Don’t Tell Me How To Travel: A Letter to Travel Authorities
“If you didn’t hike X mountain, you certainly didn’t visit that country”
“What? You went to X? Definitely you missed the best part”
“How is it that you didn’t explore X museum while you were visiting”
These are some of the statements that are becoming popular to hear lately. The truth is: I am getting sick and tired. I am not sure if this is the travel blogging world’s fault or whose, but this situation is becoming annoying. For some reason, certain group of travelers believe they are an authority and that what they did and explore on their trip becomes a law. They think they can tell others how to travel and that their view is the only one you should follow. If you decided to explore that same destination other way, you certainly didn’t visit that spot.
I would call a travel authority or travel judge to those who think that their itineraries is the only way to explore a certain location. The world is such a big place, and in year 2017 we know that is really diverse. Why believing there is just one way to travel? Why thinking you can tell others how to travel exactly?
Here’s my story
As a traveler, as well as a person, I am sure that I have my own tastes and things I am willing to do. Against to what it seems to be a norm in the travel world: I am not into hiking, I am not even adventurous. I respect and enjoy all those travelers who go on long hikes and push themselves off the limit. I follow them on Instagram, I love their pictures and everything they do. The only thing is that, I am not one of them, and I am sure that’s ok.
If there’s something I truly believe since day 1 I launched this blog is that there is space for everyone. Doing what we love the most while we travel will help us to achieve finding loyal followers and readers that identify with us. I am sure many of my followers are also up for adventure, but I am also sure that some others, are more laid back.
About my last trip…
This last Summer I decided that I was going to Guatemala and I will be traveling to Colombia alone for my birthday. I started to plan this trip since January, when I was able to win a certificate to go anywhere thanks to the International TEFL Academy. After some research, I knew exactly what I wanted to do in both places. I was also taking in account my budget and set up some priorities. Reactions came quick.
For my Guatemala birthday, I knew I wanted to visit two places: Antigua Guatemala and Guatemala City. That was it. I didn’t wanted to take a whole day to get to Tikal. I knew I was missing Lake Atitlan and no, I don’t regret it. I’ll come back and I will visit it. No, I didn’t go to any volcano. Complaints from travel authorities came even quciker.
“Oh, you needed to make the Volcano hike.” “Oh, but why you didn’t visit Livingston?” “Why are you going to Guatemala city? It’s ugly and boring”
I confess I started to feel overwhelmed by those reactions. I would never tell to someone who really want to make a volcano hike “don’t do it, that’s boring!” A Volcano Hike might be boring for me that I am not a hiker, the same way exploring a city, taking public transportation and just looking at the way people behave might be boring to you. I am passionate about cities, about museums, about just getting lost in the streets, discovering their markets or their big commercial streets. That’s my thing. And no, I don’t judge those who do something different. I can’t go telling people how to travel, even though I write a post on my experience. Maybe that’s why I travel on my own.
You certainly didn’t have an authentic experience…
Who we are to judge others’ experiences as authentic or less? Of course, if you ask me, I try to follow what locals do where I visit. Just that there is something I am also sure I can go through. There is a point of almost any trip on which I might be homesick. Its not exactly that homesickness of wanting to go home and back to the routine. It is a feeling of actually stop exploring, or try to flow with things that are more familiar to you, even when they are not local.
Even though is not my cup of tea, I don’t blame those travelers who once on their trip, decide to go and eat in McDonalds. I don’t blame those who need their Frappuccino at some point. There is nothing wrong with doing that and we should stop shaming those who do it.
Do I feel is wrong traveling and not exploring the local culture? Yes, I do. The whole point of traveling is discovering. Of course you need to try new things! Do I blame people for taking a break of exploring? No. I am not a travel authority that judge people or tell them how to travel my way and not theirs!
My advice in this situation is..
Live and let live. This is not entended to tell people not write itineraries on how to travel or not to be travel bloggers, of course not. This is written to be a way to reflex a little bit. I am sure I’m guilty of doing this in some instances. In fact, I would love to apologize to those I have put through this situation.
If people ask for suggestion: give them suggestions! Tell them your favorite restaurants, your favorite spot in the destination, send them that post you wrote on that. That’s exactly what that person is asking for.
What is really entitled and a stupid thing to do is going through a Facebook (or any social media) post asking “Did you went X or Y?” and when the person replies “NO” tell something like: “But, then you didn’t explore that place properly” specially if this person is telling you what their interests are. Don’t be that annoying person. Don’t start talking about all the things you did and the rest of the places they didn’t explore. You weren’t asked about that.
By the way, when you do that… do you consider the other person’s budget? I know people who only go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. I have my own view on the Eiffel Tower, but… who am I to judge that they didn’t want to see all those Van Gogh in the Orsay Museum? The Orsay Museum obsession is just mine, as my feelings toward the Eiffel Tower are just my own. We decide on what we spend our money while traveling. Maybe the person that you are talking to didn’t have enough money to go to 8 different locations across the country and decided to explore those 3 only. Let’s respect that.
I am sure that most of us haven’t done this with the intention of being total assholes (pardon my french), but in the end is what we end up being. We are travel douchebags when we do this and I am sure that its not the way we want to be seen by others. Let’s start to be a little more aware of our differences when it comes to how to travel or explore certain places. We should celebrate and respect them.
