Travel snobbery I’m so over

 

A takedown of travel snobbery

Travellers are generally pretty cool. It goes with the territory – chilled, open-minded, etc.

But this is the internet, and it brings out the judgemental worst in us all.  

At risk of biting the hand that feeds (see also: Personal finance topics I’m so over), today’s rant is about the superior mentality some travel blogs like to take.

‘That cost you how much?! We spent way less than that…’

If you want to survive on as little as humanly possible, that’s your prerogative. If you can afford to travel in luxury and that’s the way you want to go, enjoy it. If you are mostly frugal but splash out on food, who are we to judge? Just because it’s possible to spend as little as $10 or 20 a day in some countries doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing it wrong’ if you choose to splurge some days. Even the cheapest countries cost money and I’m inclined to agree with Adam Seper on this one: “You can’t do/see anything on $10/day, no matter where you are.”

Being on the road for six months, we occupied a strange middle ground – one that fell somewhere between normal people who couldn’t fathom how we spent so little, and long-term (often permanent) travellers who berate me for spending so much.

Six months worked in well with legalities (visas and such) for the destinations we wanted to visit and our finances, among other things. It did mean we moved at a fast pace by RTW standards and therefore jacked up daily average spend but it was the perfect length for us.

(Also, the US is not the only country in the world. There are travel bloggers from other countries, who deal in currencies other than the greenback.)

Anyone with a bag bigger than a 25L backpack is doing it wrong

I liked the idea of travelling with only a carry-on, I really did. Then I learned just how tiny the dimensions are for carry-on luggage with some of the budget airlines. There was no way that was going to happen. Plus, our RTW flights (for all the long-haul journeys) included checked baggage anyway – it was only the shorter European flights we had to worry about. So I sucked it up and paid extra for baggage on those flights.

I wouldn’t consider myself high maintenance; I only had a couple pairs of shoes and a handful of pieces of clothing for six months – one of the benefits of travelling in warmer weather. But we did have a few other things like electronics and a sleeping bag to contend with, and I am a lazy, untrained packer who likes to haphazardly squash things in. Oh, and yes, I packed jeans, and yes, I wore them a ton!

We could certainly have bought smaller packs (ours were never completely full until towards the end, when we did all our shopping in the States) and learned how to use packing cubes and the like if needed, but I figured I would rather have the option of more room in case I needed it (this definitely came in handy at times).

Props to the super minimalists and pro packers. Travel is always easier with less stuff to transport – but different strokes for different folks. My 9kgs may seem excessive to seasoned nomads, although non-travellers always balked at how little we apparently had.

The ‘right’ way to travel

Like most things in life, travel is intensely personal. I was itching to get out of the Louvre after an hour; some people dream of visiting it their whole lives. I adore Venice, but plenty of people decry it as a tourist trap.

So-called ‘real travellers’ occasionally astound me with their close-minded snobbery. How about we let people experience travel however the hell they want? Not everyone has the luxury of slow travel – the ability or the DESIRE to travel for long periods – so let’s not give them shit for trying to get the most out of their time. We only had 3 months in Europe as per Schengen visa rules so yes, we were kinda speed-freak backpackers  over there as we wanted to fit as much in as we could – and it was a blast. When you’re from NZ,  Europe is a long and expensive journey away, so this was a one-off/rare shot for us.

Not everyone wants to stay in gritty guesthouses and hostels, no matter how authentic that might be, or volunteer on a farm, or teach English abroad. (We did all these things ourselves and had a blast … but they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.)

Also, not everyone wants to spend months or years in developing nations no matter how cheap they are. After six weeks in southeast Asia we’d just about hit our limit in regards to heat and the environment in general. We spent too much on foreign food when we could no longer tolerate local food for every meal and found ourselves lingering longer in our air-conditioned rooms in the mornings as time went on. It was a grand adventure and amazing experience, but too far out of our comfort zone to spend months in.

I will wrap up with this:  “You can indeed have a narrow mind and a thick passport.” (Borrowed from William Chalmers, whose excellent list of 22 examples of travel snobbery is here.)

