I Don’t Give a Damn How You Travel

I have huge respect for the travel community. Huge.

Without you guys, I wouldn’t have discovered all these new destinations on my wishlist, honed my voice as a travel writer or made so many new friends. And there’s really nobody I’ve come across that I dislike, so this post isn’t aimed at anyone in particular. Just something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and then I was inspired by Steph’s post at 20-Something Travel.

I feel a lot of travel material out there attacks the way people travel. Everyone’s all about anti-materialism and being minimalist, and they’re competitive. People boast the lack of items they own. Everyone’s deeply involved in aid organizations, fundraising, and relief efforts.

Then there’s the “tourist” stigma. Like wandering around being amazed by your surroundings is a bad thing. Like finding excitement in even the most frequented destinations is somehow wrong.

And the “get to know the locals, not other travellers” advice. Because other travellers aren’t worth the time?

Don’t get me wrong, all these aspects of the travel world are amazing. The people who assemble organizations and participate in causes are outstanding, and should be commended for their hard work. However, I’m at the point in my life right now where I contribute where I can, but simply do not have the resources/time to devote myself anywhere else. Does this make me a bad person? No.

And being minimalist? I like shopping. I like trying on new outfits, mixing and matching, feeling good and going out on the town with my friends. I don’t necessarily own a lot (my bed and my laptop are the only items of value), but I care about the things I do own. Could I give up these things if I had to? Absolutely. But I don’t want to. Wanna fight about it?

Being a tourist in Ireland.

Being a tourist in Ireland.

As for being a tourist…if you’re exploring anywhere new, you’re a damned tourist. If you’re a white Canadian wandering around Seoul, you stick out like a sore thumb, even if you actually live there. This is not a bad thing. It shows you’re willing to leave your comfort zones, try something new. Who gives a shit if you’re snapping pictures of everything you see, wearing an “I Love NYC” shirt and fanny-pack? Who the hell gave anybody else the right to judge?

People are worth your time. It doesn’t matter if they’re a tourist, expat, long-term traveller, local, or business person. Everybody has a story to tell, a relatable experience, something to gossip about over a beer. If I’m on the other side of the planet and I happen to run into a friendly Canadian, hell yeah we’re hanging out.

For me, travel is about knowledge and fun. I do the research beforehand, and have fun while I’m there. It’s about taking pleasure in the smallest of moments, whether it’s uncovering some secret, quiet valley at Gros Morne National Park or gawking at sculptures with 2000 other people in the British Museum.

If you’re enjoying it while not hurting anyone else, it’s fine. You’re living. Have a freaking blast. Stop taking travel so damned seriously.

So if you see me at TBEX, come say “hi.” I’ll be the one wearing the Statue of Liberty foam hat.

  • March 26 2010

    Great post and so so true.

    The whole part of what makes travelling so worthwhile is meeting up with other travellers and having such a wicked time!

    • March 29 2010

      Agreed, by far my favourite part! (Look, British spelling just for you)

  • March 26 2010

    I will for SURE say hi. We should have a tacky tourist themed pub crawl, where your foam hat will go perfectly.

    • March 29 2010

      Man, wouldn’t that be amazing?! Nerdiest pubcrawl EVER.

  • March 26 2010

    We always hear other tourists brag about buying something “authentic” as if buying a shirt that says “I got laid in Hawaii” is any less authentic than buying a box of chocolate-covered macadamia or a grass hula skirt is any less authentic. Who cares what you buy as long as you like it? You’re putting money into a foreign economic system that thrives on tourism. Get the Eiffel tower key chains. Get the I Heart NY shirt. Doesn’t matter if it makes you look like a tourist — you are!

    • March 29 2010

      No kidding! It’s probably why I always stick to alcohol. Failproof.

