5 Things Travelers Need to Stop Doing

5 Things Travelers Need to Stop Doing

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.

5 things travelers need to stop doing www.willfulandwildhearted.com

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  1. May 22, 2016 / 4:01 pm

    Can I guess #4 was someone telling you not to go to Vang Vieng bc it was so much better in 2009? Lol I spent 14 months in southeast asia and heard that soooo many times! Half the people saying it had never even been there. The crazy backpacker booze n drugfest was better in 09, according to a hippie I met who had lived there…but uh….Vang Vieng is actually beautiful and I managed to find things like not drugs to do. It was hard, but I suffered through. *eye roll*
    I loved this post. Every single on of these is spot on.

    • May 22, 2016 / 4:24 pm

      HAHA! How did you guess?! Of course it was regarding Vang Vieng! Like you, I couldn’t care less that I missed out on the drug-fuelled insanity that once took place. I actually loved the sleepy town and found there was so much to do outside of the tubing. It was the Laos new year while I was in town, so lots of the activities weren’t available – bah humbug. Next time, I hope!

  2. Abbie
    May 23, 2016 / 10:22 am

    Completely agree with all of these! However, sometimes when I try to give others well meaning advice I get rude responses and it can kinda hurt, like “I was only trying to help…”

    • May 23, 2016 / 10:41 am

      Travel advice is wonderful – especially when it is well meaning and helpful. It’s when it’s condescending and unsolicited that it becomes an issue. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. May 24, 2016 / 1:09 am

    I love reading your posts! I feel like they are coming straight from my head, just put into words much more eloquently than I ever could!

    I think my biggest peeve with meeting travelers is the constant comparing to places they have been. Good for you that you’ve covered every country in Asia, but I’m only able to visit this one place right now and I’m very content with it!

    I love hearing other people’s stories about where they have been as it gives me ideas and tips. However, I don’t like when people just talk and talk and talk and don’t ask anything about the person they are talking to!

  4. May 24, 2016 / 5:35 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve had my fair share of meeting such people too.
    Sure it’s great that you’re willing to “share” your experiences et al. but you don’t have to condemn other travelers’ decisions or whatnots.

    Guess that’s why I usually just mind my own business – though not the best thing to do while traveling for sure.

  5. May 24, 2016 / 6:31 am

    Haha, the intro of this post made me laugh, “filth-a-delphia.” We are all guilty of offending someone from time to time, but I can’t agree with you more about the points you bring up in this post. One night the two of us were scolded and talked to for over an hour about how terrible the US was by this couple. ( I will not mention the country they were from because really there are a-holes from all over the world) We just kind of sat there and waited for the conversation to end so we could leave. I could never imagine doing that to someone, like you said people who can’t separate the government from their people may not be the most educated. I also hate the traveler vs. tourist debate. We are ALL TOURISTS! Yes, some tourists are different than others but I hate when people act like they are above other travelers. That being said, there are some destinations I have been too that I felt have been spoilt by over tourism, but that doesn’t mean I am a tourist visiting it myself. I guess the only thing I can really add to this list would have to be ignorant travelers. We noticed a few different times that people did not realize they were visiting a third world country and were wondering why there were so many shacks or just being disrespectful to locals in general. That is just uncalled for. Thanks again for another well written and wonderful read!

  6. May 25, 2016 / 9:10 pm

    I feel you, girl. I’ve encountered so many rude anti-American comments on the road. It’s like, It’s like, OK, so would you rather Americans all just stay in our little caves and not grow or learn about new places, thereby becoming exactly the kind of ignorant people you think we all are? Instead, can’t we just have a friendly conversation and learn about each other? For every dumb, rude American traveler there’s a dumb, rude traveler from somewhere else. (And there are a lot of dumb, rude American travelers, so thats saying something.)

    … all that aside though, most people are good and kind. It’s just the rude ones who piss me off :).

  7. May 27, 2016 / 6:52 am

    Very interesting post! I totally agree about wanting to hear an interesting story or to talk about someone’s ambitions. I think you learn so much more about a person than asking what their political views are. I am someone who really likes to have deep conversations with people, because I feel that’s how to really connect with fellow humans. Great post!

  8. May 29, 2016 / 1:48 am

    Oh no! Totally guilty of commenting that something was better back when…but that’s it. It’s just my opinion. Perhaps 1000 other travelers disagree and we’re all entitled to our opinions. Traveling is great in that you don’t have to continue your journey or spend any time with the people you don’t click with, but since when did it become a competition, jeez!

  9. May 30, 2016 / 12:36 am

    Ah I really enjoyed this post Laura! I’ve really had to hold my tongue an backlash at people when I overhear their very brash and rude statements about other countries (especially when I hear them talk about South Africa, my home country, when I can tell they have never set foot on African soil).
    Politics are a tough one, especially after a drink or two when everyone feels they are the current expert on everything.
    Thank you for this post, I think it is very needed read in the trave community!

  10. May 30, 2016 / 8:21 am

    There’s this article I read about the differences between a tourist and a traveler. I unabashedly admit I am a tourist….lol. I admire the experiences of travelers but it’s not me. So I content myself reading your posts and being happy for you. Cheers!

  11. May 31, 2016 / 8:41 am

    Ugh all of this is just so spot on. 2 and 3 especially. It just irks me that other travelers feel like seeing the world is some type of competition and it gives them this weird superiority complex! We should be celebrating each other’s accomplishments and not putting each other down. A few months ago, my best friend from home went on her first overseas trip to come meet me in Thailand for ten days. I could see how much she was out of her comfort zone which made the trip all the more special. While we were together, we met an Israeli who just openly scoffed at my friend when she said she was in Thailand for 10 days. He was like, you’re not even going to see anything! I just saw my friend get red in the face flustered, trying to defend herself that it was her first time abroad. I went full-on best friend mode on his smug ass and informed him that he should brush up on his knowledge of American work culture where Americans only get an average of 2 weeks vacation time at most and she basically used up a year’s worth of vacation just to be a good friend. It kills me that people can’t just be happy for those who are trying!

    Also a thing to add for your #5: When people who have been somewhere for a few days become leading authorities of that place! It drives me nuts!!!

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