24 thoughts on “Travel snobbery I’m so over

  1. You are preaching to the choir. I’ve been on all-inclusive trips to Mexico and the like many a time and people like to tell me that isn’t traveling. There is a difference between traveling and vacationing. Sitting on a beach on Mexico for a week is a vacation to me. Going to Japan or Europe is traveling. Driving along a scenic route near me might be traveling to some people like you, but to me it is a vacation.

  2. I agree with you, that people have different preferences and even though it’s not how ‘seasoned’ travelers do it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doing it wrong… Also, I recognize the general pattern of people just come back from abroad — acting like they know the country they’ve just visited inside out. Most people just catch a glimpse of a certain country and I think it’s just not really fair that they remember some anecdotal stereotypes their whole life about that country when they’ve only visited it for a couple of days/weeks — unless they interacted with locals and the locals confirmed it. Just my 2 cents.

    1. Yeah and I know I’m probably guilty of this too sometimes. I definitely try not to generalise too much – unless you’ve lived somewhere for months or years I would be reluctant to pass definitive judgement on any aspect of the place. Everyone experiences places differently and we all know that first impressions are pretty powerful. We were fortunate to meet or stay with locals in many many cities around the world and that really enriched our experiences.

  3. I haven’t been enough places to really be a snob about it :) but I totally understand the sentiment of outdoing one another and being an immediate expert.

    My most interesting traveling was with hostels and a backpack, but I much prefer hotels or B&Bs with a suitcase that rolls ;)

  4. Ugh. I hate when other travelers throw down their budgets like we’re in some kind of reverse dick-measuring contest where the person with the smallest numbers wins. When we were in Vietnam, we actually met up with someone who asked us how much money we have spent on our trip… I said it probably came to about $48k US at this point… which averages about $60/day given the amount of time we’ve been gone. He was shocked and said that seemed really high. I said that given that save for our stint in HCMC, we’ve actually been traveling, not simply living in Asia, and I think those numbers are really reasonable. As you point out, our goal wasn’t to travel as cheaply as possible, it was to see and experience the world! This means we pay to have experiences that mean things to us and don’t regret it one bit. But I really hated how defensive I felt even though I think for a couple, living on $30/day per person is not unreasonable at all (especially when you consider that we’ve been to pricy places like Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, & Taiwan on this trip).

    Also, we pack light but I don’t think anyone can pack light enough to do carry-on only on budget airlines if they are doing anything more than a short vacation. Even though our bags do technically meet the dimension specs, the carry-on limit is generally so slow (in some places in Asia, it’s as low as 7kg!), there is no way we could pass if they weighed our bags. Our electronics alone weigh about 7kg!

    1. “I hate when other travelers throw down their budgets like we’re in some kind of reverse dick-measuring contest where the person with the smallest numbers wins.”

      Haha Steph, that’s hilarious. And so true.

      I like when some people put monthly financial reports on their blog, etc. as a way of letting people know a realistic figure for doing what they do. (I think sometimes bloggers can be like, “OMG this is so easy!” when not everything is; a lot of sacrifices have to be made). Also those reports can be a helpful way of letting others know where to find cheap deals or options when they too go to a place.

      But when it’s like, “Look at me! Look how much money I saved! I’M AWESOME!” it’s just like, ugh. :D

  5. Yes! Thanks for this!

    I have a few traces of snobbery (see: Cruise ships), but I also get that other things work for some people, and I never would talk down to someone or even be negative amongst my friends about the “others”. I just know what I like. T hates crowds and I have to coax him to go to some of the top tourist destinations – “Sometimes things are crowded because they are awesome!”

    That said, I tend to like outdoorsy / hiking / mountain destinations over beaches, and I love european cities. Asia was fascinating and cheap, but after a while all of the big cities were just exhausting. I’d go back though, just to see a new perspective.