  • March 26 2010
    Alana

    well said! I can appreciate the philosophy of minimalism, and there are aspects of it that I find attractive, and travelling light is generally a good idea, but I am definitely not interested in becoming totally minimalist…

    anyone who believes their way of life is better than the way of life of anyone else is a jerk anyway – I’m always inspired by the people who live by example – the kind and open people who maybe are minimalist, or whatever way they live, without pushing it on others – it is those people that inspire me to try new things. The people that brag about their lifestyle and tell me it’s the only way to live, they just inspire eyerolls.

    • March 29 2010

      Totally! And minimalism is absolutely admirable, but you’re right, not when it’s shoved down someone else’s throat.

  • March 26 2010

    I thought we were both going to get the Statue of Liberty foam hats. And the I *heart* NYC shirts too.

    • March 29 2010

      I am SO into that idea. We’re doing it. Especially since we’re doing the tacky tourist stuff together. Right?

  • March 26 2010

    My cheese head beats out ALL your damned foam hats!!

    My goal is to meet everyone and see everything in the world. One step at a time.

    • March 29 2010

      Damned good goal to have, I think.

  • March 26 2010

    Great post.
    I totally agree – there is too much of that kind of talk incited by the “holier than thou” travel mindset. I have a blast meeting other travelers because they are excited about being there and have great tips on what to see and do.

    However, it does still bother me when a traveler (whether tourist or expat or business traveler) acts culturally insensitive.
    I might be acting a little more defensive because I’m American and there are many who spread the “ugly American” stereotype, loudly expressing ethnocentric views and expecting others to cater to their particular wishes. Like visiting a place and calling it “backwards” rather than recognizing cultural diversity; slum tourism; etc. I admit that kind of behavior is not unique to Americans, but each person should do her part in trying to reverse that image because it’s a human tendency, I think, to generalize about groups of people by the ones you meet. Whether or not we can help it, I venture that we’ve all been guilty of prejudices based on a person’s hometown, ethnicity, affiliations… “Frat guys are sleazy,” or maybe “Asians are good at math” (it doesn’t have to be negative to be prejudice). What many people don’t think enough about is that whether or not they like it, when they visit a place they are simultaneously acting as cultural ambassadors.

    It’s true, just because a person has a preferred philosophy of travel (like packing ultra-minimally or avoiding “touristy” areas) doesn’t make them any better than another – though many do act this way. I think it’s valuable for travelers of all kinds to be mindful of the impact they’re having on the local communities. It doesn’t mean you have to volunteer the entire time or donate money (like another commenter wrote, the money you spend does go into the economy in some way… though maybe not for the programs you’d support). It doesn’t mean giving up fun. Travelers who regard themselves as superior to others for /any/ reason should reassess… As you said, each person and story has value.

    I’m new to the travel-blogging world, but hope to see you at TBEX! Love reading your blog.

    • March 29 2010

      You’re totally right of course and perhaps I should have elaborated on this point a bit more…even though I’m all about fun travel and meeting new people along the way, being respectful of everything going on around you is absolutely NECESSARY. Disrespect is unforgiveable (this also means environmentally, IMO).

      But thanks for bringing that point up, it’s one that can’t be overlooked!

  • March 26 2010

    word.

  • March 26 2010

    Yay! Obviously, I totally agree. People seem to take a philosophy, whatever it may be, and run with it until it’s all they can see. Travel becomes another lifestyle contest for who can be the most travelled, most authentic, most minimal. It’s silly and ultimately pointless. The harder, and more important, skill is to be able to see other points of view and respect them.

    • March 29 2010

      Absolutely! Just like the travel snob I encountered at a party that time. If you’re travelling to increaes your country count, you’re probably doing it wrong.

  • March 26 2010

    I really like meeting other travelers too and while I don’t want my experiences to be all inside a hostel that is part of the experience. Meeting people from other cultures is one of the things that makes the trip. I still talk to people I met on former holidays and hope to visit them on this one.

    • March 29 2010

      Yeah exactly! All part of the experience. Can’t just close your eyes and pretend the other hostel-goers aren’t there. It’s good to have both, I think. Makes life less lonely.

