Dear Traveler, Stop Being a Travel Snob

There is a new clan of people in the town. We call ourselves the Travelers because calling ourselves as Tourists is so so derogatory! Why, even calling as traveler is derogatory these days. You have to be a backpacker, solo traveler, camper, hitchhiker, trekker, biker, or some err otherwise you are just not part of the clan. First of all, the tourist vs traveler debate itself is a funny thing. End of the day you want to brand one style of travel as tourist and another as traveler. Dictionary says, “Tourist is someone who travels for pleasure” and “Traveler is someone who travels often to distant land”. How many has the luxury of time to go on extended travel? The underlying word in both the sentences is travel. That being done why brand each other and try to pull each other down? But the travel snob wants to do exactly that.   Man has this biggest problem in life. He is always in competition with the world or worse with himself. He wants to keep outdoing what the world did, what his Facebook friend did or what he did in his previous trip. I used to think travel makes you humble, travel teaches you the simplicity of life, travel teaches how to be a minimalist, travel teaches you to be open and that all the people who travel are good people (yup, ignorant me!). But no.. Travel has changed over years, travelers have changed and the constant “I am a better traveler than him” syndrome is catching up with everyone. Now that I spend more time on road, go to travelers’ meet, meet travelers on road or some place, read blogs; I come across more and more travelers who are really annoying! Either they are not aware that they are doing it or they suffer from the pretentious travel douchebag syndrome (PTDS). Wondering what is PTDS? You will figure that out by the time you finish reading the article. The moment I spot a travel snob, I want to run in the opposite direction. But the clan is getting bigger and bigger that it is tough to escape from them. So hey if you are consciously or unconsciously doing any of these just stop doing it please..   Traveler vs tourist  

1. OMG that place is so crowded and touristy, I wouldn’t go there.. I will explore only Off beat and hidden gems!

  Gentle reminder – The place is crowded and touristy for a reason. It is heck popular and so good that everybody want to see it. Would you go all the way to Paris and not see Eiffel tower cos that is what everyone does? Or would you go all the way to Agra but then not visit Taj Mahal because it is crowded like hell? I hate crowd too but that does not mean I would not visit the popular place in town! I would either be the first one at the gates early in the morning or go on a weekday when there may not be much crowd. I find it even more funny when an Indian says this. We are born in a country that is second most populous and probably soon the most populous country in the world. There are people everywhere and you have to deal with it. So stop this pretentious, “oooo am a traveler I wont go to XYZ place because people flock there!”   Am really tired of hearing this finding the hidden gem. Like people are on a treasure hunt and walking around with a magnifying glass looking for the gem that they always seem to stumble upon just around the corner! There is no place in the world that’s off beat, unexplored or hidden gem anymore.. The moment a man sets his foot on and worse puts it up on the internet, it starts to get exploited. In all probability you read someone’s blog and got to know about it. So stop the obsession or feeling proud of having discovered that hidden gem. The gem was not hidden, it was right there, very much visible, just that people who don’t have enough time in hand will not visit them. Admit it, off beat places are seldom well maintained and not worth your time unless you are really involved in it. I like history, and ruined forts draw my attention. I have gone to forts where it has been only me and no one around and sometimes it is literally just a ruined wall. But am a dreamer and I sit there wondering about the history behind the ruined walls, trying to turn around the bricks for stories. But would a family with kids on a trip enjoy that ruined wall or would drive long way to see a ruined wall? No!! So don’t rub it on his face like he missed out something great. The other term that people have come up with is, “It is untouched and so virgin! Go go go there” Eww.. what are you implying to the person? Go and f*** up the place?  
Finding my own corner in the extremely crowded Rann of Kutch

2. So how many countries have you traveled to? Is that all?

  The one question that stumps me every time somebody asks. Two kind of people ask this question. One, who thinks number of stamps on passport equates to well traveled. Two, who wants to talk about the countries that they have visited. The first one strongly believes that unless you have not traveled outside your country, you have not traveled at all! He doesn’t understand that travel is about experiences and not just setting foot in a city. He would go on to say something like, “Really? Is that all the number of countries you have visited? but you keep traveling all the time? Where do you go?”. I usually talk about the time spent in exploring India or why just a 10 day trip to ten countries in Europe will not satisfy me. For which the response would usually be, “Really? Is that all the number of countries you have visited?” #FacePalm. The second guy is the notorious one, he wants to do travel bragging and he is here to blow his trumpet and show off that his passport is heavier than yours. So whatever number you say he is going to top it! It is very easy to identify him; his eyes will have a twinkle, he will be the first person to ask this question and will have his mouth slightly open even after finishing the question cause he wants to answer it himself and does not have any intention to hear you!! To such kind of people, I would just reply with a “not much” and shut my mouth, fold my hands, tilt my head and be ready to hear the loud music he wants to play. They would talk about the countries they visited right from their previous birth, once in a while I would unblock my ears, clap my hand and then move away.   world without borders  

