Thought Catalog

When Did Travelers Become Such @ssholes?

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The first time I went on an international trip I was 26 and alone. Like most first-time travelers, I was overwhelmed with emotion — everything from anxiety and fear to excitement and disbelief that I was actually embarking on the journey. Three years later, every time I plan a new trip, those similar feelings still wash over me.

With a freelance career in IT and writing, I’ve been lucky enough to live and travel anywhere I want and share my experiences through travel blogging. My goal as a travel writer has always been to help people that want to travel but don’t yet understand that international travel is not only possible but also affordable. I often recommend places throughout Latin America or SE Asia for a first international trip based on my own experiences; yet, travelers who have made traveling their lifestyle will give me shit for talking up, say, Costa Rica or Thailand.

The travel community is and always has been pretty supportive. I love hearing about other people’s trips or adventures. I’m always on the lookout to put a new destination or activity on my bucket list, and I’ve met some truly wonderful people both on the road and through travel forums and blogs. What I don’t understand, though, is the general jadedness or negativity that comes from other travelers at times. It’s like if you talk about your time in Tanzania and how it was a life-changing experience for you, there’s always someone who wants to talk about how Tanzania is becoming too touristy now, and how Chad is where “the real Africa is” — as if you couldn’t experience important reflections on your own life simply because you were traveling a well-worn route.

Here’s the thing — we, as humans, don’t receive medals for achieving certain life accomplishments: getting engaged, having children, or collecting passport stamps to incredibly exotic locations, just to name a few. I understand seasoned travelers are constantly on the hunt for the next unbeaten path — if such a thing really exists anymore — but for new travelers, exploring a place like Costa Rica is an adventure and an experience outside their comfort zone. In America, where less than 40% of our citizens have passports, just having the opportunity to travel abroad once in a lifetime is an accomplishment in itself to many people.

Often I’ve been told what “real travelers” do and don’t do: “Real travelers don’t use guidebooks,” “real travelers don’t get overly excited about traveling to a new place,” “real travelers don’t use backpacks…” And the opposite: “Real travelers only use backpacks and never suitcases.” I’ve always thought of travelers as those with a positive and open-minded spirit, but I can’t help get exceedingly annoyed by those who drench their conversations with pretentiousness over how people should or shouldn’t be while on the road.

Maybe it’s naïve of me, but I don’t believe there’s any right way or wrong way to travel. If people are putting themselves out there and are eager to learn and experience other cultures, I think that’s just fine. Call it silly, but yes, I still get excited every time I confirm flights somewhere, or when I’ve left one country and I’m about to head somewhere else. If there’s no genuine rush of excitement over traveling, why even travel to begin with?

And furthermore, why act so jaded towards others, as though our enthusiasm is childish? Isn’t one of the greatest experiences of traveling the fact that it allows us to have a child-like experience in certain ways? I don’t care how many journeys I embark on throughout my life — I will always approach my travels with an open heart and open mind.

If you’ve reached the time in your travels where traveling no longer gives you what it once did, and you find yourself becoming cynical, at what point do you realize that, as hard as it may be to admit, it’s time to go home — wherever that may be — or that you should simply stay put in one place for a while? Don’t be “that guy” that has to one up everyone else at the table with how many passport stamps you’ve collected, then condescend someone else for being thrilled over traveling somewhere you’ve already been and decided to discard for whatever reason.

There are no rules when it comes to traveling. Let’s let people go wherever they want in whatever way they find comfortable for their life, and let’s continue to find inspiration in foreign lands and different cultures — the whole reason we were driven to travel in the first place. TC Mark

This post originally appeared at Matador Network.

image – Anne Jamison

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