the first place. So, I thought I’d choose a few of these travel issues, some basic truths really, and set the record straight on them once and for all. This is slightly tongue in cheek, so let’s keep the negativity to a minimum in the comments section – ok everyone?
You Get What You Pay For
Maxims are repeated time and time again for an important reason; they’re true. An important such expression in the travel experience is “You get what you pay for,” a sad fact that many of us forget I think. I could share dozens of examples, but there are two key ones that I think best demonstrate this in the travel context. I’ve seen more complaints about budget airlines like WOW air and easyJet than anything else, but what I don’t understand is why. People book flights with ultra-budget carriers understanding, or at least they should understand, that the tickets prices are absurdly low for a reason – they nickel and dime everyone. This isn’t a great secret or an example of airlines gone rogue; it’s their business model. So when you pay $99 each way for a flight to Europe, you better expect a few extra fees along the way. If you want a pleasant, hassle-free experience, then pay more money for a better seat on a better airline. I’m sorry, but you’re not going to get a business class seat on an extreme budget. For most people that’s ok, but if you want a truly fantastic flying experience then you have to be prepared to pay for it. The same holds true for hotels, which leads me to my second example. While AirBnB is more popular than ever, at its heart it’s still part of the sharing economy and as such, there is no standard for quality. Sometimes people luck out and that’s great, but I think it’s ridiculous to complain about lackluster AirBnB accommodations. Aren’t they supposed to be lackluster? That’s the point of getting a cheap room – it’s cheap. Again, if you expect the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton for an AirBnB price, that’s not going to happen. For me, hotels are extremely important and so it’s one of my big splurges when I travel. Many people aren’t as hung up on hotels as I am, which is fine, but then don’t complain when your budget accommodation is, well, budget.
Travel isn’t as scary as you want it to be
Now is when I criticize my fellow Americans. Sorry folks, I usually defend you all almost to a fault, but this time you deserve it. Let’s ignore the bizarre fact that only about a third of the eligible population even own a passport, much less use it; that’s a separate blog post in its own right. Let’s instead focus on how much fear many Americans experience whenever they leave the country. I was recently in an airport in France, watching many Americans attempt to get through the ticketing and boarding process and it was a total mess. This isn’t some backwater airport in the middle of nowhere – this was a big airport in a major Western nation and as such, the airport experience is nearly identical to what we have in the US. Instead of just printing out their boarding passes, going through security and then boarding, they relied far too heavily on other people and as such, had lost the ability to think for themselves. These are presumably intelligent people, have jobs, families and are able to function in normal society and yet the task of boarding an airplane was just too much for them. I don’t know why we as Americans are as intimidated by anything foreign as we are, but it needs to stop. It’s a big, integrated world out there and we have to stop isolating ourselves from it. We need to be more aware of the world around us so that when we do leave the country, we are better able to function in it.
Travel is only for the rich
This is obviously related to my first point and sure, if you want to jump on a private plane, stay at the best hotels and resorts and eat out at 3-Michelin star restaurants every night, then having some extra cash in the bank is helpful. But travel is one of those great experiences that is truly egalitarian. Not every trip has to be epic and over the top, a simple road trip to a destination a few hours away isn’t only fun, but helps in all the usual ways that we normally benefit from travel. We explore, learn and relax. Sure, it’s sometimes a little more fun to do that on an exotic beach, but my point is that travel doesn’t have to be complex to be fun. Even if you have your eyes set on that trip to Europe or Asia, it’s more possible than you think. One of my first posts was about how to save extra money to put towards travel. Stop buying fancy coffees, limit how much you eat out and look at your monthly expenses and identify some other ways you can save money. Believe it or not but it adds up very fast and once you’ve realized these savings, devote them towards that trip you’ve been lusting after. I think you’ll be surprised just how much you can save and how quickly you can do it.
The best way to travel is…
There is no shortage of annoying, pompous travel writers and bloggers and most of them espouse their philosophies on what the real way to travel is. The problem is, it varies and is reflective only of what they enjoy doing. It could mean backpacking, staying in hostels, “going local” (whatever that means) or any number of travel styles. The truth is, there is absolutely no right or wrong way to get out there and see the world. Being told otherwise is just another impediment to travel. People start to feel bad about how they want to travel and so they just don’t do it. Whether it’s a cruise, organized tour, with friends, with family, alone, independent, whatever, I don’t care, as long as you leave home then you are traveling correctly. Any sort of travel, whether it’s two towns over or around the world is an enriching experience; we always learn something whether we like it or not and that, more than perhaps anything else, is what makes travel so amazing. So ignore the “experts” (There’s actually no such thing) and just do whatever makes you happy. Problem solved.
I hope this wasn’t too snarky, it’s not my normal style but sometimes I get annoyed at what I see in print and online not because of the tone, but because of the effect these statements have on others. Travel is a great gift and it’s one we are all eligible to receive, but it requires some work on our part in order to enjoy its many great benefits.