3. Oh shucks you missed the XYZ experience at ABC destination, that’s the best actually..

  You have spent five days in a city and you have done everything that you wanted to do in a city. But then there comes our travel elitist who wants to ruin your happiness and make you question the way you spent five days in the city. He would start with the naive conversation of, “What all did you see in the city?” and once you are done happily reliving the 5 days with peppy narration he would go, “Did you go to that hotel where they serve the famous tea? Yaar that is the best to have in the whole city! how can you miss it being five days in that place yaar. It is just next to that famous monument, you have to take the street next, go straight and then left and then right and and then another left and then tiny narrow street, one chaiwala on a cycle with no board to identify that place! Best mast chai he gives, how come you missed? Cha! Your trip is incomplete you have to go back now!” And then you would start questioning about everything you did, start wondering what else you have missed in spite of spending so much money and time and then regret for taking the whole trip!   Travelervstourist  

4. But solo travel is the ultimate, you discover yourself , you have to go on your own..

  The kind of people who wan to glorify only one kind of travel as the best. By glorifying solo travel as the bravest thing to do and the only way to do, you are putting down a huge sect of people who are traveling out there. Not just put down but make them feel worthless, making them feel bad to be part of travel groups that they even give up on traveling. Not many have the time in hand to chart out the itinerary and hunt for place of stay. They would rather just hand it over to someone who has already been there, done that, so they can have a peaceful trip and have a good memory. Everything comes with its own pitfalls and people know to chose what works for them the best. If you are going to throw me the question, “but you have to go on your own, figure out your way, get lost, find yourself!” Boss, let me tell you, life does that to people in many brutal ways. Solo travel is not the only way to feel empowered or gain confidence. Live independently, on your own for lets say six months; you are going to learn the same. Glad you found that as a way to empower yourself but don’t judge people who have not got into the boat alone, it is not that they don’t know to sail, they just don’t want to. Just like how you love to be left alone on solo, some love to have company around them. So, congrats you found the way of travel suitable for you and they found a way suitable for them.. Live and let live.   groupTravel  

5. How much did you spend on the trip? But why? I did it at just X rate

  It is a very personal question to ask and usually asked by annoying backpackers. It is like asking for one’s salary or their bank balance. It is okay if the person went on a group tour and you want to know what was the package cost. It is even okay to ask how are the room rates priced, or average food cost or airfare or cost of living of a place for you to figure out the how much you might need if you want to go on that trip. But to ask directly how much money did you bust is like asking for the most personal information. Worse when you continue to say, “Why did you have to spend so much! It is such a cheap destination. I spent only half of it!” Hmmm.. Okay.. You went to a shop and bought 10 rupees cadburys, I bought a 100rs cadburys temptation. You enjoy your chocolate, let me enjoy my chocolate. Does it sound logical to say, “hey why eat temptation yaa, come eat 10 rupees chocolate!” It’s different. Experiences are different..  

6. My backpack is only 7kgs you know, I need not even check in

This is something I have started to notice recently. Packing light is amazing and in fact am envious too looking at those who pack so less. Now there seems to be an internet war between the backpackers as who get to pack light. I cannot pack light for the simple reason that am fat, my dresses are huge and I cannot buy stuff on the go. Your tips on packing light which works for you will not work for me! Not just that, the look of contempt they give at people carrying a suitcase! Why? A person who is traveling to a place for just five or ten days doesn’t even need backpack. They will be happy dragging around a suitcase with wheels which is so convenient. That’s probably the only vacation they are taking that year that they want to dress up well for. So let them carry that suitcase with shoes and dresses. Wipe out that smirk from your face when you see them. Overpacking  

7. Oh this is nothing, you know how this place was ten years back..

  The other kind of people who wants to spoil your paradise. You would have just walked through a lush national park and be enthralled by the experience when the traveler would pop in and say, “you know how this place was five years back?” You would be so happy to walk on the white sand beaches, look at the exotic coconut trees and dive in to see the colorful fishes and the traveler would pop in to say, “you know how this place was ten years back!” I know dear. Ten years back I was also very young, energetic and all fresh. I would be happy if you are going around talking about conserving the place or cleanup drives or talking about responsible tourism. Talking about how you saw it better than me; well lucky you and you have very well passed on the info that you are a seasoned traveler, a travel elitist but am left with only jealousy..  

