Over the years, I have grown used to hearing the same recurring feedback on my travels.
Ranging from positive to relatively dismissive, it has made me notice that people from completely different backgrounds often react to my travel stories in very similar ways.
While the majority of comments tend to be jolly, some people do not shy away from expressing themselves in more – how shall we put it – tongue-in-cheek ways. It would be a fascinating psychological exercise to analyse why so much unnecessary travel feedback takes place, but I will not go into it here. Instead, I will go through some of my pet-hate feedback that I hear all too often from others while discussing travel. Do judge for yourselves!
(from a person you barely know) “You’re going to X – how wonderful. Enjoy! You are going to love it.”
I always find it strange when strangers assume that you are going to “love” a certain destination. Have they followed your travels for a while? Do they know you well personally? Do they immediately qualify their bold statement with an explanation why you are going to love X? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then it may be a little ambitious to announce that a person you do not necessarily know that closely is going to love some place just because you did.
I remember, while on my way to Japan, receiving a text message from a guy I used to meet for coffee once a year – a nice guy but not a close friend by any measure – telling me that I would “absolutely love Japan”. But how would a distant acquaintance know this? Were those just empty courtesy words? Don’t get me wrong: it was probably well meant but still bugs me to this day.
Say this instead: “You are going to love X because the [nature, architecture, cuisine…] there are amazing and you seem to love [such things].” I know, I know – it would probably have to spread across a whole of two text messages.
For the record, I did end up loving Japan. I am even learning Japanese now!
“Wait, you’re not visiting [that place] in X? That is the best part! You’re not going to enjoy X without it!”
One of my favourite pet-peeves on the road is meeting some self-proclaimed “professional” traveller who seems to know your itinerary better than you do. “Oh yeah, and after Santiago you are probably going to fly to Patagonia, right? And then hike Torres del Paine … what? You’re only doing the W Circuit?! It’s full of tourists! You have to do the full loop. Don’t be surprised if you don’t enjoy it as much as you expect.”
Or try this: “What do you mean you won’t be visiting Nagasaki on a 2-week discovery tour of Japan? Nagasaki was my favourite part of the whole trip! The rest of Japan doesn’t even come close.”
We get it: some people have visited a lot of places and clearly enjoyed certain bits of them more than the others. It doesn’t, however, mean that the said place will become everybody’s highlight. Even more so, popular tourist routes are popular for a reason and it certainly doesn’t make one less of a traveller if they stick to the trodden path. There is nothing wrong in skipping some destinations over others. Nothing at all.
Say this instead: “I really enjoyed visiting [this place] in X. Are you going there too?”.
Even though I “only” hiked the W Circuit in Torres del Paine, Chile, I did not feel like I was missing out on a great experience
“Oh no, you’re going alone? Isn’t it dangerous?”
Personally, I love travelling alone. I openly prefer travelling alone to travelling with my husband (and I love travelling with my husband) and have never travelled for longer than a day with anyone else (except on a handful of organised trips). Travelling alone helps me unwind, stock up on energy and get much closer to locals – who invariably end up talking to you more and even invite you for a home-made meal. A solo traveller is simply less of a burden than a group of two or more people.
Yet it is often perceived that solo travel is somehow dangerous, especially for unaccompanied women. Some horror stories in the media about women being attacked and even killed on the road have not helped this at all. I am well used to emotional reactions, even from people who supposedly know me well, about my next solo trip. Places like South Africa, Brazil, Iran and North Korea – all of which I have visited – are all perceived to be dangerous for solo travellers and are likely to ignite sparks of horror in your listener’s eyes.
I will not go into long discussions about which countries are particularly dangerous (or not) for solo females. Enough said that even the place where I live – London, the capital of a highly developed Western country – can be declared dangerous relatively easily. Yet nobody ever rolls their eyes when they hear I live in London. Imagine this: “You live in London?! Isn’t it dangerous?”
Say this instead: Actually, say exactly as stated above if I ever, ever announce that I am going on an unaccompanied trip to Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya or any war zone. A stupid act like that would indeed justify a strong reaction. That failing, perhaps say “I am sure you have done your research. Enjoy your trip!” Or whatever.
Does this look dangerous to you? I found Iran to be one of the safest places I have ever visited
“You are going to X alone? What does your husband think about it?”
A variation of the previous comment, this one is simply edging on rude. If the commentator knows my husband personally (in which case they would hopefully also remember to use his name in place of the impersonal “your husband”), it would be logical to ask my husband directly what he thought of the said trip. He might find the question a little strange, but, being the friendly person he is, he would probably respond with a smile and a non-committing phrase of sorts.
