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. This is such a great post. I’ve found sometimes it’s hard not to judge others for having a different travel style than you, but it’s a horrible thing to do, and you should never make someone else feel bad for being less “adventurous” than you. In college I studied abroad in China, and I used to find myself judging people who studied abroad in England and spent the entire time getting drunk and hanging out with other foreigners. But you know what? It’s not my place to judge. At least they have a passport, which many Americans don’t even have. We should be promoting travel and cross-cultural experiences as a whole, rather than judging others and putting people down.

      I love this comment – I think I’m the same. I judge sometimes in my head (usually for things like you have said – spending your travelling time drinking, not even trying to see a place just spending the entire time in a resort, etc) but I am trying really, really hard not to.

      However, I am worried sometimes that genuinely supportive comments I make may seem judgemental. Like if someone is going to the Grand Canon, and I make a suggestion that they also try Bryce Canyon and Zion if they get a chance because I loved them. Or if you tell me you’ve been somewhere, and I say I’ve been there too – I’m not trying to one-up you, I’m just making conversation. I’m not sure, maybe I communicate well but reading posts like this I worry that maybe I come off a bit judgey sometimes, even when I don’t mean to.

        If you’re not meaning to, then chances are you aren’t coming off that way, Lucinda. 🙂

        I, too, sometimes have to remind myself not to judge too much – but when I see young travelers drinking their way through Europe, never actually SEEING any of it… well, it’s tough not to judge a tiny bit.

      Amen! I could not have said it better myself!

    You sound just like me and it is a good place to be. I think all things are relative. I get comments in the playground that we are so adventurous, but I then look at other blogs and feel very sedate and basic. I like organised group trips; as a single mum wanting to show my boys a bit of the world it is easier and safer to have the security of a pre-arranged guide and hotel. Even on a trip to Italy as a group, we had a totally different experience in the tourist trap of Amalfi to everyone else as I didn’t chose to sit in the coffee shop for the day, but explored the side streets and had an amazing day! Do what you want, it’s your life and adventure!

      I think a lot of travelers have a skewed view of group travel. The truth is, though (as it seems like you’ve discovered), even a trip with a group can be unique – it’s exactly what you make it.

    Great post! No, I never let anyone influence my travels. I do exactly what I want to do. I know there are people who have been to the highest mountains or to a remote desert, they want you to do the same. But I guess, I travel as much as possible for me financially and physically. I travel to places that intrigue me personally.

      That’s great, Renuka! As long as you are intrigued by your own travels, that’s all that matters!

    Well said! I’ve actually started writing a very similar post so you’ve taken the words out of my mouth. I’m particularly amused by travellers who seem to think they have a one-up on you if they’ve stayed in the cheapest possible places they can find. While I obviously like to seek out well-priced accommodation, I refuse to compromise on certain things (such as cleanliness!) for the sake of a cheap hostel room. Does that make me less of a backpacker? Maybe, but I don’t really care 🙂

      I’m totally with you on that – when I was in Thailand, I found myself booking mid-range hotels instead of cheap hostels. People told me I was crazy for spending $60 a night on a nice hotel room, or $130 a night at a beach hotel. But you know what? As far as I was concerned, those were great value-for-money prices – and I could afford it.

      I have no desire to sleep on a mat on a floor in a hostel dorm room just so I can say I paid as little money as possible. That’s not my style!

        I am SO with you, there, Amanda. Those days are loooooong gone. Give me a comfortable, clean room and I am happy to pay a fair price for it. My “hostel” days are over.

        Having said that, I loved the time I spent doing the “hostel” thing. But, I was significantly younger than I am now, and at a different phase in my life, so it was the right thing for me to do at that time. Now, I am in a different space, and want to have more comfort and safety when I travel. There is nothing wrong with that at all!

        I applaud those who are doing the “off the beaten track stuff” (and sometimes giggle a bit inside thinking, “geez, I did that stuff 30 years ago before you were even born …” when they are bragging about the things they are doing as though they are the first ones to have discovered a particular place, or done something spectacular) and am happy that it is now more “mainstream” to do the “hippy trail”. When I did it, everyone thought I was completely bonkers going off to a “strange country” on my own. They thought I’d completely lost my marbles! It wasn’t such the “done thing” back then. So, I’m happy for those who are doing the backpacking thing. Travel is wonderful. But, traveling your OWN way is the most wonderful!

          Agree 100 percent, Julie! Traveling in whatever way is best for YOU is really the only way to go.

    Totally agree! Even though I like to travel to “weird” places I still get a hard time from people about the places I haven’t been. When I was struggling on my tour around the former USSR, SO many people told me I should ditch it and head to lie on the beach in SE Asia. Never mind that I am not a beach person at all and have very little interest in SE Asia.

    And really, not to date myself, but when I was your age I did mostly group tours and only traveled solo to “safe” places where a lot of English was spoken like Norway and Australia. It wasn’t until my 30s that I got more adventurous.

      I love reading your stories of going to those “weird” places, Katie. I don’t necessarily always have dreams of following in your footsteps, but I can appreciate that those are the places that call to you the most and I respect that.

      Who knows, maybe 10 years from now I’ll be jetting off to somewhere exotic. But if not, I’ll be fine with that too. 🙂

    Well said! So many times I read – don’t go there, it’s so touristy. Well, guess what? I am a tourist. The way I look at it if I’m anywhere other than home, I’m a tourist. Of course if I’m in a foreign country I stand out more because I don’t speak the language or I look lost (I try hard not to). If I’m in the U.S. I’m on my home turf and can move much more freely. But if you think I’m going to miss out on seeing Mt. Rushmore or the Eiffel Tower because those places are seen (by some) as touristy, well too bad, I’m going and I’m going to have a great time. And maybe my readers are going to enjoy reading about those places that they’ve never been to.

