Confession: I’m the Worst Traveler – Part 2

A terrible traveler reads her guidebook upside down in shock

When you write about personal growth and travel, you’re supposed to be pretty good at traveling, right? Being the worst traveler means losing credibility fast.

But wait! Before you flush my credibility down the toilet (figuratively, not literally), let’s agree that nobody’s perfect.

Even Mother Teresa couldn’t please everybody.

Now that we’ve agreed, you’re ready for my confession: I’m the worst traveler. Of course, if you’ve read Part 1 of my confession, you already know that I judge other travelers.

Well, surprise! I’m more flawed that you thought.

Here are 3 more reasons I’m the worst traveler:

  • I insist on doing things myself…even when it doesn’t make sense
  • I’m so wary of scams, I mistrust everyone
  • I’m the one who always butts in on your conversation about traveling

It’s clear that I’ve got issues.

I can improve.

Going from the worst traveler to a good traveler (or at least a ‘meh’ traveler) has everything to do with getting over myself, and this confession is the first step.

By reading this, you’re helping me conquer my character flaws. Thanks!

A marketplace in Guatemala with the words "Reason #4"

I Need to do Things MY WAY

Heather’s Way: When I travel, I make a master plan in my head. When this plan goes into action, I want it to be the same as it was in my brain. No. Matter. What.

In a village on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, resides a statue called Maximón. Who is Maximón, you ask? He’s is a wooden statue who stays in a different house every year, usually has a cigar sticking out of his immobile mouth, collecting offerings like rum and cigarettes. He’s quite a guy.

As soon as I got off the boat in Maximón’s village, a group of children accosted me calling “Maximón! Maximón!” I knew that if I paid them a few quetzals they’d show me where the statue was.

I pushed past them. I was going to find Maximón my way.

Well, ‘my way’ turned out to be trying to follow a different tourist, getting lost, and hopping into a tuk-tuk in exasperation. As my last resort (and in terrible Spanish), I asked to go to Maximón.

My visit with Maximón was brief, awkward, and wasn’t particularly enjoyable.

As the worst traveler ever, I had ignored the (child) guides that had conveniently met me at the boat. I had done things my way, and it turned out to be pretty crappy.

Lily pond in Vietnam with the words "Reason #5"

I’m Overly Mistrusting when I Travel

My Mom told me never to talk to strangers. Especially when their brother’s clothing store is having a sale and there’s a tuk-tuk right nearby that can take me there.

One of the things that scared me when I started to travel, was getting scammed. I read all about scams on the internet, and got so paranoid I convinced myself that as soon as my plane landed, I might as well hand over all my money to the first person I saw.

Avoiding scams is an honourable pursuit, but I tend to take it a little too far and mistrust everyone. Sure it’s helped me avoid scams, but sometimes it makes me feel like a total jerk.

I was at a park in Vietnam, gazing at the lily pads in a stone fountain when two Vietnamese girls approached me. They had big smiles and the way they came straight at me set my spidey sense a-tingling.

“Hello! We are two students and we were wondering if we could interview you to practice our English?” My eyes narrowed and my hand tightened on my shoulder bag. I waited a second before responding “Suuuuure…”

The two girls asked me what my favourite food was, what kind of music I liked, and what I liked about Vietnam. They wrote my answers down in a notepad.

The entire time we talked, I was waiting for them to mention a tailor shop, a jewelry store, a tour special, or a hostel. I got more and more tense.

To my surprise, they thanked me for the interview and gave me a gift of their appreciation: two tiny wooden dolls, a boy and a girl.

They walked away, and I looked at the dolls in my palm, feeling like the biggest jerk in the world. They really were students who wanted to practice English I had doubted them the entire time.

I’m the worst traveler, because I can’t tell when someone is being genuine.

A bragging mouth with the words "Reason #6"

I LOVE to Talk About Myself

You know when you’re listening to a conversation and you get the urge to say what’s on your mind? Like you’re going to explode if you don’t blurt it out right away? Just ignore it, the urge will go away. I promise.

It’s no surprise I love to talk about traveling. What might be surprising, is how often I interrupt your conversation about your latest vacation. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to every place you’ve been and want to bestow my learned wisdom upon you, or maybe it’s because I’m a braggy jackass (there’s a fine line).

This is one flaw that I’m actively working on correcting. I even wrote a post called Stop Being a Jerk: 5 Rules for Talking About Your Travel.

I’m learning to keep my mouth shut, but the truth is, it’s hard not to gush about something I love. I struggle with the fact that every conversation about travel isn’t about me. When I hear someone talking about a place I’ve been to, I want to talk about what I thought of it, what I did when I was there, who I met, what I ate, etc. etc.

Nobody wants to be “that person”, always butting into someone else’s conversation about travel. But if you don’t keep quiet every once in a while and let other people talk, you will be.


I’m the worst traveler, but I want to be a better traveler. I’ve got some mental garbage taking up space in my brain, and the more I learn about it the more I know I can overcome it.

There is hope for me.

I don’t have to change the world, I just have to change myself. Easy, right?

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  1. I love the idea of traveling…and once it’s over, I’m glad I did it. But during the trip itself, I’m usually all out of sorts. I thrive in my own environment. When I’m in a strange environment, I get flustered!


    • It’s so weird how that works, Stephanie! Sometimes it’s really uncomfortable moments that make for really great memories. Don’t give up! Being flustered is natural. 🙂

  2. I am bad at the paranoia of being scammed. Your story about Vietnam made me feel guilty!! I know when I have let my guard down (or, where I am with friends who don’t suffer from this), I have had many memorable positive experiences. Thanks for sharing, Heather, and naming it!

    • Don’t feel bad Raul! It’s a very real fear, to be scammed (happened to me 3 times in Morocco, *sigh*). I’m glad you had such great a memorable experiences when you’ve trusted people. Despite the fear, it’s worth it, isn’t it?

  3. Your point about being mistrusting really resonated with me. I remember feeling that way in Thailand because everything you read told you to beware of scams, hawkers etc. I had to kept reminding myself that people are people wherever you go and the majority of folks are wonderful and not looking to scam you.

    We had a group of schoolchildren interview us as well for an English project. It was really sweet 🙂

    • Hi Ellen,
      It’s so hard for me to tell the difference between someone I should trust and someone I shouldn’t! I’ll admit I’m fairly naive and I’d like to trust *everybody*, but I know that’s not really smart… I do believe that it’s true: most people are wonderful.
      That’s great you had a group of schoolchildren interview you! It’s so much fun to help out that way. 🙂

  4. I think I am the worst traveler ever. I can really relate. Especially if I’m on a solo trip. I feel like I go places and instead of sight seeing and checking out landmarks and other attractions I just mope around like one of the locals and explore things that no one else would ever find interesting.

    I struggle sometimes with public transportation and small things like that and I will let it consume all my time until I have it perfected. I really try and learn “the ways” when I go somewhere and I think it hinders my experience.

    • Hi Charlie,
      The thing that makes you *not* the worst traveler, is that you can recognize that you’re struggling! This is the first step to becoming awesome. Even if you like to have things perfected and learn “the ways” when you travel, if you’re OK with it then it won’t hinder your experience. You are 100% in control of how you travel, and what you enjoy doing. Keep looking for your perfect balance, and you’ll find it.

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