  • March 26 2010

    I love shopping too, but I try to be minimalistic when traveling for my own sake.
    I started out with a huge backpack which turned out to be too much of a hassle.
    I screamed out of furiousness every time I tried to pack my overfilled backpack, and my back was killing me with all that stuff. So for my own benefit I try to keep it light, for me it’s much easier and more fun traveling that way. Plus bringing a carry- on luggage saves you a few buck too ;P

    But I agree, you should respect other people’s way of doing it, everyone should stick to whatever works for them and not waste their time judging others, although it’s great to give tips and advice for those interested. =)

    • March 29 2010

      Hehe yeah, I’d imagine if I were actually on the road I’d have to lighten my load considerably. I suppose shopping is a cultural experience…right?

  • March 26 2010

    “travel is about knowledge and fun. I do the research beforehand, and have fun while I’m there. It’s about taking pleasure in the smallest of moments” Couldn’t say it any better …

  • March 26 2010

    I can’t say I’ve come across this attitude in particular when I meet people. Everyone who I speak to is just happy to talk and go for a drink or similar. Methods of travel never really come up, it just seems a thing to talk about on the internet. Destinations and things to see there seem the most common thing to talk about in my experience.

    • March 29 2010

      I’m not totally sure if I have either in “real life.” Besides that travel snob, but I wasn’t travelling at the time. Hmm.

  • March 26 2010

    Excellent post, Candice and I totally agree with all of it! Like Crystal, the only type of traveler I take issue with are those who are just plain boorish jerks.

    And, DAMN, I was planning on wearing a Statue of Liberty foam hat at TBEX too. I’ll have to come up with Plan B now.

    • March 29 2010

      No no, let’s wear them together! JoAnna’s in! We’ll start a flash mob.

  • March 26 2010

    Fantastic post Candice. I agree, travel the way you want to travel. If we had the money, we would be staying in the Marriott every night. We would still go out and eat at local resteraunts etc. but man, I would love more luxury in my travels. Everyone can explore the way the want and who cares how they do it. It is about the personal experience. We love hanging out with other travelers as much as having dinner at a local persons house. You are so right when you say everyone is worth talking to! We love chatting with everyone. Sometimes a little too much, we are always striking up a conversation with anyone that will listen:-)
    Sometimes when we are traveling, I am a little jealous of the tours that are going around, (especially the GAP and Intrepid tours that were climbing to Everest Base Camp when we were there, they looked like they were having a blast!) they seem to be having such a great time together. Other times, I love having our alone time. We like to mix it up.
    We are going to be at the TBEX too! So excited to see everyone. Great idea on the Statue of Liberty hat, you have made my wheels start turning on what Dave and I can wear.

    • March 29 2010

      Deb, you’re totally one of those travellers I look up to because you get to know EVERYONE…it’s fairly evident in all your blog posts. Exactly the kind of traveller I strive to be, but maybe not as ballsy as you two are. :)

    • March 29 2010

      Also, REALLY looking forward to meeting you both!

  • March 27 2010

    Hear hear, you nailed it!

  • March 27 2010

    Amen sister… oh wait that’s not right, umm oh you get what I’m trying to say :)

  • March 27 2010

    I have one of those Statue of Liberty Foam hats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
    The first time I was in New York 2 years ago with my family I forced my parents and older sister to wear them and made another tourist take our photo in front of the statue!
    I love this post and I love Steph’s post, you guys both rock!
    I will also say that I love Contiki Tours and have done 3 of them and they were some of the best trips I’ve ever been on and some of the best times I’ve ever had traveling.

    • March 29 2010

      Contiki was the first tour I ever wanted to take! Hahaha. I’d still like to do one at some point, I’d imagine it’s great fun although rushed. Woohoo Canadian chicks take over TBEX!

  • March 27 2010

    Hah! I’m all for meeting other travellers when I’m abroad! I don’t get the people who get all snobby about this.

