After six years of pretty consistent travel around the world, I have begun to notice some alarming trends among my fellow travel comrades, trends that annoy the crap out of me. Some of them are fairly obvious while others are probably my own little quirks that bother me when I’m traveling.
Presenting, my five biggest travel pet peeves:
1. People who take photos with an iPad
There are only two occasions when it is socially acceptable to take a photo of anything with an iPad: someone has robbed all your alternative photograph-enabled electronics but someone how missed your iPad because it was in a case cleverly disguised as a book OR your iphone, ipod and camera batteries have all died and you do not have a second battery or charger about your person and you are at a place that must, must MUST be photographed.
Every time I see someone take a photo with an iPad, I want to go up to them and say, “excuse me, sir (madame), you do realize you look absolutely ridiculous, right?” Really, I am doing you a favor here, you should be thanking me because you probably didn’t realize how silly you looked before. In my eyes, it’s like you are holding up your laptop to take a picture of the monument with the camera. Honestly, it’s distracting to the average tourist (me) and it detracts from the value and beauty of wherever I’m visiting because I’m so busing staring at you in awe. Besides, the quality is crap and you probably can’t see the screen very well outside anyways, what’s the point?
In fact, Apple should probably just remove cameras from iPads, but that’s just my two cents.
2. Bucket lists
Bucket lists really piss me off, but probably not for the reason you’re thinking. Though honestly, I’m a bit of a hypocrite here, because I’m sure I say “bucket list” all the time, but I don’t really mean it. I try to think of travel in terms of goals with a higher purpose. But when I see massive lists of “do this here” and “do that there” I always think to myself, why? Why do you want to do that? What makes you want to do that? There must be some reason, and I’m curious! Tell me! But if that reason is, I just want to go there to say I’ve been there or to knock it off my bucket list, then I’m really not interested in hearing about it.
I used to do this. On my very first long-term train trip through Europe, I went to a couple of places that I had absolutely zero interest in just to add another country to my list, and I’m mad at myself that I didn’t use those days to see something I really wanted to visit somewhere else.
Hordes of tourists lined up at the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. How many are actually looking at the painting?
When you travel this way, micro-planning every detail of your trip, you miss out on beautiful, unique and spontaneous opportunities to do something different. Or maybe even if you add it to a huge list of things to do, you might never do any of them because it seems so impossible.
And then what happens if you never get to that place that was on your list? You probably feel unsatisfied or unhappy with yourself, at least that’s what happened to me. So I decided to take a different approach and give myself long-term goals or even lifelong goals of things I hope to accomplish, things that all (hopefully) lead me to becoming a better person overall. And I’ve become a much happier traveler since.
I guess my pet peeve is more about people who get so caught up in ticking things off a list, they lose sight of what travel is all about. Experiences, memories and self-growth, at least that’s what travel means to me.
The point of this was not just to ramble on, but to say that lists are good and can be very helpful, but at the end of the day, they should be more like guidelines. It’s really important while traveling to let yourself go and be spontaneous, and try random things. Otherwise, who knows what you might be missing out on when you barrel on from point A to point B.
3. People who make zero effort to speak another language in a foreign country
I hate this so much, words cannot even begin to express how much it annoys me when people start a conversation in a foreign country in English (I find this happens mostly in English). Hello, you are not home! People aren’t required to speak English around the rest of the world, try not to be a complete d-bag!
I have a rule I always follow when I’m traveling. I learn 5 words of the native language of the country I am visiting in advance.
- Thank you
- Do you speak English?
- Wine, though occasionally I substitute it for other words like beer, water and coffee
5 little words are not that hard and they go a very long way. But you would be amazed at how few people actually make that effort and just rely on someone knowing English to be around. I’m not saying you have to learn the language of wherever you are traveling, that fact alone would keep many people from traveling at all.
But just make a tiny, little effort to show that you do in fact respect the country you are in, 9 times out of 10, people will be automatically nicer, more open and friendlier to you because of it. You don’t have to know another language to travel, but putting forth some effort makes a huge difference, even if the person laughs and replies to you in English. It all boils down to respect.
I have really strong opinions about this. In fact, few things piss me off more than this when I’m traveling. And heaven forbid, if I ever hear anyone say, “why don’t they speak English here?” you can bet I will turn around and say something to you. And it won’t be nice.
The only time this has backfired was when I was in Egypt, and if I tried to say something in Arabic to a man, they would get so excited that a little blonde western girl knew some Arabic, they wouldn’t leave me alone and follow me around; it was like I was their dream woman come to life. Luckily, 10 year old Ali in Luxor taught me to say “f*** off, I’m married.” Worked like a charm.
