Over the past year, my job has taken me not only to new countries, but to the kinds of places I would never have traveled to on my own. The most foreign of these places? All-inclusive resorts. It’s a term that can send chills down the spines of die-hard independent travelers. As I was walking around the grounds of one sprawling megaresort – watching people dozing by the multi-level pool and shopping in overpriced boutiques – I started to realize that I was totally judging everyone.
At some point, I had quietly decided that I was better than all of these people because I don’t choose to stay in these types of sterilized, Westerner-friendly places. I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded, tolerant person, so I immediately felt guilty for being so critical. While I can’t say I’ve completely overcome my travel judgey-ness since then, here are some strategies I’ve been using to become less of a travel snob.
Travel Means Different Things for Different People
There are all kinds of reasons why people decide to travel somewhere. For me, traveling is mostly about experiencing a new culture; but for a lot of people, it’s about taking a vacation. While I might feel like I was missing out if I spent a trip eating buffet food and drinking cocktails on a private resort beach, that kind of trip is perfect for someone who just wanted to relax somewhere warm and beautiful.
When I find myself judging how other people are traveling, I try to remember that they’re acting according to a completely different set of priorities than my own. Their travel goals aren’t the same as mine, and therefore the types of trips we each plan are nothing like one another.
Applaud People for Getting Out There
If there’s one particular pet issue that easily gets me ranting, it’s how the media portrays “foreign countries” as being scary, threatening places. I get the impression that there are a lot of people who might like to travel, but find it too intimidating (particularly solo travel) as a result of this fear-mongering.
When I’m touring resorts (or reading online reviews), I notice that safety is often a hot topic – if the particular resort is in a safe area, if it’s safe to explore the country independently, if it’s safe to eat the local food. In certain places these might be reasonable concerns, but most of the time they’re being raised in countries that aren’t at all known for being dangerous. I instinctively scoff because these kinds of questions and comments stem from the illogical belief that your home is the only safe place in the world.
I try to flip this judgment around and instead feel happy that these people are pushing themselves to get out there and travel, even if they’re a bit nervous about it. I love travel, and I like seeing people enjoy doing it in any shape or form. The more people travel, perhaps the harder it will be for uninformed ideas about the scariness of the world to persist.
I’m Not a Perfect Traveler
When I’m on the road, there are days when I crave comfort food and decide to smuggle a bag of McDonalds back to my hotel room rather than eating something local. Sometimes I skip over a cultural attraction in favor of reading a book on the beach. Sometimes when I first arrive in a country, I take a cab because I can’t be bothered to figure out how the bus system works until I get settled.
In these moments, there’s often a voice in my head – the same one that criticizes how other people are traveling – that tells me I’m not a good enough traveler. I’m failing to live up to some invisible standard. I have to remind myself that there’s no audience for me to impress, no tribunal of travel judging my every move. I’m not saying I’ll never bat an eye again when I see someone sleeping away their vacation by a resort pool, but deep down, I don’t think there’s any such a thing as a good or a bad traveler. We’re all just people trying to experience something different, in the best ways we know how.