    I’m also very set on what I want to do, and not easily deterred by someone else’s opinion, even if they, say, spent a week in said destination in the past. I listen, of course, but like an above person pointed out, they are hardly an expert, and I also seek out other opinions (online, etc.)

  6. Oh my god I hate this. I have a very well traveled friend who regularly does longer trips. Like she spent 6 weeks in India, 8 weeks in South America etc. Well I value the fact that I have a very secure, FULL TIME job, that only allows me 3 weeks vacation per year, so I fit my traveling into that like our upcoming 2 week trip to Ireland and Scotland. But she regularly makes comments about how a short trip like that isn’t really traveling or comments like “well, everyone has been to Europe”. No, no they have not.

    Also we tend to travel on the more luxury side. We always get private rooms and tend to splurge on accommodation and food when traveling. We could do it cheaper but we choose not to because we like to make our travels a bit of a vacation as well. And that’s perfectly fine! So annoying. The only people I sometimes pass *a little* bit of judgment on are people who choose not to travel. Only because I know how enriching the experience is! So so much more enriching than spending your money on new toys. However, maybe it’s just not for them and that’s fine too. Everyone is different!

  7. I so agree with everything you’ve said here! I hate the word “real travellers” – everybody is unique! Some people have a few days in each city, others become expats for 6 months. Some people completely uproot their whole lives, others just travel for a few weeks at a time. Everybody is different; why do we want to put other people into little boxes? Especially when – the height of irony – some people use travel as a way of escaping the little boxes they found themselves in at home. Why escape a box and then expect everybody to get into a different box??

  8. Ah, yes. There are always ways to do X and Y and Z but hey, maybe I want to do A and B and C and dammit, it’s MY experience so I’m going to do it my way! I’m really glad that on my big travel adventures I’ve always gone with people who are likeminded, so it was never an issue of “Well, THIS is a better way of doing that…” because we generally were in agreement about our travel styles!

  9. Yup, I know what you mean. It’s great to be well traveled, but let’s be honest, there’s no one right way to do it. Part of the fun of traveling is figuring it out on your own!

  10. I am also over the “We only spent this much!” game with other people who travel. Well guess what, I am not you. I like to eat out well once in awhile on vacation and I like to do touristy things! So sue me!

  11. Boy, do I ever recognize a lot of these different types of people from my many years of travel! Someone once summed it up this way, and it made sense to me: There are two types of travel; relaxation (i.e. All Inclusive Resorts) and adventure (i.e. Backpacking around S.E. Asia) and the best one to do is the one YOU want to do at the time. We tend to do both, and enjoy them all.

    I love the “Dick-measuring” reference, and sadly it never goes away regardless how old we get; being a bit older (and established) myself, we are lucky enough to be able spend a week or two each year in Mexico at an all inclusive; and it never fails to surprise me how, usually within a few sentences, many middle aged people are trying to “one up” each other on how little they paid for the week’s holiday! At this point in my life (52) I don’t want to have to brag about how little I paid for ANYTHING – because if I do, it probably means I can’t really afford it! Just sayin’…

    Anyways, thanks for letting me rant – this is a great site, keep up the terrific posts!

  12. I loved this post. My coworker and I had a recent discussion about preferred vacations. I’m the kind who’d tried to do EVERYTHING I CAN and plan everything out with preferences to big cities. My coworker loves just lying on the beach. And yknow what? That’s fine. Travel can be a complete personal experience.

  13. “How about we let people experience travel however the hell they want?”

    Amen. One of the reasons I don’t have a travel blog. I’ve enjoyed your rant!

  14. Lol, I thankfully never came across any travel snobs. It was probably because I wasn’t living in the cheapest hostels nor sitting by the side of a road figuring out how not to spend more than US$10 a day. :P As you know I spent way way WAYYY over that!

  15. Brilliant post! It does get a bit like that in the Long Term Travel circles where people boast about how little they spent. I’m with you somewhere in between roughing it and having a lavish time. There’s a time and place to penny pinch and sometimes during travel is NOT one of them! (Although there are some times when there is no need to spend $100 on a meal when $10 will do fine).

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