Monday, November 16, 2015

Ten Most Obnoxious Travelers: Don't be that Guy

After having crisscrossed the globe for more than a decade I feel I can talk honestly about the cast of characters I've encountered on my travels. It hasn't been uncommon for me to befriend someone and after a while hear, "Typically I don't care for Americans, but I like you. You're different." Let's be serious; that's B.S. I'm an American. If you like me, reshape your preconceived notions.

That being said, I'm going to throw out a disclaimer: this post zeros in on what society often considers taboo, stereotypes. Although not the end all be all and not true for everyone you meet, stereotypes are kernels of truth devised from a common perception so that we can best prepare ourselves and safeguard our sanity. So don't be a hater but instead commiserate with me as I describe the random lot I've experienced over the years. 

1. The Loud-Mouthed American. Let's put it out there right up front: the typical American who is brave enough to leave U.S. topsoil is a loud talking know-it-all. Whether they have been collecting factoids for a lifetime or read it all in the guide book on the way over the ocean, they will be the first to tell you what's up and which way is which in a foreign land. If you don't hear him from a mile away, you can surely recognize the guy with his white gym socks pulled up to the knees, fanny pack and ten-inch camera lens.

2. The Leaf-Loving Canadian. Yes, I know you've weeped quietly in America's shadow for too long and are sick of being mistaken for a Yankee, but come on. Do you really need to plaster the maple leaf on everything from your backpack to underwear? As soon as you mutter an affirmation-seeking "eh" or reference Tim Hortons people will know where you are from and all will be right in the world. Let's all hold hands and chant together "hail to the great white north."

3. The Stinky Traveler. This isn't country-specific but some cultures are more likely to be culprits than others. You know who you are. For the most part travel hygiene comes with minimal expectations: just shower regularly and slap on some deodorant each day. I don't care if you comb your hair. But if people clutch their noses or lose consciousness when you reach into an overhead bin or grab the bus safety strap, that's not okay. In the same regard, show some consideration and don't bring your sauerkraut pickle sandwich or onion breath when you know we'll all be traveling in close quarters for a while. Regular bathing is encouraged, passing gas on public transportation is not. 

4. The Travel-Boasting Australian. The Australian culture is unique in that due to its remote location or maybe its strange allegiance to the queen, young adults are encouraged to take a "gap year" between high school and university, or before the real world, to travel. Because of this accepted cultural norm, Australians (and Kiwis from New Zealand) are everywhere and often travel in packs. We know you've been everywhere, seen everything and still consider your home the most righteous on the planet. Spare us your gnarly travel stories and enjoy the moment with the rest of us.

5. The Chatty Seat Mate. (Also applies to bunk mate if staying in a hostel.) I know you're excited. I really do. You are on this plane/train/bus en route to somewhere awesome that most likely none of your friends at home have been or can relate. But you must understand, I partied until 3 a.m. last night, barely made this plane/train/bus ride and have a splitting headache. If I have my ear buds in or am reading a magazine, please don't see this as an invitation to chat me up. If you still don't get it, and I have to fake sleeping (or death), please just stop. You'll know the headache has subsided and the airplane safety pamphlet has thoroughly bored me when I smile back at you and ask you questions in return.

6. The Photo-Crazed Asian. I've been to some of the most spectacular spots on the planet: the Egyptian pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal ... and there is one thing I can always count on: a self-absorbed Asian photobombing my priceless shot. I'm not sure if the peace sign is still the "in pose" or if they have somehow evolved to grow a selfie stick out of their torso, but Asians are everywhere and are the most photo-crazed species on the planet. It's not good enough to have three photos in front of that random disheveled palm tree, let me wait while you ... and your friends ... and your parents ... and the busload you came with take thirty happy snaps.

7. The Homesick Ruminator. Right now it's five o'clock back home. I don't care ... and neither should you! The purpose of traveling is to go somewhere you haven't been and experience something different. If you are constantly comparing the food, the dress, the people, and the culture to home and pining for the latter, you shouldn't have left the comfort of your couch. Do us all a favor and catch the next plane home. We are tired of hearing about it and no, we don't want to grab lunch at that McDonald's you spotted around the corner.

8. The Penny Pincher. Let's face it, we are all not like Paris Hilton and can't jet set endlessly around the planet. However, when you are on vacation you need to get in a vacation state of mind. You are there for the experience and often times you'll never be back so you need to make the most of it. Nothing is worse than a penny pincher on holiday holding everyone else back from having a good time. Save up, devise a plan and stay within your means; fun can be had on all sorts of budgets but it's important to know what you are working with before you leave so you aren't bringing everyone else down.

9. The Anti-Planner. In high school it was acceptable if you overslept and were late for class. Now that you are an adult it's time to put your responsible pants on. It's no longer cute or funny to oversleep and miss your train or crash in my hotel room because you forgot to book yours. You forgot to pack your toothbrush and need to borrow mine? Forget it. With all the information you could ever want at your fingertips, there's no excuse for poor planning. Get with the program.

10. The Condescending Jet Setter. Once you've been around the block a few times, it's hard not to fall in this trap. I consciously put forth an effort so not to be lumped into this camp. With a cheeky nod to the Australians, you're well-traveled and have experienced more adventures than one deserves in a lifetime, but be weary not to sour your newbie travel mates. Every city and each country in this world is unique and deserves to be discovered with an open heart and open mind. Check your past experiences at the door and dive into the moment ... if not for yourself, for everyone around you. 

These ten obnoxious traveler types continue to urke me and set my eyes rolling. Let this be a public service announcement: the first step in reform is self-awareness. If you are guilty of any of the offenses mentioned, there's still hope for you. Most likely, I'll give you a second chance but when you come to make amends be sure to being a bottle of whiskey and know when to bite your tongue.

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