I generally like to keep the content on the blog light and airy. Travel is a fun experience, it’s something we all look forward to and, for many folks, it’s one of the highlights of the year. Harping on the negative or being snarky is a waste of our energy, but once in a while my naturally sarcastic nature rises to the top and I just can’t help myself. Today’s post is meant to be taken in a lighthearted way but, as with all sarcasm, there’s certainly a lot of truth contained in the paragraphs that follow. While most people mean well when they travel the fact is that many people change when they’re on the road. They become slightly horrible and in the process they usually ruin their own adventures. So, the next time you travel try to be a little more self-aware and avoid being one of these stereotypical travelers.
The Know It All
I love walking tours and usually take at least one every time I visit a new city. But over the years I have come to notice certain personality types that suddenly emerge no matter what type of tour I’m on or where I am in the world. Mostly they’re harmless, but one tends to annoy me more than any other – the know it all. Not only do they answer every hypothetical question posed by the guide, but many times they also start interjecting their own facts, clearly trying to prove to everyone that they’re smarter than the rest of the group. I have to wonder why these people take tours at all, but one thing is certain, they tend to ruin the experience for everyone else. Be a little self-award when you travel and even if you think you know it all, please keep it to yourself.
The Rudest Person in the World
For reasons I have never understood completely, the act of traveling has a tendency to bring out the worst in some people. I suppose it’s the stress of the experience, especially if one doesn’t travel a lot, but far too often I see people act rudely and many times in a manner that can only be considered mean. Most of the time this occurs in airports, where tensions run extreme. Missed flights, delays and lost bags tend to bring out the worst in people. The brave folks who work for the airlines have a skin much thicker than I do, somehow dealing with the rudest travelers in the world with aplomb and even kindness. The worst example I’ve seen though was in a hotel in Bangkok when a fellow guest started screaming, screaming, at hotel staff because all he wanted was “Two croissants and a coffee.” I’m not sure why the request was hard to grant, but his inability to obtain said items through him into a fugue state the likes of which I hope to never see again. When traveling, it’s key that we all retain our dignity and kindness. Getting upset and angry, even if it’s justified, will accomplish nothing except to make you look foolish and probably incite retribution by the employees you’re screaming at.
I don’t intend for this to seem mean, but some travelers have no idea what is going on. I always marvel at how they could even muster the skills to leave the house, much less travel internationally. Ultimately, it comes down to a lack of intellectual curiosity. A spouse or loved one probably forced them on the trip and they did nothing to prepare for the experience. I’ve seen hundreds of examples of the clueless traveler, from folks who have no idea what country they’re in, to others who simply know nothing about the regions they’re visiting. People who genuinely thought the Black Forest was black, that deer get drunk when eating wine grapes and many other examples of people who should have done a little research before leaving home. Travel is an education, but first you have to want to be educated. Before any trip, do a little research and learn about the places you’re visiting, the travel experience as a result will be made that much more enjoyable.
Whenever we leave our native lands, we become de facto citizen ambassadors. Whether we like it or not, we represent our countries for better or for worse. That’s why it’s important to be respectful when we travel, but it’s just as important I think to not live up to whatever negative stereotypes may exist. Believe me, as an American who travels overseas quite often, I’m used to hearing all kinds of stereotypes about my fair country. People are shocked that I’m not fat and don’t own a gun; that I’m not sporting a fanny pack or some other horrible stereotype about Americans. But every country has negative stereotypes, and it’s up to you to change people‘s minds about your homeland. There’s no need for me to go into all of them, you know what others think about your country so go out there and surprise them. Show them you’re more than that and in the process you’ll make the world a slightly better place.
Fear is travel’s greatest enemy. It’s what keeps so many of my countrymen from ever leaving the shores of America and while traveling, it limits the experiences they will have. I’ve seen it many, many times; people are fearful of new places, the unknown and do a lot to create little tourist bubbles that they bounce along in. That’s the hardest thing, to first break out of that fearful bubble and to venture out into the unknown. But until you do, until you’re wiling to walk away from travel companions for an afternoon, then you won’t really be maximizing the experience. Sure, you can have fun in the bubble, but you can have a lot more meaningful fun once you break out of it.
What else would you add to this list?