So your friend shares a photo captioned ‘My first solo trip!’ You’re 45 years old, you think, rolling your eyes. Your first solo trip was at 16. Or 18. Or at least 25 – either way, while you were still a sweet young thing seeing the world with the bold and unrestrained eyes of your youth.
Or perhaps you’ve been to the depths of Inner Mongolia or west China’s Xinjiang province while your colleague returns from a trip to Shanghai and can’t stop talking about it. “That’s cute,” you think. “That’s real cute.”
Or you’re having lunch with that friend who travels at least twice a year and frequently reminds you of it. Unlike you – you have more time on the road than you do off. Maybe you’ve even quit your job to follow your wanderlusty ambitions and roam the globe in various states of financial ruin and dusty sandals, living a modern form of the nomadic life. “You don’t know what ‘travel’ is,” you think with scorn and plenty of judgement.
If any or all of this sounds like you (and I’m not saying it doesn’t sound at least a bit like me), then congratulations – you’re a well-travelled, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting Travel Asshole (TA).
The average TA’s most common feature – he or she has always travelled further than the average person. If someone has been to England, the TA knows your exploration of London has nothing on his or her recent trip to the Outer Hebrides. So you’ve been to Seoul? That’s great, but the TA has been to Pyongyang and will tell you about it, too.
Now of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having been to places more obscure than others. Going to places the majority of the world overlooks is one of the thrills of the travel trade. But in most cases, there’s no real need to see your exclusive travel experiences as an entitlement to brag instead of a privilege you have been able to enjoy and explore. Sure, you’ve saved hard and worked long hours to be able to pull it off – but if you’ve got money to spend on travel, remember that not everyone does. The more common the destination, the cheaper and easier it is, and the more likely a traveller with other priorities is to visit.
Before beginning a ‘this one time in Yemen’ story, it might not be a bad idea to remember that your journey is yours alone – not a better version of someone else’s.
TRAVEL MORE OFTEN
Another classic TA trait is lamenting about how long it’s been since their last adventure. “It’s been a whole month,” the TA wails. “I’m just itching to get back on the road!”
I get it – when the travel bug bites, it bites hard. It’s like getting a tattoo or your first successfully smoked cigarette. Even as it’s happening, you’ve already decided this is definitely something you could get used to. You already know you want more. And so you go on, on your merry, travel-filled way, telling tales of your excellent adventures and the boredom you encounter and subsequently escape from in everyday life.
It’s worth pointing out, at this point, that your frequent escape could be someone else’s dream vacay. Maybe your monthly excursions are a mother of three’s fantasy, or an unemployed friend’s currently unreachable goal. So you travel often? Good for you. But lots of people make the best of the situation they’re in, and constant whining about how subpar that situation is doesn’t do anyone any favours.
Some of us are of the impression that the best travel is done with your closest loved ones. Others shudder at the idea of a family vacation. Some have met their life partners on the road and others still have a particular travel soulmate perfect for exploring the world with.
A certain type of traveller, however, might insist that the most authentic travel is the travel you do all on your own. Granted, there’s certainly something about rocking up without knowing anyone, finding your own way and being whoever you feel like being. Admirable as this may seem, the TA insists that this is not just the best way to travel; it’s the only way. Have you never travelled alone before? The nearest available TA will be there to silently (or not) judge you. And any TA worth his or her weight in smugness will make time for such an occasion.
Solo travel is a beautiful thing. Many of us have found ourselves and our passion, overcome our fears or weaknesses, or just enjoyed time to be with no one you don’t want to be around. It’s also an activity that isn’t for everyone and if travelling with friends doesn’t make it any less of an experience for your company-inclined friend, then remember – it, besides having nothing to do with you, has no bearing on your own travel choices. Sail on solo, let other people travel with other people, and everyone wins.
Behind every person pondering their next vacation, there is a TA about to leap in with unsolicited advice and recommendations. Sure, it’s nice to help other people out with tips on a place you’ve been to or one that you know well, but the TA goes above and beyond that. He or she needs you to know that while you may be the one going to a new destination, they’ve got something to say about it.
The TA will be there, lurking, every time the words “I can’t wait for my trip to…” are uttered. The TA will hijack Facebook posts with links, tips, snarky comments on the destination of choice, spouting a variety of things that say ‘I’ve been there (before you) and I know more (than you)’.
Instead of being a travel know-it-all, a far more friendly option could be to offer advice as and when it is required and asked for. Keep this in mind always – are you providing this information for the person you’re giving it to, or as a means to talk about your own adventures again?
TRAVEL AT ALL
So you met someone who hates the idea of travel. Why on earth would you leave the comforts of home for some strange unknown land, full of people you don’t know, a language you don’t speak, a city you can’t navigate? For all the reasons we love travel, there’s a sizeable group of people who can’t bear the thought of it for those same reasons. And I hate to break it to you, fellow TA, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some of us were made for wandering; others are inclined to stay in one place.
If nothing else will deter you from your TA ways, remember this: people who travel less, or not at all, or only to the most popular places, leave more room on the road less travelled for the rest of us. If nothing else, you get to hold on to that little bit of what makes your traveller title special, a little bit more of an exclusive Travel Asshole tribe, for just a little while longer.