Travel Snobbery and How to Avoid Being a Tourist

by EmmaP

There are many different kinds of snobs, I am regularly called a snob for a multitude of reasons by my family, and I have come to the conclusion that; I must be one. We are all (probably) guilty of snobbery here and there, but there is one kind of snob that sticks out like a sore thumb, and that is the dreaded travel snob. Travel snobs come in many forms and variations but there seems to me to be two distinct categories. People can be snobbish about so-called ‘tick box’ travellers, people who run around the world - rapidly snapping photos of all the must see tourist spots. More infuriating to me, however, are the tourists who somehow claim they are not tourists at all and are ‘real’ travellers. The concept of a ‘real’ traveller to me is quite laughable. If you go on a trip - that technically makes you a traveller, it’s a real event that’s happening in real time, and in my mind, it doesn’t require a label.

People love to share travel stories. Apparently on first dates, travel is one of the most discussed topics, where have you been? Why? Etc. People who have travelled extensively are automatically perceived as well-rounded and exotic. I remember getting to university and coming across my first experience of travel snobbery… So where have you been recently? I had been to Wales camping with my boyfriend, so that was my response, and mortifyingly it was met with laughter. I was embarrassed, oh the shame of having no extravagant gap year. Travel snobbery is alive and kicking wherever you go. Snobbery of all kind is prevalent everywhere – because we are people, and people like to judge other people. Whether we like to admit this or not, it’s a bit of an unavoidable truth.

My life is immersed in travel, I live abroad, I get to travel a reasonable amount and when I’m not travelling, I’m writing about travel. Lucky me right? For me one of the greatest things about the way I conduct my life is learning about other places through the people I meet. In my world it is completely normal for people to be here, there and everywhere I have a lot of international friends. I also know a lot of people who have extensively travelled, through most of their adult lives. In this context someone telling a story about ‘motorcycling across Asia’ or something along those lines seems completely normal and not in the slightest bit show-offy. We share information about the countries around us for the pure purpose of genuine information sprinkled with anecdotes. As we all know personal recommendations can be wonderful, and they really are a great way of finding out about where to visit.

Here is a revelation: there is no wrong or right way to travel. Like with anything, travel is a personal preference, you can be meticulous in your travel planning or you can turn up knowing nothing. Different strokes for different folks. I would suggest a middle ground. I have tried both techniques in my youth and neither was clever. You need room for adventure/things not going to plan but on the other hand you need some kind of plan, so you don’t miss out.

When I was 21 I did the classic pilgrimage to Thailand trip that thousands of young carefree Brits’ embark upon. (After the embarrassment of not having a gap year, I thought I better see what the fuss was about.) I went alone and met a friend out there and proceeded to plan nothing – because I thought he would know what to do. As a consequence we bungled around like a pair of idiots, missed all of the sights saw none of the culture and went round in circles spent far more money that we needed to…. The list goes on. It was a disaster albeit a highly enjoyable one.

How to avoid being a tourist whilst being a tourist? The simple answer to this question is: you can’t. My advice would be to decide what you like doing and then just go and do it. Life is too short, travel should be enjoyed in whatever way that makes you happy. Not everybody has the luxury of slow travel, and if you don’t have months to spend gallivanting around, that will make you (probably) appreciate the experience all the more.