I've noticed that seasoned travelers tend to fall into one of two categories. Fortunately, most people fall into the first category of being a kind and considerate traveler, low on judgement and high on awe and curiosity. However, there are always a few of travelers that are a bit…umm…snobby in their attitude.
To be fair, I've totally done all these below at one point or another, so I'm not above any of my own advice. We're humans and we're going to mess up, but that doesn't mean we can't become better, love deeper, and walk more humbly on this earth!
So, in an effort to cultivate myself as a more compassionate, kind, loving, conscious traveler, I give you ways to avoid being a travel snob….
1. Don't judge the way other people travel.
Everyone is unique, therefore everyone travels differently. Some people run on $10 a day and stay at cheap hostels, others love to cruise, and then there are those that wine and dine at only the best. The bottom line is, there is no "right" way to see the world. A few years ago, Kevin and I met a couple who had traveled extensively through parts of the world. In the course of our conversation, they made numerous judgements about what they felt was the only way to travel (as if all other ways of traveling weren't as good). To be honest, Kevin and I walked away feeling more judged than inspired by their travels. So here's the point of this paragraph…don't judge others. Some people love to plan their trips ahead of time, and others like to be spontaneous. Both are good! Be kind and embrace the fact that what works for you is great, and what works for others is also great.
2. Avoid Making blanket statements about different cultures
When I was living as an English teacher in Thailand, I took a weekend trip by myself to visit an island called Koh Chang. When I reached the island, I hitched a ride on a songthaew (a taxi, where all the passengers sit in the back of the truck). When I climbed in, there was about 8 other tourists my age. As we were riding along, one of the British tourists said "Americans never leave America, they hardly travel". Now up until this point I had not opened my mouth, so I suppose they all assumed I was European. So, I piped up and said "well, actually, I'm American and I travel quite frequently, as do a lot of Americans" and went on to explain my thoughts on that subject. The British guy apologized, and was rather embarrassed for his remark. To be a thoughtful traveler, we can't make generalizations about cultures. And secondly, just because we've been to a country doesn't make us an expert on that culture. Notice and observe, but unless you've done your research, stay away from making blanket statements regarding someone's worldview and customs!
3. If a friend shares she is traveling to a particular country you've visited, don't immediately interrupt her story to talk ALL about your experiences traveling there. Don't make it about you!
Learn to engage with others as they prepare for a trip. Ask them questions about their adventure…"what will you be doing?", "what cities will you be traveling through?" or "what are you most excited about?". Resist the urge to bring up 501 stories about your time in the particular country. Once you've made them feel heard, casually mentioned that you too have travelled there. Chances are, they will want to know all your advice and will use you as a great resource. But so often, as seasoned travelers, we get caught up in the fact that we've been there too, and then leave little room for them to talk about their trip. It's important to make a connection point, but don't do it at the expense of them not feeling heard.
4. Don't constantly "country drop"
Have you ever been with travelers that want you to know how "seasoned" they are? I suppose they assume that if we knew how much they've traveled, we'd like/respect them more. Sometimes I want to say I GET IT! YOU'VE TRAVELED A LOT…AWESOME! Like i've mentioned, I've totally been guilty of this in the past, so it's understandable. It's easy to find an identity in traveling, but if our identity in traveling requires us elevating ourselves because of how many countries we've been to or experiences we've had, then it's not a kind way to relate to others. Just because one person has been to 50 countries and the other person has been to 2, means nothing in terms of their value. They are both just as valuable as human beings. Savor your travel memories in your mind, but don't use them as points towards your self-esteem.
I hope this inspires us to be kinder travelers and friends. Traveling should be a space of curiosity, wonder, awe, relationship-building, excitement, collaboration, rest and exploration. It should not be a place of judgement or competition. We're all in this beautiful world together, so let's encourage, listen, and engage with each other in lovely ways, knowing that we are all valuable for who we are, not for where we've been or what we've done!!