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 don’t get that mentality at all! Like you said, we should all just do what makes US happy when traveling. I’m with you – there are plenty of places I’d like to visit in a perfect world, but there are definitely some at the top of the list that I’d rather see just a little bit more than others. Keep being you and don’t worry about the judgment! You’re awesome!

      Aww thanks, Emily! I will definitely keep being me. 🙂

    Great post Amanda, I love that you are true to yourself and travel where and when you want. Travel is such a personal thing and what floats your boat doesn’t necessarily make the list of the next person’s wishlist. Keep going to the places you want to see and experience the things that mean the most to you and keep enjoying travel.

    I LOVE THIS!! I usually find a lot of the people who are judgmental are actually either 1. really insecure or 2. really unhappy. Either way, I don’t need their negativity in my life 🙂

      Agreed! That kind of negativity is not what I travel the world to seek!

    This is an awesome post, Amanda. There’s often way too much pressure put on how ‘out there’ a trip can be, when in actual fact we travel simply because we love it – for whatever particular reasons we each have. And I hate the competitiveness in hostel discussions!! Total respect to you for travelling the way you want to 🙂

      I think one of the main reasons I dislike hostels (well, along with the whole sharing my space with strangers part) is this kind of competitiveness! I avoid these conversations as much as I can.

    Love it!! I totally agree with you. No two people are the same and what they want will never be exactly identical either. Same applies to travel. There’s no right or wrong, and there shouldn’t be any judgements. It’s all a matter of preference. Great post 🙂

      Thanks for the comment and support, Nita!

    You are not a lame traveler! I absolutely agree you should go where you’re heard desires. I just saw The Blonde Abroad post a pic of harry potter and say “feeling like a tourist, but loving it” and it’s so true, I’d love that too & only lame-asses would judge that!

    Also, thanks for linking my blog- Your’e right, you COULD live in India or do any of that , but if you’re not called to you won’t enjoy it!

      Some of my best travel memories have been from doing things that others might consider “touristy”. I wouldn’t trade those memories in for anything!

    GREAT post! Sadly, there is rarely a happy medium when it comes to travel conversations: either they aren’t travelers themselves and don’t understand why I’d “waste” my money on trips instead of buying a house, or they are hard-core travelers who have done ‘shrooms with medicine men in Africa and wrestled venomous snakes in Asia so my travels are just SOOO blase in comparison. But like you said, it’s MY life, MY money, MY precious vacation time, so if I want to do the “mainstream” travel sites, then why should anyone else care?!

      EXACTLY! It’s my money to spend however I want – why should anybody feel like they have the right to tell me where/how to spend it?

    This is definitely not lame travel, it’s Original travel! I don’t even keep a bucket or a country list, and if I love a city/country, I will keep going back. Every experience is different. I don’t like travelling with people who are ‘country tickers’ – or think that one of their assets is being in XX number of countries – that doesn’t really prove anything. it takes the joy out of travelling when travellers add a competitive angle to it and try to out-travel one another.

      I agree, Jean! I mean, I DO have a bucket list and I do know the rough number of countries I’ve visited – but I never feel the urge to “compete” with other travelers! That’s just silly.

    Not a huge fan of this mentality either, Amanda. Frankly, I believe it’s a maturity thing: I don’t think you’re going to find many truly seasoned travellers doing this, rather those who discovered it a few years back and still haven’t shook off those initial pretensions of being a “cultured world citizen.” What I think is funny is that these same people who talk all this crap about getting “off-the-beaten-path” (a phrase I’ve truly come to despise) or “travelling like a local” are usually the same ones who are always pictured in these less “safe” destinations drinking and partying hard with other foreigners. I’m speculating that feeling the need to belittle other travellers for choosing to visit (might I say, awesome!) places like Eastern Europe or New Zealand points rather to some deep-seated emotional void rather than an legitimate argument against one’s travel style being somehow less hardcore or fulfilling. Glad you wrote this, Amanda; it’s something that really needs to be said more often 🙂

      I’m so glad so many people have connected with this post in some way!

    Well said! I leave for my first solo adventure next week and I can’t wait to find out what my own travel style and preference is. And I will do my very best to stay true to what I enjoy and not judge others for what they enjoy. We are all different so we all experience life and travel differently – just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s better or worse. The uniqueness of the travel community is what makes it amazing!

      So true Emily! Have a great time on your trip! And yes, be sure to listen to your gut and do whatever feels right for you.

    Nice post Amanda. I’m a firm believer that you should travel for your own reasons to the places that you want to see. If you’re travelling for anyone else, you’re doing it wrong. I think I’m a bit of an example of doing my own thing, and probably on the extreme travel side of things. I visit these places because it’s what excites me. If “easier” destinations excite you, then that’s where you should be. And yeah, the one-upmanship of travel is lame. But you see that everywhere, even just a hostel.
    There is a keeping up with the Joneses aspect to travel, and the moment you catch yourself travelling for bragging rights, then it’s time to quit.
    Keep doing your thing! You do it well.

      Thanks for the comment, Brendan! You keep doing your thing, too – I love reading about your adventures!

    As long as you are traveling and are excited about that destination that’s all that matters, even if it’s in your own backyard on a weekend getaway.

    What annoys me is when other travelers or bloggers brag about how they “lived in Koh Lanta” or “lived on blah blah island” when all they really did was lay around on said island or partied there for 4 weeks!

      Definitely agree with you on that one, Craig!

    Amen to that! I sometimes feel for some (many!) people traveling is like a competitions – who has seen more off the beaten path places, done extreme things, had crazy adventures. Well I don’t want to be a part of that contest, thank you very much. It doesn’t make you a lame person if you travel how you want to and where you want to, I think it makes you more real! What works for others doesn’t have to work for you and your happiness! People should finally understand that! ( just talking about this makes me slightly angry;))

      Haha, don’t get angry, Kami! I have had some amazing adventures, but I didn’t necessarily have to go to crazy places to have them – I wish more people could realize that!

    This travel prejudice is probably the thing that enfuriates me the most about travel. I particularly hate the traveller/tourist distinction because you know what THEY ARE BASICALLY THE SAME. What’s the problem with travel being ‘safe’? Why would I want to knowingly put myself in danger? Why would I pay extra money for something I know I probably wouldn’t enjoy? I totally admire people who do the whole crazy go-off-the-beaten track (sorry for the cliché) thing but I also admire those who have their own travelling style too. Travel is for everyone, not just some elitist travellers.

      Great comment, Naomi. An I completely agree with your “travel is for everyone” sentiment.

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