The Worst Kinds of Travelers — Are You One of Them?
Headphones on and reading material in hand, you brace yourself for a 12-hour transatlantic flight and slide into your cramped economy seat only to be met with a backseat kicker. And on the first day of exploring the bustling markets of Bangkok, you learn that your squeamish travel partner only dines at established venues. What you anticipated to be an adventurous getaway is made memorable by some of the worst travelers you encounter.
Travel etiquette may change across cultures and time zones, but there are some unspoken rules that should never be broken. We're looking at some of the worst kinds of travelers — Are you any of these?
With two minutes before we were due to leave our hostel for the local bus station, my travel partner casually walked down the steps of our riad in Marrakech after a long hot shower and a scavenger hunt in her backpack for the ideal outfit, asking about breakfast. I hurriedly tossed her pastries in paper napkins, demanding she eat on the road while hustling her out the door. Though we arrived at the bus station with four minutes to spare, the traveler in front of us in the queue snagged the last two seats to Essaouira. Out of options, we waited four hours for the next connection.
There's a time and place for relaxing on your vacation, and it is NOT right before any major travel. Whether you need a long shower in the morning, like to sit and eat your meal leisurely, or just have trouble walking quickly, build in plenty of time so you aren't holding anyone up.
When you’re traveling with a partner or group of friends, it’s not solely your time you have to be mindful of — it’s everybody’s. If you take a bit of extra time to get ready in the morning, make the conscious effort to wake earlier to accommodate your routine.
The Late Night Noisemaker
The sound of a roaring blow dryer filled my dorm room in Beijing at 1 a.m., waking myself and half my roommates. I laid in bed awake with irritation as three others simultaneously peeled back the curtains around their bunks, and in the dark across the room whispered aggressively at each other, “Who is that?” We tossed and turned for hours before eventually falling back asleep.
As posted in many hostels around the world, signs indicate that quiet hours are generally between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., allowing for a restful night’s sleep after an exhausting day of exploring. Be a respectful roommate by keeping it down during these hours, whether they're a posted rule or not. If you know you’re prone to heavy snoring or talking on your phone in the middle of the night and don’t want to wake to noise complaints, consider booking a private room.
The Hot Mess
Passing through security for a flight to Dublin, my friends and I retrieved our bags from the belt and proceeded to our gate until we realized our friend was flagged for extra screening. An officer signaled her over and asked to inspect her backpack as we all watched from a distance and wondered what the issue was. The officer fished out a bottle of Tide washing detergent which my friend had accidentally left in her backpack while hurrying out of our dorm to catch the bus to the airport.
Disorganization is a traveler's greatest enemy. We all have that friend who throws items into their suitcase without a plan, losing their ticket or socks or phone charger in the process.
Take an extra minute to double check your belongings for more seamless experiences and to ensure you don’t slow down your progression through the airport. Staying organized means you spend less time trying to locate lost items and more time enjoying your journey.
The Drill Sergeant
In the courtyard of my hostel in Antigua, I met a couple on their first backpacking journey. Three months in advance they had created a day-by-day itinerary for their month-long expedition to the Central American country, only to discover that the travel times they found on the internet between destinations were inaccurate when they consulted local operators, throwing off their schedule. The remainder of their morning was spent at the hostel reworking their schedule and altering their existing bookings.
Planning your trip ahead is encouraged, but don't be a slave to your itinerary. A vacation spent chasing a checklist and adhering to daily time restrictions can leave you feeling exhausted, when the very purpose of a vacation is to relax and re-energize. Easing up on the planning allows for spontaneity and easy management of your itinerary if changes arise.
The Eco Clueless
The Queen’s Garden Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park affords hikers up-close encounters with the curious crimson hoodoos and photographers will find stunning landscape shots at every bend. Every couple yards there are posted signs reminding hikers to remain on the marked trail to preserve natural vegetation. And yet, as I was hiking I witnessed a woman trespass anyway, crossing the signs to pose for a photo.
Even though posing for a photo may seem like a small act, it can leave a large impact on the natural ecosystem. When hikers damage roots and vegetation by trampling over unofficial paths, these areas can quickly become prone to erosion.
Beyond forging your own trails in nature, there are also those who aren't mindful of their carbon footprint when they travel. They buy plastic water bottles in bulk from airport terminals and souvenir shops, instead of packing their own travel bottle. They print ten copies of their itinerary, wasting paper instead of downloading it to their phone. They litter in the streets and use up a tremendous amount of hot water in a destination where such resources are scarce.
Be aware of your presence in the world and try to minimize your impact on the environments in which you are a visitor. Respect signage and local advice to do your part in preserving natural resources for everyone else.
The Suitcase Sitter
Leaving on a Eurail journey around Europe immediately after our last semester together in college, my friend threw all of his possessions in one giant suitcase. As we raced out of our Airbnb in Genoa one early morning to catch our train, he grew frustrated trying to navigate a set of steep spiral staircase while carting around the rulers, calculators and scribbled notebooks he had collected from three years worth of college classes. With a sigh of exasperation, he gave his heavy suitcase from the top of the stairs a hearty shove and sent it thudding to the bottom.
Here's a tip — if you have to sit on your suitcase to make it close, you've probably packed too much.
It doesn't matter if you're traveling for a weekend or a month, packing light makes for easy navigation when taking public transportation and traversing across cobblestone streets and narrow footpaths. Traveling only with necessities also means you can move about quicker without weighing yourself down, and it leaves room for bringing home souvenirs.
The Picky Eater
Standing in the middle of an outdoor market in Munich, my friends and I were thrilled by all the food options. One stand sold German pretzels and beer, another was displaying rows of colorful fresh fruit. There were sausages and french fries, schnitzel and freshly baked bread. The question wasn't what we were getting, but where to start. One of our friends, however, refused to join us and insisted on walking nearly five blocks to a nearby McDonald's to order chicken nuggets.
When you travel to new destinations, you're going to encounter foods and flavors outside of your normal food routine. Trying new dishes can be one of the most culturally-satisfying experiences you have in a new country. Whether you end up liking the dish or not, it's all about the experience. Travel is, after all, about getting outside of your comfort zone.
Unless you have strict dietary restrictions, don't let your misgivings about foreign foods prevent you from enjoying local restaurants. And definitely don't let your own food preferences prevent your travel companions from experimenting themselves. If you know you have diet restrictions or are particular about meals, prepare ahead. Research menus to figure out what you can order or pack travel snacks you know will satisfy you in case you're stuck without a familiar option nearby. Book a hotel with a continental breakfast full of items you know you like, and pack a few extra croissants for the road.
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