Am I a Lame Traveler? (Or Why You Should Never Let Anyone Tell You Where You Should or Shouldn’t Travel)

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Travelers (and travel bloggers), I've learned, can be a pretty judge-y bunch sometimes.

Think about it.

When you meet a new traveler on the road, what are some of the first things you talk about? Where you've been. Where you're going. Maybe how many countries you've visited.

And sometimes these conversations can turn into a pissing match. “Oh, you backpacked solo through Myanmar? Well I lived for a month in a ger with the locals in Mongolia.”

This impulse to one-up fellow travelers is just natural for some of us. Of course we want to talk about our own adventures — especially if they were really epic. And especially since friends and family back home often just don't get it.

But sometimes travelers take this one-upmanship too far.

Traveler questions

Not long ago, I had someone tell me that I travel too “safe.” In fact, I've heard this more than once. People ask why I haven't been to Africa yet; why South America isn't filled in on my Destinations map. I even had a reader ask why I've used partnerships with travel companies like Intrepid Travel to go to “easy” places like Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Why wasn't I going to more adventurous destinations?

On the one hand, I get this mentality. Yes, there are certain parts of the world that are “easier” to travel to than others, and it probably would make sense for me to use partnerships to get to some of those off-the-beaten-path destinations.

But you know what? Maybe I don't WANT to go to those places.

Me in Scotland – are you judging me?

I've only been traveling seriously for a few years. And, instead of planning my travels around the craziest destinations I can get to, my travel decisions are made simply based on where I really want to go the most.

I went to Eastern Europe because it was the number one region of the world I wanted to visit. I went to the Greek Islands on a tour because the opportunity arose and I really wanted to spend some time there. Could I have traveled around the Greek Islands on my own, or tackled Hungary solo? Sure. Absolutely. But if I want to travel with a group and have a good guide, why should I be judged for that?

I look at other bloggers sometimes and know I could never undertake the adventures that they have. I could never travel solo across Russia. I could never live in India. I could never teach English in China.

Actually, the “I could never” isn't entirely true. Sure, I *could* do those things. But I know, after learning about my travel style over the past couple of years, that I wouldn't *enjoy* those types of travel experiences.

Alaskan cruise
I CAN, however, happily lounge here for a while.

And here's the thing; here's the main message of this post: you shouldn't let ANYbody tell you where you should be traveling.

If you're like most Americans, you probably have 2-3 weeks of paid vacation time a year. If you want to go on a cruise or spend a week in Paris or go visit the Grand Canyon, then you should do it. It doesn't matter how “mainstream” or “touristy” a destination or experience is — if it's what YOU want to do, then you should do it.

Don't let anybody tell you where you should or shouldn't travel.

Does the fact that I've never driven a scooter the length of Africa or hitchhiked across America make me a lame traveler? Am I LESS of a traveler because I go on guided tours or enjoy returning to destinations that others consider “easy”?

I definitely don't think so. I'm true to myself in my travels. I go where I want, when I want, how I want.

And I think, in many cases, my travel style mirrors the styles that a lot of YOU, my readers, have.

Do I WANT to go on a safari in Africa, enter the Mongol Rally, or travel overland through Central America? YES, I would love to do those things. Someday. It's just that there are so many other destinations and experiences on my to-do list that I want to do just a little bit more.

I want to see the fjords in Norway, pretend I'm a hobbit again in New Zealand, road trip down the West Coast of the US, and introduce my mom to the UK.

And, as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with that.


What do you think? Do you let others influence your travels?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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139 Comments on “Am I a Lame Traveler? (Or Why You Should Never Let Anyone Tell You Where You Should or Shouldn’t Travel)

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  1. I love your honesty Amanda. Thank you for writing this! As very new bloggers, my husband and I found this extremely refreshing. I read parts of this aloud to him and he was cheering! As fifty-somethings with some more-than-minor health issues (me), you won’t find us bungee jumping off a Machu Picchu cliff or backpacking across outer Mongolia – our adventures will be “gentler” than those! We could really relate to this post and found encouragement in what you wrote.

    Hey! Just got back from Moscow and St. Petersburg. Absolutely incredible trip! So many people thought we were crazy when we said we were going but they were amazed at our pics when we got back! So glad we didn’t listen to them when they told us not to go. Went to Portugal and Prague earlier this year too. Great places! Hope all is well with you!

    Yes… me too! New Zealand sounds amazing… I keep looking for cheap flights…hahaha. Thanks for the ideas Amanda. ?

    Tell me one of your favorite destinations Amanda… I’m looking for ideas for 2017. ?

      New Zealand, Scotland, Spain, Slovenia, the American Southwest… I have so many places that I love!

    Love this article and these posts… I just love to travel sooo much. From Tanzania to Vegas…and Peru to British Columbia…. it’s all been great! I love the tourist stuff and the more remote places too! It has been beyond a dream for me to travel. I think everyone should see as much of the world as possible. 🙂

      I’m the same – I like a mixture of touristy places and places many people haven’t heard about. It keep travel more interesting that way. 🙂

    This article struck a chord with me. Is it anyone’s place to tell you where, when and how you should travel? Definitely not! Live and let live…and love your adventures, whatever form they take!

    I totally agree with you! I like to get inspired by other travellers, but reading some posts I sometimes get a feeling that giving up your whole previous life and backpacking SE Asia for a year on a shoestring budget is the only acceptable and true way to travel (according to those bloggers). Do not even dare to think of sleeping in a hotel room with a shower or taking a guided tour! I mean, there isn´t only one way of travelling and all of them are right if it´s how you feel it.

      I totally agree! You should travel the way you want to travel, and that’s that!

    It’s encouraging to read stuff like this. I got into traveling within the last few years as well (in my mid-20s) and to my dismay, so has everyone else in my generation! I have a few former coworkers who’ve moved from familiarity of Canada to New Zealand, South Korea, England (yeah yeah, the safe countries), and Iraq. I’m definitely guilty of comparing my own travel experiences to those of my friends, and envying those who’ve been to more places than I have. One of my ‘themes’ is trying to get to a country that no one I know has been to before…my dad’s been to dozens of countries, so that’s a bit of a challenge. But, as I also gather from your article, the main thing is to accept one’s own style of travel, and circumstances, and travel the way you want to. I’ve always been a cautious, risk-averse guy, and that’s why I haven’t done a lot of travelling, and why I’ve never been to a third-world country. I also don’t think I’d really have the energy to go backpacking through a tropical mountain range, even if I’m jealous of my extroverted friends who’ve done that sort of thing. But, everyone’s eyes open at the time that makes the most sense to them, and once I/people accept that, then it’s adventure time on our own terms!

      Adventure on your on terms is really the only way to adventure! Don’t push yourself to try something/go somewhere you know you wouldn’t enjoy – that’s just silly! Travel how you want, and accept that different people have different travel styles! What’s that quote? “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t rob yourself of enjoying your travels just because you’re comparing where you’ve been with where others have been!

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