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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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