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 post and can completely relate to your feelings. There are places I don’t feel attracted to and will probably never visit. On the other hand I keep revisiting Australia over and over again because othe experiences I make there are very rewarding for me. It’s about the experiences we make and how we share and help others with our knowledge, rather that showing off the number of places visited and the dangerous situations faced. 🙂

      Same for me, Michela – there are just some places that I am not attracted to and don’t care if I ever visit!

    You’re not traveling for “them,” you’re traveling for YOU! Congratulations on following what you want to do any not letting anyone else make you feel bad over it. What’s the point of going somewhere difficult and exhausting if you don’t enjoy yourself or connect with the place? Keep on keeping on!

    I agree, 100%, Amanda. Travel should be about what makes YOU happy, not other people. I love Australia, for example, and have visited many, many times. People say to me “why don’t you go somewhere else for a change” and I say “why? I love Australia, and every time I land, I feel happy and excited, why should I miss that opportunity?”.

    The way you travel is your own business. I love luxury travel, I love budget travel. Each has its own merits. I can’t afford “luxury” travel all the time, so make good use of points and miles; but when they are in short supply I am very happy to budget travel. I spent three years backpacking around the world in my early 20’s and it was a great experience, but now I am older, a little bit of luxury …. i.e. a clean bed and a hot shower … goes a long way!! The creaky bones need the warmth of the shower and the comfort of a soft, clean bed!!!

    Keep doing what makes you content. The world is your oyster, and you can choose what you want to see.

      My travel style has changed even in just the past 2 years. I shy away from hostels now and much prefer my own room somewhere. But there’s nothing wrong with that! There’s no “right” or “wrong” way (or place) to travel.

    Well said. I traveled the past year and continue to travel more in the future, but there’s still a million places I haven’t been to. I’ve met that type of person before who’s judgmental just because I haven’t been to Asia yet or whatever. You’re right, it’s your life, not theirs!

      Yup, and you should never let any judge you for where you have or haven’t traveled!

    I love this post Amanda! It’s totally ok to go to the “easier” places if that’s where you want to go. I really want to explore more of Europe, though I do also want to see more of South America. If you’re just traveling to places to look cool or get bragging rights, you won’t enjoy it as much, and then what’s the point? You have to do what you enjoy and what makes you comfortable. I really don’t like the people who judge others for not traveling to tougher destinations. Plus your interests change over time. India scares me but maybe sometime in the future I’ll feel more up to going there. Also, I’d love to see the fiords in Norway too!

      I totally agree. Why force myself to go somewhere that would make me stressed out or that I know I wouldn’t enjoy? Doesn’t make any sense to me. But you’re right – interests change. I feel the same way as you about India!

    I have the same style of travelling. I enjoy travelling “save” a lot, simply because it fits my interests. Nevertheless, I admire people who travel through war zones, unsafe regions and the most exotic and remote places on the world. And maybe someday I’ll go on such an adventure as well. But first there are a lot of other places that are absolutely on the top of my list. And despite being in Europe, they are adventures for me, because I believe that every kind of travelling is a gain.

      I’m the same way! I love READING about all those awesome trips through remote parts of the world, but I don’t have a burning desire to do it, too. But that’s fine. In those cases, I’m just an armchair traveler, just like how people who read this site are armchair travelers to the places I visit.

    This really resonates with me because I have a specific travel niche. I write solely about Colorado.
    Several times in the last year I’ve been told, “I don’t consider you a travel writer.”

    What? Because I write about a specific state? Because I’m the expert on one specific area? That makes no sense.

    I do not think your passport needs to be filled with stamps in order to qualify you as a travel writer. If you write about travel, whether it’s in Italy or whether it’s in North Dakota, you are a travel writer.

    I blog about Colorado and I write magazine articles (in travel publications) about Colorado!

    Yes, there are some people judge-y people in the travel industry, but that occurs in every industry. I’m just lucky that the Colorado travel industry has embraced what I’m doing and ultimately that’s what counts.