      Hahaha awesome Patti. You go girl! Sometimes the touristy places are popular for a reason.

      Great attitude! And I completely agree – I never skip any of the sites, “touristy” as they may be. To be honest, the average person reading my blog would probably think I was crazy if I went to Paris and didn’t take photos of the Eiffel Tower or went to Rome without seeing the Colosseum.

      Ooops. It looks like my post above went into the wrong thread. Never mind!

      Patti – well said. Who cares if somewhere is “touristy”. What that says to me is that there is something to see!! If lots of people are going there, well then , it must be somewhere good!!!

      I have a group of friends who think Waikiki is the worst place to go because it is so “touristy”. But, guess what? I love that place! I love the buzz of the people who are so excited to be there because it is Hawaii/ Waikiki. I love sitting on the beach just looking at that gorgeous ocean. (I’m not really a beach person, but I do LOVE being near the ocean). I love sitting on the terrace of the Moana Surfrider hotel (can’t afford to stay there, though!) having a delicious cocktail watching the sun go down over the sea. Who cares if it is “touristy”! It’s heaven!

      Go wherever it is that makes your heart sing! And if that happens to be “touristy”, then fantastic!

        I’ll throw in my 2 cents and agree that the “touristy” spots are usually popular for good reason. I agree on Waikiki – I LOVE watching the sun set there!

    Damn right sista! What should it matter what other people think is “real travel” or whatever else. Do what makes your heart sing I say – leave the others be with their d*ck measuring contests.

      Haha, yup! What’s the point in traveling if you don’t enjoy it to the fullest?

    Love Love Love this post! It is so heartening to see a traveler and a travel blogger strongly support travelling the way YOU want to instead of what “they” say it should be. SO IMPORTANT to remember. Again, love it!

    Also, I want to live as a hobbit in New Zealand…as well as an elf, dwarf, ent…;P On the bucket list! Can’t wait to read about your adventure this time around there.

      I love telling my travel stories, but I would never try to tell someone how they should travel. I’ve traveled in many ways – some very traditional and some a little less – and I know there are merits to all of them!

    So very true. It should be as simple as going to the places that you want to go to. My favourite corners of the world are New Zealand, Europe and North America and too bad if people think it’s ‘easy’ – those are the regions that I love the most.

      That’s exactly how I feel, Katie!

    I don’t think anyone should tell you where to go and how to travel! I would love to see some of the places you have been to, particularly some places in Eastern Europe! Who cares how you chose to see them. Sure, challenging yourself to do the things you may think you couldn’t do is a part of the experience, but being true to yourself in your travels is what matters the most! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! I agree, if you know you are not going to enjoy going somewhere, then there is no point in doing it just to tick the box of an “adventurous traveler”.

      Yup. I mean, there are plenty of places that are on my “someday” list, and some of those are slightly more adventurous. But I’m in no rush! And I’ll never sacrifice my travel style for a passport stamp.

    I love this, Amanda! I want to go everywhere in the world, but for now I just keep finding myself around North America and Western Europe. I spent last weekend in Toronto and people cried, “but it’s just like the U.S.!” But it’s not! It’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit and it lived up to my high expectations. And I got to spend the trip catching up with friends, which was what mattered most to me this time. Don’t let people make you feel bad about your choices – I personally love reading about your adventures!

      And there’s nothing wrong with sticking around North America and Western Europe! There are so many amazing things to see in both regions. And, let’s be honest – different people can have completely different experiences!

    I’ve met some amazing people while traveling; I’ve also met people I wouldn’t cross the road to spit on if they were on fire. The latter are the people who say something like “oh you haven’t been to X…you HAVE to go there.’ even if I have no interest in it. They are the people who I try at all costs to avoid. I go to places that interest me– so what if other travelers don’t find it ‘cool enough’. Do what you want and to hell with everyone else.

      I could not have said it better, Michelle! I feel the same way. If I want to keep going back to New Zealand and London, that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

    Yesssss! I couldn’t have said it better myself, Amanda! Travel shouldn’t be a competition between other travelers to see who has the most passport stamps. So silly. Who cares where you travel or how you travel.. just travel! It’s life changing 🙂

      Agreed! I mean, I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep track of how many countries you’ve been to, and would never look down at people who have “30 before 30” goals or anything like that – that’s completely natural for frequent travelers, I think. But just because you keep track for yourself doesn’t mean it should be a competition! And I would NEVER judge someone in regards to where they have or haven’t traveled!

    I hope to meet you one day, we have the same traveling style! As a newer blogger, sometimes I feel that I’m not doing things right because some bloggers are very vocal on what they consider a “traveler” vs a “tourist”. I’m glad you’re being true to you, and I love reading about your travels 🙂

      Don’t listen to any of those people, Amber! There’s only as much difference as you let there be, and you can’t really do travel “wrong”!

    I think people are just assholes sometimes. I hear a lot about how all travellers are the most laid-back non-judgemental unprejudiced people going, and it’s just so not true! Some travellers are judgemental snobs, just like some people in every walk of life are.

    I also find a lot of people get carried away when travelling, and get more ‘confident’ (cocky?) about visiting so-called dangerous places once they’ve had a taste of somewhere outside Europe/the US/Australia. So if they were already an asshole anyway, I can see how that developing confidence could make them look down on people who ‘play it safe’.

    If you’re seeing what you want to see and you’re having fun doing it, you’re ahead of most people. Especially those who are travelling solely for a passport stamp from a ‘shocking’ destination rather than from any personal interest in a place. You do you.

      I could not agree more, Jo! And don’t worry – I shall continue to do me. 🙂

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