How Not to be a Travel Snob

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.

11 thoughts on “How Not to be a Travel Snob”

  1. You are right. I am a culprit of judging people who don’t have the same travel priorities as me. It is okay to go on a cruise. It is okay to eat Mcdonalds if you are hungry and craving something familiar. What still bothers me is when people go to a new place without any interest in the culture and people there. Still you are right, everyone has their own priorities.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this! I will admit that unfortunately, I have been guilty of feeling this way towards certain travel styles. Reading your article was a good reminder to myself that everybody travels in different ways and that the important thing is, they’re still getting out there and exploring somewhere new.

  3. I was in an all-inclusive resort once and I loved it! I would do it again if I can afford it. I don’t care what other people think of my travel style as long as I am enjoying my vacations and I also don’t really care where other travellers stay… I just know that for me hostels and eating street food will not be an enjoyable travel experience.

  4. Well said.

    But I know I do exactly the same as you. It really hit me when I was in Jamaica a couple of years ago at a large family resort for a friends wedding. I looked at all the people sitting eating burgers, pizza and chips and thought, “why are you not trying to local food?”. Some people just need a break from their lives.

    The last thing they want is to be in the middle of some country they don’t know and can’t speak the language. But for me that half the adventure 🙂

    But as my other half always tells me, “if everyone in the world was the same life would be boring!”

  5. Julie Goffredo

    Really loved this article. I think I’m guilty of doing this a lot , I especially judge my sister for all her all-inclusive resort holidays but I really liked your point about travel being different for different people. Some people just want a holiday and I guess I hadn’t really looked at it in that way before.


  6. Great article! I have the same issues from time to time…which makes me remember this guy on one of my trips, totally looking down on me because I chose to stay in a party hostel. Which made me feel bad and I had the urge to defend myself and my choice, while I just craved a fun time with likeminded people, and he preferred another way of traveling. To each their own I would say, so we can all enjoy our travels!

  7. A thoughtful post about travel Jessica. Travel should be about broadening your horizons and not a race to impress others. Hope your travel dreams come true this year.

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