4. Disrespectful flight behavior
I spend way too much time on planes and I really don’t enjoy it. If I could trains everywhere, I would. It really doesn’t help that I have anxiety issues and I’m borderline OCD. The Oatmeal has a fantastic comic about how airplanes should be laid out. Here are my 10 biggest travel pet peeves on planes:
Source, The Oatmeal
- Parents, control your offspring. Babies cry, kids are kids, I get that. But when I am on a 10 hour international flight, I don’t need your kids crawling all over my seat, screaming, playing around the aisles or kicking my seat while you have your noise canceling headphones on or are snoring away after taking too much Xanax and wine coolers
- Never kick my seat. Under any circumstance
- Shoes on at all times or at least heavy woolen socks. I can live without seeing or smelling your bare feet
- No snoring
- Keep your voice down (one time I sat on a connector flight from DC and I listened to the guys in front of me ramble loudly about golf for over an hour. Eventually I chimed in, I assumed they were talking so loudly to encourage passenger interaction. I hate golf btw
- On budget airlines that don’t have assigned seating, please don’t sit right next to me when there are tons of empty rows open behind me. I like my personal space
- Don’t bring peanuts on a plane please. In this day and age, enough people have peanut allergies that most airlines don’t serve them anymore WITH GOOD REASON. Because people like me are deathly allergic to them. And no, I’m not going to steal your peanuts and eat them, but the smell of them makes me pretty ill nonetheless. And I can smell them a good 10 rows away
- Putting your coat or handbag in the overhead bin while the flight is still boarding. Nowadays, most flights are full and people need that space for bigger carry-ons, just wait til everyone is boarded and then try to put it away
- Share the armrest
- Showers and deodorant are required at least 12 hours before boarding for obvious reasons
Totally unacceptable in flight behavior! Source
5. Anti-American attitude
Really? Really? In this day and age, can’t we just move past this? I get it, Americans can be awful travelers. Sometimes I hear things my fellow countrymen say that make me cock my head to the side and go, “WTF?!”
But really, that is a sweeping generalization about a huge group of people, and I don’t like huge sweeping generalizations. Bad travelers are everywhere. It’s not country specific. There are 6 million Americans living abroad, we can’t all be that bad.
And you know what is really surprising? For me, I think there is an attitude within the US that countries around the world hate us, like France or Arab countries, which I have found NOT to be the case at all. When I was traveling in Egypt and Morocco, people were beyond welcoming and friendly; I had heaps of great conversations with locals about this very hot topic, and not once did I get any negative reaction to it. I have a feeling I will hear the same thing when I am in Turkey next week. And I’ve had great experiences with locals in France and Paris, which in general has a very negative stereotype in the US.
But do you know where I consistently get criticized over and over and over again for being American? In the UK. It is literally the only country I felt legitimately HATED for my nationality.
As of this year, I have traveled to the UK 11 different times. Why? Because I love it, and I have lots of friends there. Downside: I get sly, backhanded passive-aggressive remarks and comments for being a yank all the damn time! In fact, some of my best hate comments on my blog were directed at me being American.
And if it stems from #1, Americans being known bad tourists, that’s the pot calling the kettle black. After living in Spain for years, I’ve heard some appalling things come out of the mouths of British tourists.
Whether it’s a subtle “you Americans” or stronger anti-American sentiment, it happens over and over again when I’m in England. A memorable example: I was taking the bus to Bath from London and had a lovely conversation with the guy next to me. As we said goodbye, he told me, and I quote, “You know what? You’re pretty intelligent for an American.” Go on, guess how I replied.
I just don’t get it! Can someone please explain this phenomenon to me? British readers, poll in. What’s the deal with Americans? Do we just bug you guys? Is it our awful accents? Our workaholic natures and our tendencies to talk too much about money? Or does it go farther back to our itsy bitsy revolution? Because that’s water under the bridge.
We won the war, move on. You’ve still got Harry Potter and the Queen. And honest to god, what would I give for a UK passport?! Anything! I don’t begrudge merry old England for trying to levy taxes on my ancestors’ tea and keeping them from declaring independence, just like I don’t begrudge Germany for pretty much wiping out my entire family in Poland. That would be petty.
I just think any anti-American sentiment nowadays is just nonsense and it drives me bonkers when I hear it. It’s haughty, obnoxious, borderline racist and completely unnecessary in civilized conversation. End of story.
What are your travel pet peeves? Chime in!