Great post. I feel traveling is just like books, food, movies, etc. Everyone has their won likes and dislikes. Just because some critic says this movie is great or horrible, doesn’t mean I will like or hate it too. That is for me to decide. I get the same thing while traveling sometimes. I even got it here in the US. Recently we went to St. Louis and I had at least 5 people ask why we would go there. It’s crazy. In my opinion traveling is a personal experience as well as what you get out of it. Keep enjoying it and growing your way. Happy travels.
Thanks for your words! I knew I couldn’t be the only one feeling that way when it comes to travel. I simply can’t get why some just want to apply their standards to others! Im glad you had an amazing time in St. Louis! In fact, is one of the places in the US i want to visit the most!
Love this! We are all different and like to explore different aspects of a city. I much rather visit libraries, parliaments and cemeteries rather than the oldest pub, the top of a building (even if it is the Eiffel Tower) or the famous beach. I am now including some hikes on my trips, but they have to be easy hikes – I don’t have the physical condition for anything else! My biggest pet peeve is about driving while on vacation. A lot of people say that you haven’t properly explore an area if you are not driving. But guess what, I don’t like to drive! Or to deal with insurance/fuel/flat tires/etc. I much rather “get lost” using public transport. Thanks for your post!
Thanks for YOUR response! I feel the same way towards driving! and I also have some phobia of being in a car thanks to an accident I had a few years ago. I really feel people sometimes need to be douchebags and feel the need to say that “what you did wasn’t enough”. They need to take a break!
I hear you! I thought these arguments were kind of dead on travel blogger circles but I am seeing that this is not the case. This is an old thing and I wish people will move on from those “simplistic” ways to approach travel. Yes, I do what I want when I travel. I am not going to change that. I am the one who pay for my trips, so I am the one who decides how to proceed. The other thing is that personal realities are vast. Travel may be influenced by likes and tastes but by money, time, relationships and other things. Lets encourage each other to see the world (in the way that you feel it best for you).
the truth is that is not limited to travel blogging circle… I think that some people that are not even travel bloggers can be worse!
Oh my god PREACH!!! I am so sick and tired of the “you’re doing it wrong” culture among many travelers (including the never-ending traveler vs tourist debate). I think as long as you are being responsible and respectful, and not exclusively pursuing things you do at home, you have every right to create a travel experience that will be meaningful for YOU.
I actually do an entire itinerary planning series on my own blog designed not to tell people where to go when, but to provide the information needed to create your own itinerary. Currently have Italy and the Balkans live, and am working on one for Southeast Asia.
I think that should be the whole point of writing itineraries… not for people to copy EXACTLY what you do, but to have a guide to help you make your own decisions.
I have made this same rant too! It’s incredibly patronising, not to mention narrow-minded, to tell others that their travel preferences and choices are not as valid as your own. Like you, I’m not into trekking or physical adventure activities, not least because I have mobility issues, but to be honest I didn’t love them even before that. So yeah, I plan my trip to suit MY interests and that means I see and do what excites me to see and do!
Exactly! And telling someone that their experience is not authentic is the most stupid thing someone can do!
I HATE when people do this! Everyone has a different travel style and there is no right or wrong way, except to be mean to the locals. Thank you for writing this!
Exactly! as long as you’re respectful, therea no wront or right way to explore. Thanks for reading.
I have to admit that sometimes I do this. 🙁 Its not to be a travel douchebag but more because it was an experience that I passionately adored. Most of the time though, the other person has asked for suggestions and I usually know them in person. When its a stranger I just met, I do ask what they like to do when they travel.
I believe that if someone asks you, things changes… the problem, in my opinion, comes on judging others when they even asked for suggestions
Great post – you nailed it! I’m also blogging about my travels, share my experiences and try to give a view on the things you CAN experience at the places I’ve visited. But it’s exactly how you say: people are different, like different things and have different budgets. I’m also sick of these “If you haven’t seen/done/experienced xxx, you missed the highlight”. Maybe – but another persons highlight, not mine!
I stopped reading blogposts of people like these “I-know-it-better-than-you”-writers.
They don’t give e baby benefit. Same with comments like that.
I want to make my own experiences, which I think of they will make me happy. And I strongly believe that many others feel the same way.
As you said: live and let live!
I totally know what you mean and I’m sure I used to be one of those people once. I’ve realised that travel means different things to different people so people should just do whatever makes them happy! It’s their money and their vacation 😀
So true! Each to their own when it comes to travel. I know some people would not enjoy the hikes I go on or my oohing n arhhing over street art. Its also a reason why I hate listicles of blogposts and just share what I experienced and loved.
So much YES! to this Brenda! So very true. And as a travel planner I really believe this. I named my business Wander Your Way for a reason. Great post!!
I agree everyone wants something different from their travels. Some people want to travel to relax. Travel somewhere find a beach and do very little. Whereas others want to explore. Neither trips are better, neither traveler is better, they just have different expectations.
Great Post! I get the same thing while travelling sometimes. When I got a stranger while travelling i used to ask, When its a stranger I just met, I do ask what they like to do when they travel.
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