Athens, Greece – It’s Christmas day and I sit among a group of expats, international world travelers, and a general motley crew of individuals like myself that were unable to make it home to enjoy the festive period with their families.
In an arguably less than traditional manner, we sit down to a Christmas dinner of a mixed grill platter, piles of halloumi cheese and oodles of feta drizzled in olive oil.
Removing my coat to reveal a somewhat smart black dress, stockings and heels, I glance around the room to see everyone else unzip, un-toggle and un-clasp to reveal a display of cargo pants, “I went tubing in Vang Vieng” t-shirts and other casual attire.
“Oops!” I exclaim to the girl beside me, smiling. “I’m a bit overdressed. I wasn’t sure what to wear for dinner”. She scoffs, and her friend stifles a smirk as they tell me that the rest of the people at the table are “proper” travelers, and don’t really have any clothes like mine. She’d been living out of a bag you see, this dinner associate, and had learned to give up material things so that she could travel… That old chestnut.
The comment irked me because this girl, who frankly doesn’t know me from Adam (whoever Adam may be) was making presumptions about me based on next to nothing, awarding herself some apparent superiority over… nothing.
The comment was up there with other obnoxious ludicrousies I’ve heard over the past few years such as:
“Wait you FLEW there? I chose to get the ten hour cross country train… But then I’m a proper traveler”
Since when did taking the longest, most uncomfortable mode of transportation become the parameter by which being a “real” traveler was measured? Imagine if we did the same as part of our regular schedules…
“Oh you DROVE to work? How predictable and easy. I personally slid down the hill adjacent to my house on a one man toboggan, then weaved in and out of country lanes on my unicycle, before hitchhiking with a passing trucker to our industrial estate… & that’s why I’m 25 minutes late for work this morning… “
“Oh my GOD! Why are you putting lipstick on? Does it matter what you look like when you’re traveling? When you’ve traveled as much as I have, you learn not to care”
Can we all say this together one time? Taking care of your appearance doesn’t make you any less of a traveler, just like being attractive doesn’t automatically make you stupid. If you want to refuse to shave your body parts to feel more at one with the earth, or to braid your pubes and armpit hair making you resemble a member of the local indigenous tribes then so be it, but beauty is a universal language so don’t smite us for wanting to speak it.
“I wouldn’t do that, I’m a traveler not a tourist!”
You got it guys. Never see anything of archaeological importance or fame when you travel or you’ll be slapped with that dirty stinking “tourist” label. That means no Eiffel tower, no Louvre, no Mona Lisa. You can’t sit with us. *eye roll*
“Wait you’re going to the same place again? A real traveler would never go to the same place twice!’
“Oh you’ve only been to 35 countries? I’ve been to 40!”
Yada, yada, yada.
Some people would have you believe that to be considered a “traveler” these days is to enter into a secret league. The rules are unspoken, unwritten but apparently very much there to be adhered to.
What dumbfounds me is these people, who are apparently so open minded about the world and the cultures that co-exist within it, are altogether completely ignorant to the diversity within the community of people who enjoy travelling. They claim their minds and horizons have been broadened by travel… Clearly not broadened very significantly if you have to get on your judgemental high horse.
These travelers will assert to you that they’re free from conformity, from the shackles of the 9 to 5, living young wild and free and opposing any idea of following the crowd… Yet ironically they are sheep following the herd of a new international crowd – cursing those who don’t conform to a particular travel style or dress sense.
Thing is, if you have an interest in travel then that’s all you need. There’s no secret password necessary to join our community. Travel is a personal thing and everyone has different preferences. If your preference is to couchsurf and hitchhike across the globe – more power to you. If on the other hand that preference is to take the occasional luxury weekend break away – good for you.
Neither one style has superiority over the other. The important thing is that people are actually putting themselves out there – to step outside of their comfort zones and to try new things, regardless of the duration, style or activities of the trip. Instead of berating and dismissing those that are different, they should be acknowledged as inspiring peers who want to make the most out of life while they are here – much like the pretentious travelers apparently purport to inspire in others.