Confession: I’m the Worst Traveler – Part 1

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A traveler outfitted with way too much stuff is shocked by her guide book
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Recently, I thought about whether I’m a ‘good’ traveler or not. In my mind a good traveler is respectful, ethical, considerate, and open-minded.

Since The Travel Type is all about personal growth and travel, I (naturally) expected to give myself top marks as a traveler.

Result: I’ve got plenty of room for improvement.

I’m not the worst traveler because of the way I treat the local people, oh no. That would be narrow-minded.

I’m the worst traveler because I think bad thoughts about other travelers.

The shameful truth

Without legitimate reason, I don’t have a great opinion of:

  • Hippies
  • Package-tourists
  • Big-bag-backpackers

I know, I’m a bad person.

I’m going to make amends

By airing my flaws for the world (internet) to see, I’m admitting I have a problem – step 1. Then I can be on my way to becoming better – step 2. (Yes, there are only two steps in my program. It’s advanced.)

For everyone who loves dirty laundry, here’s the dirt on what makes me the worst traveler.

Reason #1: Hippies

I Don’t Talk to Hippies

Definition of a ‘hippy’ according to Heather: Appearance consists of dreadlocks, piercings, tattoos, and very little clothing. What a hippy does wear is made of hemp, baggy, and/or flowy. Often found at budget hostels, beaches, and live music events.

Based on how they look, I believe hippies to be totally different from me. They look like hardcore travelers, fearless hitchhikers, off-the-beaten-path experts, and ultimate budget-stretchers.

The differences between us would make interaction so unbelievably awkward, I really don’t want to even try.

Recently I stayed in a jungle village in Mexico that was full of hippies. I was out for supper at the local restaurant (there was only one) when I saw two dread-locked hemp-wearers sitting with their backs against a wall, making woven bracelets.

I was curious, but instead of walking over and asking them what they were making, I sat at my table chomping pizza, hiding my curious glances. I knew that no matter how much I wanted to know what they were doing, there was no way I was going to go talk to them.

The truth is, I was intimidated.

I know, it’s ridiculous: I had decided it wasn’t worth my effort before I even tried. Could we have been friends? Maybe. But since I don’t talk to hippies (I’m the worst traveler) I’ll never know.

Reason #2: Package Tourists

I Judge Package Tourists

Definition of a ‘package-tourist’ according to Heather: Appearance consists of freshly pressed collared shirts, and smart-looking slacks. Often with passport holder hanging around neck outside of clothes. Drags around large wheelie luggage when not riding on a giant bus or following a guide. Does not stray from the group.

When I’m traveling I enjoy visiting sights that aren’t overrun, strolling down streets that aren’t blocked by a wall of humanity, and restaurant orders that aren’t an hour late because there’s a group of 50 at the next table.

Package-tourists can cause all these problems to happen, making it hard not to cringe when a giant bus pulls up to the curb/hotel/restaurant/cool thing I want to see.

Especially because I was one of them once.

In China I signed up for a 10-day package tour, thinking I’d save myself a huge headache trying to communicate, get around, choose restaurants, etc. The tour did save me from planning, but it was restrictive and downright embarrassing being herded around like a sheep.

Package-tourists travel differently than me, and I’m sure they have reasons that I don’t understand. I know it’s not their fault they cramp my style, and I know the world isn’t just for me to enjoy. They’re not the worst travelers: I am.

Still, I can’t help getting annoyed watching a mob of them glide off their air-conditioned bus, nametags freshly stuck to their clean shirts. I just know they’re headed straight to where I was going.

Reason #3: Big Backpacks

I Scoff at Big Backpacks

Definition of a ‘big backpack’ according to Heather: This pack is as large (or larger) than its bearer and always stuffed full. A person wearing a big backpack is nearly impossible to pass on a narrow sidewalk. Often looks like it will easily topple its bearer if pushed gently. Suspected contents: three to six weeks of clean clothes, ten pounds of totally unnecessary items, kitchen sink.

Whether watching a bloated backpack get hauled off the luggage belt, or bash into a narrow doorjamb, I can’t help but wonder “why?” Following this, I smile smugly, as I think of my carry-on size backpack.

Whether it’s true or not, I believe that people with big backpacks don’t know anything about packing. Which makes me – with my very small backpack – feel quite superior. And if I’m superior at packing, I’m clearly superior at traveling (presumptuous of me, no?).

However, I do pay a price that big-backpackers do not: I often re-wear dirty clothes, I have the same shirt in all my photos, and I never have room for souvenirs.

I arrogantly equate portability with expertise, which makes me the worst traveler. And a haughty person besides.

Conclusion

I like to think I have an open mind. I want to believe that strangers are just friends I haven’t met. When it comes to other travelers I still have stereotypes to destroy, personal beliefs to conquer, and preconceptions to overcome.

I’m the worst traveler right now, but I’m determined not to be the worst traveler forever.

Hungry for more confessions? Get some at Confession Part 2!

Think your souvenirs are great? Think again. Check out our post: Don’t Suck. Know What Souvenirs to Buy.

 

Got a few more minutes? Here’s some fun stuff:

18 Different Types of Travelers on Buzzfeed Life

Traveler Type profiles on Canada Tourism

Travel Type Quiz from Vacation Better

7 Types of People You Meet While Traveling on Thought Catalogue

17 People You Meet at Every Hostel on WebHostel’s Travel Blog

6 COMMENTS

  1. The big backpack thing made me laugh, I’ll admit. I mean, what have they got in there? I could understand the big backpacks if they were hiking Mt. Everest or something, and needed to carry a tent in there, along with all of their food and water and cooking utensils… but usually these people are just headed to a youth hostel, or even a hotel, right? And especially now that the airlines charge you by weight for your bag, it makes even less sense to drag all that stuff along with you. Maybe we should strike up a conversation with these big backpack-wearers and find out why they’re dragging all their earthly possessions around the world with them on their travels!

    • It is absolutely baffling to me Laura! I have no idea what these people bring with them. It might be interesting to do some interviews to ask people what’s in their bag! (I assume that you’re a carry-on type of person, correct?).

  2. To your thoughts about backpack sizes: have you ever considered people who travel in different climate zones? Like from a tropical beach in Brazil to the altiplano in Bolivia (or the Inca trail in Peru, where you need to carry a sleeping bag too)…
    But I confess I agree about the nuisance of big tour groups. On the other hand: I’m happy for the majority of people to travel that way as groups can become sorta predictable at most destinations – you know which times of the day to avoid at major sights.

    • Hi Juergen,
      Absolutely I understand if you’re carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, dishes, food, and winter gear. You do need a big backpack for that stuff. It’s when you’re traveling across Asia from beach to beach that I don’t get it.
      Great idea about knowing when to avoid major sights, tours can be pretty predictable!

  3. I am guilty of a big backpack which I actually fill up with a pharmacy because I have this paranoia of getting sick on the road – and I am on constant medication for asthma.

    Claudia’s definition of hippies: people who wear no shoes and flowy clothes to show that “they don’t care” when in reality they do care more than anybody else, they want to be looked at and they crave attention. People who tell you they are “from everywhere” and have lived a bit here and there, to portray a fascinating aura when in reality they are probably the most boring, empty, unintelligent and self absorbed people. Am I guilty of judging? Hell yeah. Do I care one bit? ‘course NOT.

    LOL.

    • Hey, part of “freedom” is being able to freely judge others in my own way. It doesn’t mean you’re a perfect person.

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