Travelling solo means I usually have a greater opportunity to meet fantastic people – without a buddy or partner to rely on, I have to work harder in social situations to make friends in a new destination. I’ve been lucky to meet a huge amount of amazing people who I can now call friends for life and who have made certain aspects of my time on the road extra special. Yet here and there, like most of us lone nomads who sometimes seek great conversations with others, I have met people who have just rattled my inner traveller calm.
The type of people who only have to say one thing that tests your patience – mainly because it isn’t the first time you have heard people so desperately try to cling on to the notion that they are, indeed, the world’s best travellers. No really, they are.
I normally stare at them in disbelief, inwardly sighing or sometimes respond in a way that triggers a good debate. From travel ‘toppers’ to ‘country tickers’; people who reminisce about the good days and compare it to the terrible, ruined present (yet still visit) to those who just simply moan about the most ridiculous things, we have all come across those travellers who quite simply annoy the hell out of us.
And so, just after eight months solid on the road, I need to vent* a little… and have a good giggle. In that time I’ve noticed a pattern of quotes emerge from the many great explorers I’ve had the displeasure of meeting, and it’s usually one of the following five…
1. The Indiana Jones Traveller
Likely to say: “I really didn’t like it there. There were just too many tourists. I only go to places where there’s no one.”
Ok, so you choose a popular spot on the traveller map because you heard it was stunningly beautiful and/or a place of significant interest and upon arrival, it turns out it matched the description. However, since human instinct teaches us to appreciate the beauty and all that is wonderful it is natural a progression that increasing numbers of tourists will flock there.
I agree, too many tourists can spoil a view; some are over-zealous with the camera; have bad attitudes when it comes to preservation; have no concept of queuing or who loiter in tour groups big enough to rival an army while the leader waves an umbrella or something laughable like a pooh bear teddy on a long pole (this happened in China), or just happen to be there the same time as you because you misjudged your timings in trying to avoid said carnage.
At times you wish that these pockets of paradise can be reserved for a lucky few who only pass on the secret to those who deserve to see it and appreciate it. To hope that destinations are preserved for future travellers is sometimes wishing for a miracle.
But realistically, what do you expect? While there are of the beaten track places to uncover, it just so happens that you knowingly came to a key area of interest, so of course, there are going to be other tourists in these places. And you know what? YOU ARE ONE OF THEM! No really, you are. That hurts, doesn’t it? We may ‘travel’, but we still fall under that dreaded ‘T‘ word in some form or another.
I recently had a debate with a traveller who used this line in relation to the gorgeous Malaysian Perhentian Islands. She had chosen to stay on the most popular and well-known spot of Long Beach and while I had a great time lapping up the mixture of quiet time and fun time, she hated it. The failure here was in not realising that ‘popular’ translates into A LOT OF PEOPLE.
I began a discussion about how, in the modern travelling age, seclusion comes at a cost, especially now that top-end resorts have snapped up a huge chunk of the world’s gorgeous enclaves of paradise. So I added: “Why didn’t you just pay a local to take you out to a beach far away where no one would be?” which was met with the response: “But that would mean having to pay a lot of Ringgit to a local.” Involving and helping locals should be at the very core of how you travel – that’s why getting off the beaten track takes a lot of work and organisation. I had to end it there.
2. The Comparative Traveller
Likely to say: “Oh, you should have been here 15 years ago. It was SO much better. It’s a shame you’ve only seen it like it is now. It’s ruined.”
I would love a time machine from which to see the world in all its glory throughout the ages. That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?! I agree already without having the pleasure of time travelling that the destination in which we currently reside was far more amazing, quieter and more ‘local’ than the sorry state you perceive it to be now.
But have some common sense. 15 YEARS AGO I WAS 15 YEARS OLD, hence why I am here now as a young woman with the financial security, time and the desire to try and see as much of the world as possible.
THIS IS MY TIME, so please quit competing with me about what you have seen. Congratulations – you have seen it twice, witnessed the change and potentially (should you not be over-exaggerating) got to see the place at its absolute best.
And my question to you is this: if you dislike it so much now, why do you remain here just to moan about it?
3. The Competitive Traveller
Likely to say: “What do you mean you DIDN’T see a Tiger in Nepal?”
While this is not a standard line, it is an example of a traveller who wants to win an award for the most-number-of-awesome-sights-and-experiences-seen-in-travel. You know, the time when you chat about a favourite memory or experience and then they come along and dump all over it because they most definitely had the better experience, right?
A recent conversation about how I longed to see a tiger in the wilderness in Nepal’s jungle, but how rare a sighting actually is, turned into a game of I’ve-seen-more-animals-than-you. The reaction was a mixture of shock and horror like my travels had been forever tainted by the absence of a tiger: “You DIDN’T see a Tiger? Wow. We did, in the National Park. We actually saw three. It was amazing.”
Beware! This kind of traveller normally starts a conversation with “Well, there was this one time…” and the resulting story isn’t something that happened at band camp.
4. The ‘I Do It Better Than You’ Traveller
Likely to say: “Why do you have such a big bag? I only travel with four kilos.”
Good for you. Really, I envy you when I have to hurl my bag on and off public transport and lug it around in the sweltering heat while trying to find accommodation. Except I travel with 17 kilos which in turn makes NO IMPACT ON YOUR TRAVELS whatsoever. So get over it!
I too wonder about people who carry suitcases large enough to smuggle livestock onto a
plane, but I don’t pull them up on it. If that makes them happy and feel more content that they have everything they need, then so be it. Travel with whatever makes you happy, whether that be multiple changes of clothing or an enviable amount of electronics, even if it is painful to carry.
5. The Country Ticking Traveller
Likely to say: “But, how many countries have you been to? I’m approaching my 80th country.”
Everyone comes across the good old ‘country ticker’. The ones who visit places like Seoul and thinks they have really gotten to ‘know’ South Korea. Or the ones who count airport transfer destinations as a country they have visited. If you are a country-ticker and brag about it, let me tell you something. NO ONE THINKS IT’S COOL and bragging just makes you look like an asshole.
I genuinely admire people who are on their third gap year/career break, or who travel long term and who have actually been to a vast array of countries – properly and in-depth. Most of these people I have met are actually really useful information sources and able to give brilliant advice. Some, however, have sadly fallen into the ‘Competitive’ and ‘I Can Do It Better Than You’ types.
Dealing With Annoying Travellers
We all have gripes on the road as we repeat the process every few days of meeting strangers and getting to know them. We even have our own annoying quirks at times.
Treasure the amazing friendships, be lucky when you encounter a group of sane, normal people and find enjoyment in those who fit the categories above, safe in the knowledge that you are capable of travelling and socialising without the need to be competitive or annoying.
Is there anything else you would add to the list?