    • March 29 2010

      Me neither, but hey, they totally don’t have as much fun as we do. ;)

  • March 27 2010

    Nice post. There’s pros and cons to every way of travel, whether you’re in a hostel or a five star hotel. But as long as you’re doing what inspires you, and being respectful of other people’s choices – I say it’s all good. A major ego and holier than thou complex won’t get you very far. Different strokes for different folks, right?

    • March 29 2010

      Totally! It’s good to mix things up every now and then too. I certainly don’t mind a luxury hotel. :)

  • March 27 2010

    I’d just like to travel enough to be judged but I agree wit you, just go and have fun whatever that fun is.

    • March 29 2010

      Hehehe, good way of putting it..I don’t travel enough to be judged either.

  • March 27 2010

    Oh, man, take me with you when you visit the Statue of Liberty and I’ll get a foam hat too! ;-) Great post and so true, as long as you’re traveling, who gives a crap how you do it or what you call yourself?!

    • March 29 2010

      For reals! We are so flaunting our touristy attitudes at TBEX!

  • March 27 2010

    I can’t get behind the fanny pack sentiment. :)

    • March 29 2010

      Awww come on, I have a blue one that would look just great on you.

  • March 27 2010

    I’m sitting in a tiny tent in a campground in Oaxaca with exactly two other travelers…an older couple from Quebec, living in a casita for 3 months, and a retired dude from Texas in a campervan with his dog who, by the way, is bandaged up and on sedatives after being mauled by the resident pitbull.

    C’mon. I’m way cooler than you are. Admit it.

    • March 29 2010

      (refer to comment left on your last blog entry)

  • March 28 2010

    RAWR! Love the sentiment of this post; if I were going to TBEX, I’d wear one with you.

  • March 29 2010

    Amen, sister. I loved seeing the statue of liberty, eiffel tower, and big ben. I’m totally cool with my uncoolness.

    • March 29 2010

      I am PUMPED to see the Statue of Liberty. And everything else in NYC. Ahh!!

  • March 29 2010

    Bang-on!! Great article candice!

  • March 29 2010

    I couldn’t agree more. There is no word I loathe more in travel writing than “authentic.” …What part of my fanny-pack carrying, camera toting, Disneyland visiting experience wasn’t as real as somebody else’s living out of a backpack, journal scribbling, no-shoes wearing trip to Southeast Asia? I mean, I dig that whole minimalist, live free, eyes wide open thing, too… but, dude, the Eiffel Tower is fucking rad.

    • April 06 2010

      Hahahaha Sarah, the Eiffel Tower IS fucking rad! I feel like deleting my entire post and just re-posting your comment. Gold.

  • March 30 2010

    just travel, whatever way makes you happy, as long as you learn something!
    great post!

  • March 30 2010

    Hear hear, Candice! I don’t care either. I’ve never been backpacking in my life, can’t imagine that I ever will, and I loved the one cruise I’ve been on. I would like to go on more. This attitude flies in the face of a lot of people. I’m sometimes called a tourist when I travel, and I don’t mind. Whatever.

    • April 06 2010

      Funny, I imagined you to be all about the backpacking at some point in your life! Tourists rock.

  • March 30 2010

    After almost 40 years of travel the only thing I care about is … travel in whatever form it takes. No star to 5 star – it’s all good. And meeting people from all over the planet is what makes is memorable and worthwhile. Does it really make one iota of difference what anyone else thinks or how they perceive you? As long as you’re respectful of cultural customs then I think anything goes.

    Looks like I’ll be able to pick you out a mile away in NYC – if I get off the wait list.
    Great post as always.

    • April 06 2010

      Exactly, I really feel it’s about the people as much as the place. And respect is definitely key.

      It will be SO sweet if we can meet up at TBEX! Yes! Need more fellow Canucks around.