    I do, however, get a little annoyed at the snobbishness I occasionally run into when it comes to international v. domestic travel. So I thoroughly enjoyed this piece!

      You are so right – passport stamps don’t make you a traveler or travel writer. The US alone is HUGE and has so much to see and do. And Colorado? Colorado is awesome! Keep doing your thing, girl!

    Screw the opinions of others where you should and shouldn’t travel! You have to do what you enjoy! Each to their own and all that! Whatever makes you happy!

    If travel has taught me anything, it’s to be patient and unjudgemental of the way others live their lives.

    I’ve travelled all different ways, solo, with a tour group, with friends – all different, but all just as great! I made some of my best friends on a group tour through Africa. My life wouldn’t be as good if they weren’t in it. FACT.

    Keep travelling your way my friend!

      I have met some great people while traveling on a group tour, too! I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything!

    Here’s my thought on this: Travel is a way of expanding your comfort zone. You don’t *expand* your comfort zone by being afraid of heights and jumping off a cliff. That would only scare the hell out of you and ensure you’ll never get close to a cliff again.

    “Do something every day that scares you”. It might just be having your first meal on your own in a restaurant. Or walking down a different route. Or walking without knowing where exactly you’re going. Maybe even asking a stranger for directions. From there, you go up to ordering something more exotic for lunch and visiting a more local neighbourhood in a new city. Then, you’ll order whatever dish on a Chinese menu looking forward to the surprise!

    It’s a process – little by little you’ll become more comfortable with diverse cultures, climates and lifestyles and you’re travel will become more “adventurous” 🙂

      I definitely agree! Though, travel doesn’t HAVE to be about expanding your comfort zone. If you’re already a pretty outgoing person, you could easily travel somewhere and still feel comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with that, either!

    Great post. I feel if you haven’t done the RTW stuff or gone to the third world, people will be you crap. Sorry maybe I don’t want to go there or cannot afford it. There can be many reasons. I’ve always been of the belief: travel where you want and how you want, and it’s never wrong. I’m planning my first non-European vacation but I doubt I’ll make a habit of it. I prefer my “safe” travels as well, for now.

      And there’s nothing wrong with that! I’ve done the Southeast Asia thing and tried to do a RTW trip. But you know what? It’s not for me – that’s just not my style!

    I agree with the comment above that says “Some people are just assholes”.

    There’s a travel blogger that I’ve got to know recently who makes me so angry. He has been very judgemental about my choice to use Busabout for my summer trip. I don’t travel full time, I work a 6 day, 50hr week & blog on the side as a hobby currently. I want a break when I go away, if I choose to spend 3 weeks with a tour company (and spend an entire week of that drunk) is entirely my decision.

    Yeah I could do it myself, but if someone else is going to do all the hard stuff for me, then GREAT! I can relax and enjoy the ride, surely that’s the point? Enjoying it. Plus with a tour I have a set of ready made friends with me, amazing!

    I travelled through Spain alone, plan on doing Italy alone, and regularly do weekend trips to various European cities. I keep meaning to venture out of Europe, but there’s just so much to see & it’s RIGHT THERE!

      Well whoever this blogger is, he definitely sounds like a bit of an asshole.

      This is YOUR vacation – of course you should be free to travel however and wherever you want. If I lived in Europe, I doubt I would ever venture much further – there are SO MANY cool places to see right there.

      And, as someone who’s traveled with Busabout before, I would never judge you for that! In fact, I loved using Busabout’s loop passes last summer – it took a lot of the stress out of planning all my transport, AND I had a read-made group of other travelers to hang out with in most of the destinations! It was great!

    I love Vegas, have NO desire to go back to China, and probably could live happily in France and never leave the rest of my life. Those who don’t like it aren’t paying for my travel, so they can just keep their opinions to themselves. 🙂

      Exactly how I feel about it, Leah!

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