If, however, the person does not know my husband personally, then the strong interest in his opinion about someone else’s choice of holiday (mine) becomes extraordinarily strange. Why would they care? The only reason I can think of is to make me feel somehow guilty that I am travelling without my husband. Deep inside, the person is likely secretly judging our marriage, because not only do we work in different countries, but we also, sometimes, take holidays separately. The horror!
I mean, I seriously cannot think of a good reason for anyone to ask this question. If I am going somewhere genuinely dangerous and someone is concerned about my welfare, it still doesn’t make it normal to throw my husband’s opinion into the picture. Why not then also ask what my mother, auntie and best friend think about my trip? Of course that wouldn’t be weird at all.
Say this instead: Actually, don’t bother. I don’t think there is an acceptable way of rephrasing this.
This is what my husband looks like in case you want to ask him directly
“Lucky you, going to X! Enjoy your travels now, they’ll end when you have kids.”
Well, that isn’t exactly a selling point for having children then, is it? This is a comment I receive surprisingly often, almost always coming from a person with at least one child. “You’re so clever doing all the travel now,” they’ll say, “Wait until you have children.” And then they’ll roll their eyes in a meaningful way, obviously showing how impossible travel is when you choose to procreate.
This comment bothers me on multiple levels. First, it presumes that the recipient is absolutely planning to have children. Obviously most people will go on to have children at some point in their lives, so it is a safe assumption to make. However, plenty of us these days consciously choose not to have children, and some cannot have them for one reason or another. Jumping to conclusions in this way can therefore result in some serious faux pas.
Second, the comment somehow presumes that travelling with children is impossible. I partly agree: travelling actively with children is likely profoundly different from carefree solo travel. However, many travel bloggers that I follow continue to show me that travelling with children is not only possible – it can also be fun. Check out Travel With Bender, an Australian family of four, travelling the world together. Or Wildjunket run by Nellie who is currently on a 3-month jaunt in Southeast Asia with her 2-year-old. I am sure there are certain challenges involved in travelling with children; however, I cannot help but smile when I see photos from the above bloggers’ journeys: they certainly make travelling with children look fun.
To sum up, I think that whoever comments like that may be a little jealous of someone else enjoying themselves and, perhaps subconsciously, seeks to bring them down. As in, you’re travelling now? Wait till you are as overworked, tired and demotivated as I and then we’ll see. Or I may just be imagining things.
Say this instead: Say anything you want. But please, please, please keep your frustrations to yourself.
As someone commented on this photo of North Korean children, “When will you stop taking pictures of other people’s children and have your own?” Bless.
“Holiday again? Do you ever work?”
Another popular tongue-in-cheek question even good friends do not think twice about asking. Because, if I am publicly seen travelling on more than two occasions a year, I obviously never do any work and automatically qualify for the slacker of the year award.
I have developed a standard type of response to this question. I will include it in the FAQs (when my transition to a new website is complete), but let me start here: I do work. I work full-time, Monday to Friday. Yes, I have a decent holiday allowance (I have written about it here) but, essentially, it all boils down to being organised and managing my expenses in a way that prioritises travel over everything else – everything else excluding work. I need to work in order to finance my travels, and I try to do my best when I am working in order not to lose my primary source of income. At least not just now.
Say this instead: “I really admire the way you manage to organise your travels with a full-time job. How do you do it?” (okay, okay – expressing admiration here is strictly optional).
One day I plan to abandon the corporate shackles and move to a Greek island. Until then… I will have to work.
“I loved your photos of X! Do you have a really good camera?”
Because, of course, decent photos are always the result of a good camera and nothing else.
I do not have any illusions about my travel photos. Some of them (view my albums here) come out very nice, and some (most?) are nothing special. I do not consider myself a photography wizard – come on, I have only just started to get confident with manual settings of my camera – and think of my photos as mainly illustrative to my travels and a nice way to break up these long blog posts. Sure, I sell some photos to various publications, but it is nowhere near the serious level.
Even so, I find it strange when people automatically attribute a good image to the camera. Did the camera also compose the image and adjust the ISO / shutter speed / aperture / focus / etc, then pre-selected the image out of many similar ones, transferred it to a computer, edited it and, finally, uploaded it on the internet for everyone to enjoy? Seriously, people – give the photographer some credit.
And, just for the record, I use an old Nikon D300s with a handful of lenses. The 24mm prime lens is my latest one and my current favourite.
Say this instead: “I loved your photos of X! Just out of curiosity, are you a Nikon or a Canon person?”, from which you can then go on to ask about the specific camera model. Just use your imagination.
This puffin shot from Mykines, Faroe Islands, is my 3rd most viewed on Flickr – but captured pretty much by accident in automatic mode
Having said all this, I hope I haven’t scared any of you from commenting on my travels in the future. Remember, this post is mostly meant in jest, so do not feel compelled to choose your words! Happy travels!