8. My paradise should be your paradise too..

  “Did you climb that mountain there, it is the best to do there.” “No, am not a trekker, not keen to scale mountains!” “But that’s the best thing to do there. Why would you not climb it. It is just 30km up and down and a little bit of rock climbing. Then you will be above the clouds” “Sounds amazing, but am not a trekker. I wouldn’t enjoy climbing up and down the 30km” “You cannot say like that. You have to try climbing. You have to conquer the mountain. What a great feeling you know!” “Happy for you. It is just not my cup of tea.” “Look at this picture, then you will tempted to visit there..” “Looks amazing.. I came to visit the national park nearby..” “Oh you probably had the wrong company. Don’t be pessimistic you can definitely climb that mountain!” Are you deaf dude? That’s not what I want to do! Ughhh.. Some people like Biryani and some like pizza. Why is it difficult to understand? And then there are others who would say why did you go to Ladakh, you should have gone to Spiti! Sighh.. Why dear? Why?!   Annoying traveler  

9. I only hitchhike, eat in a dhaba, drink arrack, you know just like the locals, live like the locals and blend like the locals..

  I hope I put across this the right way. Every traveler wants to not just visit place, but be part of the place, learn the culture, tradition, cuisine, sometimes language too. We now have many apps and tools to find people from the place to show you around and you exchange cultures. But there are two kinds of people who don’t do it the right way. One is the hypocrite and the other is the ignorant. The hypocrite is usually the urban crowd who everyday lives in a good house, driving around in cars, doesn’t even talk to neighbors, wouldn’t want to even learn the local lingo but suddenly goes on a trip, takes selfies with people, sleeps in a mat under the stars and says I am a local and will live like a local. No harm at all and am happy that at least for a brief moment you are friendly with everybody but its really not so difficult to start from close to your home! The ignorant one is the person who does not understand that the society is made of all kinds of people. They think that blending with the locals means to sleep on the road in platform! One day if you find the road side tea shop giving exquisite tea then another day walk into the tea house and slurp some tea with cakes and experience a teat party. Claiming that the experiences that comes out of only one sector of people as living life like a local is similar to Government addressing only one sector of people for vote bank. Be open to experiences and don’t brand those seeking different experiences as someone not trying to understand a culture or place.  

10. That’s not how travel works dude..

  The classic “I am the World’s Best Traveler” guy!! And whatever he does is the way travel is defined. If he hitch hikes then the world should hitch hike, if he couchsurfs then the world should couchsurf, if he pitches tent on the road then the world should sleep on the road, if he eats from dhaba world should eat from dhaba, otherwise they will branded as people who do not know to travel, who do not know to live life like local, who do not know what life is, who doesn’t know that stars exist in the sky.. Anybody who travels for two weeks or less than that he will not even consider that as travel. Anything other than what he does that you say he would reply with, “That’s not how traveling works dude! What are you even doing. Why are you even calling yourself a traveler!” Why! What is it you are so proud of? Do you know how narrow minded you are? You are not open to even listen to what and where others have been to. These are the worst kind of travel snobs and I just run away from them the moment I smell their contempt for other travelers.  
With Curious Kids from Bhuj
  Gone are the days when people traveled across the country just out of curiosity, wondering what lies across the border, without maps, without expectation, without apprehensions. Now travel is not only very affordable but also accessible. There is a crowd to influence people to travel to a destination, people get interested to visit a destination looking at pictures and videos. There are hardly anymore explorers!! We all like to travel and have our own preferences and style of traveling. No one is superior to anyone. Let us stop branding each other, stop the traveler vs tourist debate, stop the travel bragging, be open to new experiences, form new friendships on the road and keep traveling around the world. Just enjoy traveling and don’t be in a race.  

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  1. Glad you wrote this. Truth be told. I am now immune to this snobbery. I just smile and agree with everything the travel snob says. If possible, I move away. Sometimes, if I have had too much, I give them an earful. If it still exceeds the limit, I reach out for my pistol.

  2. Very Insightful!
    I m not too much of a traveler and not comfortable traveling solo. I prefer a comfortable stay and known destinations. Still, I have found that I have had rich experiences and great memories.
    It’s remarkable the way you have penned your thoughts Kudos 🙂

  3. Loved every bit of this post Chittra. Travel has become affordable today. We either become the snob in someways or meet some along the way. It’s a reminder not to become that annoying snob and just enjoy the journey.

  4. Love this refreshing article! Its sad that travel has become a commodity in this ‘im as good, no better than you’ age. To the extent that people who don’t even care about travel are travelling…just for more likes on Instagram. I think we all need to think this. How would i travel if no one was looking/hearing????

  5. Great post ji…. There is a competition in anything and everything,nowadays.

    Unfortunately-Comparisons,Insecurity,Superiority have pervaded into travel plans of families and the likes,too.

    The need of the hour is Respect,Flexibility and a new perspective to see things.

    Having said this….I know how it feels to travel with narrow minded people .My Thailand trip was partly a failure owing to such people for company.What to do of people who say,’Have you come to Thailand to see heritage sites , national parks and temples?’Arey baba,Thailand is famous for something else!’

    Grrrrr….as if Thai people are not humans.How prejudiced and judgemental can people be!!!

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