World Travelers: Stop Being Pretentious Arseholes


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.


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

2 thoughts on “World Travelers: Stop Being Pretentious Arseholes”

  1. “By the numbers” is no more a meaningful way to travel than it is to paint. I see many people dash through breathtaking museums like the Louvre or past glorious examples of architecture spending as little time as possible. They have a box to be ticked, and snap a few photos as evidence of their feat. On the surface, the people you described might seem the exact opposite, but I think they travel more for the bragging rights than for the impact it has on their souls and their understanding of the world. Sitting ten hours on a train is their version of seeing every major museum in Paris – in an afternoon, no less. It’s a badge of honor rather than a source of personal fulfillment. Sad.

    • Wow Melissa, what a great read! I’ve suspected this travel attitude is around, but being a 60+ solo female traveller who takes her knitting around the world with her I’m pretty invisible anyway so don’t get into that ‘in crowd’ talk a lot (and I’m not complaining). But I’ve notice the tick-the-box’ style of travel, and the scruffy bohemian look worn like a badge. I’ve found it slightly amusing without trying to be too judgemental.
      I pride myself in not wearing the tourist uniform, having nice matching clothes, and always wearing red lipstick and some perfume. I know you get treated way better this way, and walzing into a 4 star hotel to use the toilet is a breeze!
      I have a sweet chuckle to myself because I achieve this carrying the minimum amount – 5.65kg including everything on a month’s tour of Brittany on public transport. About 4kg doing the Santiago de Compostella for two weeks from Bordeaux to Dax. I never buy into the label and ‘must have’ travellers’ things, except if I know for sure it’s good and I need it like some of the North Face stuff made for light travel. Most of my clothes are from charity shops so I know I can ditch if needs be.
      But the comments about looking good and not being taken seriously is a fact of life. My officer training platoon leaders would have a go because I was using a mirror to put on camouflage cream despite all the guys using the same standard issue mirror. I would always get extra help on the firing range despite being confident with the weapons I was firing. I always managed to look clean and tidy after a couple of weeks on exercise sans any showers and rolling around in the dirt doing section, platoon and company tactical excercises. It was assumed by the staff I’d been bludging. A couple of years later I was the first woman to cross the line in a 15km forced route march with pack, webbing and SLR weapon. In the Blackhawk helicopters fights I took the loadmaster saw the need to give me extra care to get in, AND would do up my seatbelt. When I tell people I spent 27 years in the military, 20 years in the regular army I’m not believed, so I now gloss over my career, using appropriate euphemisms.
      Our gene pool has given us looks, gestures, and movements that just do not accord with other’s expectations. We are put in a box because we can add a lip gloss and comb our hair and look respectable if notgood. For me, after getting angry for years and going out of my way to prove myself, I now take a sneaky joy when I’m next a traveller who looks like a scruff because I know how unnecessary it is; when I watch others being defeated by the weight of their luggage;or I get served first and fawned over by the waitstaff despite sitting down after all the other tables 😉
      Cheers, Lesley


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