I was sitting outside of my hostel in Dalat, Vietnam, sipping on a beer when my neighbor’s gaping wound caught my eye. I listened attentively as he told everyone about the nasty motorbike accident he’d gotten into earlier that week. Soon enough, everyone sitting around him began asking dozens of questions, inquiring the details. The conversation eventually morphed into the standard discussion of where everyone is from, how long they’ve been traveling and where they’re off to next.
“Where are you from?” he asked in his husky English accent.
“Pennsylvania,” I replied.
“Oh. America,” he said with a sly smile. “Fuck that.”
Bewildered by this statement, I shrugged it off and continued conversations with people who didn’t suck. However, as I was falling asleep that evening, my thoughts kept returning to his rude comment. Just a few days prior, I’d met a Canadian woman who bluntly stated, “I don’t think Vietnam is a place Americans should travel” after our initial introductions.
These comments got me thinking. I’ve been lucky enough to encounter incredible people along the way, but I’ve also had the enlightening opportunity to come across some real assholes.
I’m not perfect. In fact, a few months back I ranted to a total stranger at a bar in Korea about the fact that she’s from Philadelphia, my hometown’s rival city. As a devout yinzer who drank entirely way too much tequila, I informed her that I think it’s hilarious that her town is nicknamed “filth-a-delphia.” She didn’t find it as funny, and understandably so.
With that said, everyone makes mistakes and one can learn from it and move on. However, certain entitled travelers must be stopped. Here are my thoughts on 5 things travelers need to stop doing.
1. Discussing politics with random strangers
NEWS FLASH: It’s inappropriate for people to insult someone else’s country – particularly within the first three seconds of meeting one another.
I recently met someone who bluntly stated that “all Americans are stupid” due to the ongoing political situation happening in the country. With that said, I’ve come to realize that the quickest way to identify non-educated travelers is to encounter the few who can’t separate a government from its people.
Although I haven’t had too many negative experiences as an American traveling, I have found that, particularly during the 2016 Presidential Election cycle, people are quick and overly keen to insult my nation. Let’s look at the other side of the coin, though. Never once have I met someone from the United Kingdom and thought,
“We must discuss the EU referendum RIGHT NOW.“
Of course I understand the implications of a Donald Trump win. Of course I understand that this is a pertinent time in history. Do I want to talk about it with you, stranger? No. It’s depressing, divisive and generally escalates when a bystander with a different viewpoint gets involved.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather discuss someone’s ambitions or hear an interesting story rather than talk about what’s wrong with the world right off the bat.
This isn’t meant to isolate any non-Americans, by the way. I recently shared a dorm room with a Donald Trump supporter in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, who wanted to have a light discussion with everyone regarding the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein.
2. One-upping other travelers
We’ve all met that person who will immediately tell you how much better his/her experience was compared to yours. Do not be that person.
“I’m avoiding all tourist spots,” some guy once said to me.
…Oh, really? K. It’s human instinct to be attracted to things that we find exhilarating or aesthetically pleasant. As all travel goes, people discover new locations over time and eventually tourists flock there. I think these people need to step back and reflect upon the fact that no matter how far off the beaten track they’ve gone, they’re also tourists.
3. Putting down other travelers
I met a girl while hiking through Sapa, Vietnam, who stated she felt like a “loser” because she was only traveling for a few weeks. I assured her that no matter the length of time, any sort travel is noteworthy and significant. However, she suggested that she felt others had looked down on her because she wasn’t traveling as extensively as some peers.
While I can’t confirm her suspicions, I began to notice that other travelers LOVE to compare themselves to one another. People discuss routes, cities and modes of transportation on a fairly frequent basis – and not always in a friendly and constructive manner.
“I’m a traveler, not a tourist,” some guy said to me after I told him I’d flown into Chiang Mai that morning from Bangkok. “The night train is so much better.“
You know what? Normally I’d agree. I also found a killer flight deal that cost me $5 more than the train to fly to Chiang Mai in one hour rather than sit on the train for 12+ hours. If that doesn’t make me a “traveler” then so be it. It made me comfortable and happy which is the utmost importance to me.
Get over the fact that not everyone has an allotted six months to travel the world. Some people have had bad experiences with vehicular accidents and don’t want to motorbike the length of Vietnam. Some people prefer hotels to hostels. Some people don’t want to travel on a night bus in Southeast Asia. Worry about yourself and move on.
4. Giving unsolicited travel advice
In my opinion, one of the best bits about traveling is getting tips and tricks from others who’ve already been to a town or city. I love hearing other people’s stories and gaining insight on the ins and outs of a place. I don’t like when people are too pushy, though. There have been plenty of times where I’ve chatted with someone and told them my plans, only to be met with a,
“Oh, it was so much better there in 2009. Don’t go there now.”
There are certain times when this type of commentary is welcomed. If a person wants to tell me that a location was better a few years ago, but can offer a better alternative then that’s awesome. However, telling me my experience would have been better had I done X, Y and Z is totally unnecessary.
5. You tell me
Do you have any funny or tragic encounters with annoying travelers? I would love to know! Let me know in the comments below.