  • March 31 2010

    Hmm I feel like my comments on this one would be way to too long. Might have to do a response to your response…

  • March 31 2010

    Amen, sister! I couldn’t agree more. After reading certain blogs, I start to feel guilty for using a carry-on suitcase rather than a backpack, which is silly. I feel like some folks in the vagabond movement think they’re too cool for school and make those of us who travel more like “tourists” feel like we aren’t doing it right. That’s definitely BS. I love shopping, and I love traveling, and those are not mutually exclusive. So thank you for this post — I think you are spot on.

    I’m planning to be at TBEX, too — I look forward to meeting you!

    • April 06 2010

      Hahahaha it’s funny, because I was thinking about earlier how I should pack for NYC…suitcase, or backpack? Ridiculous. Awesome, looking forward to meet you too!

  • March 31 2010

    Everyone has their own travel styles and preferences, but they shouldn’t be shoving them down other peoples throats. What works for me, won’t necessarily work for others. I canceled my phone, internet and cable today, but that’s because I don’t really use them and I want to save more money. I don’t recommend everyone do that. Why torture yourself! haha. I could stay home and not spend money, but I like to go out sometimes for a pint and some fun and I’m still doing that.
    Meeting locals is fantastic, but interacting with other travelers can be outstanding. You can form some great relationships as well.
    Oh, and I’ll be sure to wear the same hat to TBEX ;)

    • April 06 2010

      *gasp* You cancelled your phone, cable & Internet?! I’m actually super impressed. Or does this mean you won’t be around so often now?

      Us Canucks are going to take over TBEX!

  • March 31 2010
    Harley

    Thank you! It’s about damn time. :-D

  • March 31 2010

    Couldn’t have said it better myself! Love this post, okay if I tweet it right? :-)

    • April 06 2010

      Hahahaha, Tweeting is more than appreciated. ;)

  • April 01 2010

    I think we may have read the same article recently :)

    I agree with every word you have written.

    The important thing is we are traveling or living in other cultures.

    • April 06 2010

      Most definitely! And learning all the while…

  • April 04 2010

    Good girl! I didn’t even know “tourist” was a bad word until I red that article. It’s all about having fun and learning new things, which go hand-in-hand anyway. I throw around the phrase “intrepid tourist” every time I leave my neighborhood… I’m so out of the loop!

    • April 06 2010

      Hahaha that’s the goal, make “tourist” a good word instead of bad! It’s a mission.

  • April 08 2010

    Agreed, Candice, backpackers—and I count myself among them—haven’t cornered the market on insight. And the transformative power of travel isn’t necessarily forged in the furnace of worry, hardship and minimalism. But there’s something to be said about the tourist/traveller dichotomy—and a lot of it has to do with the way one group views the other. Like anything — it’s all about balance. There’s room for taking travel seriously and having a good time. The world is legion!

    • April 11 2010

      Agreed, and I think a balance of both is the healthiest way to do it!

  • April 28 2010

    Great post! Got a chuckle from us — we vented on a very similar gripe regarding the traveler/tourist semiotics issue. I think it’s sometimes hard to want to be part of travel community while also wanting to fight against some of the boxes you’ll inevitably end up in it.

    • April 29 2010

      So true, I hate those pesky boxes! Glad you enjoyed!

  • November 23 2012
    La Viajera Morena

    Seeing this article a little late haha, but I really enjoyed it!

  • June 04 2013
    Brett A Horting

    sounds about right. it’s all travel, whether near or far, alone or in a organized tour group, ex-pat or lost in Vietiane. I try not to compare what, where and how I’ve traveled differently from you, or anyone. It’s a choice, and I am the one who gets to decide it. Namaste!

  • June 04 2013
    Brett A Horting

    sounds about right. it’s all travel, whether near or far, alone or in a organized tour group, ex-pat or lost in Vietiane. I try not to compare what, where and how I’ve traveled differently from you, or anyone. It’s a choice, and I am the one who gets to decide it. Namaste!

  • June 16 2014
    Sara

    This is my FAVOURITE post by you x

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