Look, I get it. Travel is your thing. It's what you talk about at parties. It's what you post about on social media. And your travel stories are way better than everyone else's.
But here's the thing: if you "travel shame" people who don't travel the way you do, all it tells me is that you probably aren't that good of traveler.
I'll start by saying this: I'm generally opposed to the use of the phrase _____-shaming. Because it's usually not shaming at all -- it's usually just slight criticism. Like when your doctor tells you your asthma might improve if you lost some weight -- that's not "medical fat shaming." That's your doctor giving you basic health information about asthma and obesity. If someone's opinion is, "If you can't talk about sex, maybe you shouldn't be doing it," that's not "slut shaming." That's just someone saying it's important to talk about things like contraception and STDs with your sex partner(s).
But when someone tells you they're going on a cruise next month, and you launch into a little tirade about how you would never do something so touristy...
Or when you tell someone who's reading a travel guide, "You don't need that! Stop planning! Just 'immerse yourself' and go where the wind takes you!"
Or you insist that a buddy's trip to Barcelona wasn't "off the beaten path" enough to see the "real" Spain...
You're kind of travel shaming them. And probably boring them. Who here hasn't heard the tired, "traveler vs. tourist" spiel?
Moreover, by insisting that your way is the "right" way, you've revealed your total lack of empathy or insight, your inability to walk in someone else's shoes. And your inability to connect with people and places in any way but one. If you really can't take another perspective, you might not be as "good" of a traveler as you think.
So let me spell it out for you.
Not everyone has ten weeks to meander aimlessly through Europe. They may have, at most, ten days, and they don't want to spend half of it "figuring stuff out."
When I did my Chile trip last spring, for example, I only had 17 days to see a country that was, like, 100 yards wide and a million miles long. If I hadn't planned ahead, there's no way I would have made it to Torres del Paine -- not only is it 3,000 kilometers from Santiago, but... what if you need a permit? I couldn't afford to spend an entire day or two waiting for flights and paperwork -- and it would have been a shame to miss out on the incredible 5-day W Trek.
And, with so little time, so many miles, such limited infrastructure, and no plan... you can forget about the Marbel Caves.
Helpful hint: I picked up a Australian hitchhiker, who did this paddle with me. They put him in a kid-sized boat. If you go to los Catedrales de Mármol, do not let them put you in a kids' boat. You will sink, and freeze, and probably cry.
And also whitewater kayaking on the world-famous Futalelfú -- unless you either know where to rent a car (it's super remote, though, so they're only really open if you call ahead), or happen to catch one of the two weekly buses that runs to Futa.
Likewise, not everyone has the same goals or interests as you. Maybe your "thing" is dirt bagging. Maybe that makes you feel alive, unique or rejuvenated. That's great -- I respect that.
But for someone else, that might be extremely stressful. They might even have a disability, allergy, or phobia that prevents them from crashing in hostel bunkbeds, hitchhiking, sitting/standing for long periods on a chicken bus, or eating street food.
Or maybe they just don't like traveling like that. Having traveled by both chicken bus and charter flight, I totally get why someone would choose the former over the latter. And vice versa.
From: Everyone Thinks I'm So Cool and Brave For Traveling Alone While Female. But These Lady Travelers Are WAY Cooler Than Me.
Maybe instead of visiting random "off the beaten path" restaurants, they'd rather go lie on a beach while someone serves them drinks and finger foods. Or maybe they want to try that shishamo they read about in the New York Times.
Is there something wrong with that? No.
Does that mean they aren't "connecting" with the place or people? Maybe. But not necessarily.
Like, look. Some people are geniuses at adjusting to "culture shock" and beginning to make observations and contributions in a new place. Some people are super authentic, or have mastered the art of charisma. Others... need more time.
I'm still in touch with dozens of people, whom I only knew for a few days, from all over the world. Photo: In Honor of National Sibling Day - An Aboriginal Travel Story.
In fact. One of the trips I've done that made me feel the most connected to a place and everyone in it... was a trip to the Cayman Islands, where I stayed at an all-inclusive resort with my mom.
During that one-week trip, I felt an incredible communion with the locals, expats, and other travelers that I met. But I also learned a lot about the island's past and present social issues through nightly conversations with the hotel's chef. At the end of the week, he proudly introduced me to his daughter. Just because someone serves you food, doesn't mean you can't have an authentic connection with them.
I mean -- seriously. Did you think that "off the beaten path" destinations are run by genuine human beings, and everything else is run by tourist-hating robots?
Then there are the other inconvenient truths:
Popular destinations/activities are popular for a reason. Sometimes, it's worth dealing with the crowds. Sometimes, it's not. One way to find out... is by seeing for yourself. Another way is to ask around. Another is to read reviews and travel blogs. For example, I never would have thought that the lionfish hunting certification course was worth taking -- but it ended up being my favorite day in Bonaire. Was the course developed specifically for tourists? Yes. Was it any less amazing because of it? No. Did I help save Bonaire from an incredibly invasive species, one delicious fish at a time? Absolutely.
Figuring things out on your own can be liberating and empowering and stuff -- but sometimes, without hiring a guide, you're missing out on a huge part of the experience, and you don't even know it. For example, I recently visited Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio National Park. I'm certain that the touristy tourists who hired guides got way more out of the experience than the ones who struck out on their own. Those guides know where everything is! Do you have any idea how hard it is to see a sloth, which is tree-colored and barely ever moves, sitting thirty feet up in a tree? Or how to identify over 270 exotic bird species -- 16 of which are endemic or near endemic?
Unless you happen to be an expert, you probably have no idea where to look.
Long story short, "travel shaming" is lame, and you shouldn't do it. It makes you seem arrogant, pretentious, and out-of-touch. Instead, accept that not everyone likes the exact same things and has the exact same life situation as you.
Once you learn to set aside your judgements... you might find yourself forming more, stronger, and faster connections with the people around you.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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