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 this post! This is exactly how I think: Travel should be a decision and a way to express our unique way of living. It’s not to prove anything to anybody except ourselves. We all set our own limits and unless you want to travel to impress other people, the goal is just to reach happiness and see what you want to see and do what you want to do.

    Absolutely love this sentiment! I hate travel snobbery (while I will admit that I might be guilty of it too at times…ups). I got the same looks when I went to Thailand with Intrepid, but had the same experience as you described – great new friends and no hassle of organizing.

      I hate it when travelers try to make others feel bad about how they choose to travel. As long as you aren’t being terrible (i.e. exploiting the locals, or just being really nasty/ignorant), then I don’t think anyone should be able to judge you!

    […] There’s a lot of snobbery around tour groups and “how to travel.” There’s no right way to travel. As long as you’re respectful of your surroundings and the people in it, and as long as you love it and it changes you and your eyes are opened to the world…who cares how you do it? It’s a great idea to question these things. This post itself is inspired by the lovely Amanda Williams’ and her blog post titled “Am I a Lame Traveler?” […]

    Good point Amanda! I like to listen to people’s tips and advice when it comes to places that I haven’t been yet, it can be very inspiring and might increase (or not) my curiosity towards countries I wouldn’t have thought of going to, but ultimately it’s always me deciding where and when to go somewhere, always me! 🙂

      Good! I of course read lots of blogs and pay attention to places others are recommending or warning against. But, like you, it’s always MY decision in the end!

    Completely agree. I think traveling doesn’t necessarily mean getting on a plane and going to exotic destinations. This summer we did a lot of short travels in a 100 mile radius of DC and had a great time and explored some lovely places we haven’t gone before.
    I’ve been several times to Africa and South America for work/pleasure and the experiences are amazing but we just went to Shenandoah National Park 2 hours away and that was spectacular as well.
    I just encourage people on my blog and in my circles to discover something new whether it is 30 minutes from your home or a 30hr plane ride.
    p.s. just discovered your blog, love it!

      That’s absolutely my opinion too, Jessica! You don’t have to travel far – even going somewhere an hour away can be an adventure! I’ve stuck around North America for most of this year, but have still had some awesome adventures!

    This is a wonderful post! One thing that is often encouraged in the Blogging community is to not follow all of society’s rules and barriers. Not to follow the – go to school, get debt, work, work some more, get married, die system blindly. Do what makes YOU happy yada yada. So why then, are so many setting up yet another set of ‘rules’ and telling people to live up to a set of standards whether they find them interesting or not?
    I love to go to slightly odder destinations too, but there is a line between encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone and not dismiss places based on bad media and actually dissing people who aren’t interested in those regions/ are more interested in other regions.

      I totally agree, Zoe! You’ve said it so well. Why should we have to trade in one set of expectations for another? I like getting off the beaten path sometimes – but within reason; my “off the beaten path” may be different than someone else’s. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

    great article! couldn’t agree more. The second others start telling you how to travel you lose the freedom that you are traveling to obtain

    I love this entry Amanda! Yup! You shouldn’t let anyone tell you where you should be traveling. I just started traveling last year, and I only have been to Asia’s countries, and one place I love the most is South Korea (Seoul). I’m from Malaysia, so we only have sunny/rainy season, so I really appreciate the calmness of autumn weather in Seoul, been there for skiing too in the winter. The people are friendly, although there is some language barrier, but I get along just fine. I love the environment and the culture .
    But yet, some of the people (back home, and even among so call my travel companion) makes fun of it. They joking about the those korean little eyes, their language, their food, and maybe because I’m a fan of these K pop music (which I’m not). So to me, if I love it, I couldn’t care less what other people are thinking as long as I enjoy it.
    In the end, its how the travel experience makes us fell right? Just like one of the point in your entry “26 Things Travel Has Taught Me”

    10. It’s OK to keep returning to a place you love
    Even though the world is huge with endless places to discover, I’ve realized that some places will keep pulling you back. You will leave bits of your heart in different corners of the globe, and those places will call to you periodically. And this is OK. You don’t have to always go somewhere different to be a “traveler.”

    Keep writing Amanda ^^

      Thanks so much for the really great comment. 🙂

      You keep traveling to Korea if that’s where your heart pulls you!

    You’re so true, Amanda… adventurous people don’t understand why some people just want to lie down on the beach and enjoy a good cocktail, and quiet people don’t understand why some people want to travel to risky places, but be sure that both groups will dare to judge.

      Yup, it’s unfortunate but true!

    Do I let others influence my travels? absolutely not!
    My money. My travel.
    I love this post Amanda as this is rather a sore point when it comes to travel bloggers, and it makes me proud that you have stood up for your beliefs. Yay!

    I’ve been travelling since the mid-90’s (Yikes), and I’ve done a mixture of everything. Of course, when I was younger, I went as cheap as poss. Now, I’m a little older, married, and with a pre-teenager so my style has adjusted accordingly. I haven’t got “a thing” for South America or Australia, so I haven’t bothered! I love Asia and Europe so I travel to those destinations. I’ve just got back from Thailand and Indonesia and everyone was like; which beach did you go to? Well, guess what. I’m not into beaches so I didn’t go to any!

    I also like going back to places that I fancy. In fact, I go to a little fishing villiage in Poland every two to three years. I’ve been gong there for 14 years. No probs at all! Great post!

      I also really love going back to my favorite places. When I got to New Zealand in November, it will be my fourth time there! But I don’t feel bad about that at all – I know I love NZ and that I’ll have a great time!

    People? No. They don’t influence us as travelers. Money plays a good part, though. As do airplane sales. =)

    I love this post Amanda. One of the things I love most about travelling especially alone is that I can go wherever I want to go, not where other people want to go. It is not right for other people to judge you because you choose to go to your dream destination which might be a popular tourist destination.

    I’ve noticed this judgement a lot recently myself in Canada, I’m currently working in Jasper a beautiful place with lots of hiking and things to do. When I speak to some of the Canadians I’m working with (mostly who come from Ontario) about how I’m looking forward to visiting Toronto at the end of my stay in Canada they ask why would I want to go there and comment on how boring it is. This is really disappointing to hear because it might put people off visiting that city. Luckily I have been there before (and really enjoyed the city) so I will still go back.

    Just because it does not have the natural beauty like Jasper does doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy exploring a city.

    If we let others decide where we should be going it’s likely we wouldn’t enjoy the experience as much and then what would be the point in travelling?

      I try to ignore it when people tell me a city/country is boring (or fantastic). I would much rather visit and see for myself!

    Great post Amanda and this rings so true for me today. I just met up with a friend who returned home from some time in India and they kept on pushing the agenda of me going to India to the point that I got really annoyed. Sure, maybe one day, but it isn’t high on my priority list and I won’t be particularly heartbroken if I don’t actually go. There are so many other places that fascinate me. I get that yes you had a great time, but it doesn’t make me want to drop my bags and go. I want to travel on my own terms, when and where I want to.

      Exactly! I have to remind myself of that sometimes when I go on about New Zealand to other people. (Though, to be fair, I think a lot more people want to go to NZ!) But yeah. When someone is trying to push something on me (travel or otherwise), it actually just turns me off completely!

    You are absolutely right – there is nothing wrong with it! Yes, do what you want and ignore the haters.

      What’s that lyric from the new Taylor Swift song? “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” 😉

    Love your post, Amanda, and totally agree. And love that I know about a whole bunch of other people who feel the same way!

      We definitely aren’t alone, Cindy!

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