It’s that time of the year, again, when I begin planning a winter trip. This year, I logged on to Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forums, a great resource online where travel lovers can share information, hints and tips. Thorn Tree, as Lonely Planet, tends toward the younger, sometimes shoestring budget traveler, folks who like to get a little more off the beaten path. It’s a very exciting bunch of people to talk to, but sometimes, as with my query, your question may elicit responses from a “travel snob.”
I wrote a question looking for a funky, laid back island. I mentioned in my query that my wife and I had gone to Ambergris Caye for numerous years, and wanted something a little different. I mentioned that we don’t like to lie around on the beach, that we like to do physical activities and that we like to try lots of different restaurants. I threw out the possibility of Roatan, one of the Bay Islands in Honduras, and the subject took off from there. A helpful poster, who’d been to Roatan and Ambergris, mentioned how he liked Roatan better, and explained why. Then another, who I’ll just call “T,” suggested Guanaja, and lamented how Roatan had gotten “cheesy.” Another member, in response, pointed out that Guanaja didn’t have many restaurants and that Roatan may be more to our liking.
T, sniffed, “Well, you have a point there. People who like Ambergris to the extent that they will go there repeatedly will most likely like Roatan. Not necessarily a point of flattery though” (emphasis supplied). I prepared a reply, then deleted it, simply thanked everyone for their help and closed the thread.
On almost any travel forum I frequent, I find most members to be very helpful, but occasionally, one will encounter the “travel snob.” The travel snob is someone who has traveled more than you, lets you know it, and wants to let you know how much more sophisticated a traveler he is. He is a traveler. You, by contrast, are a tourist. So first, for the benefit of the travel snob on Thorn Tree, I’d like to prepare a response that he’ll never see. Then, for the benefit of fellow travelers, I’d like to help you spot the travel snob—and hopefully, prevent yourself from becoming one.
Thank you for your help with my question. As you can tell from the fact that I travel to Ambergris Caye, I’m obviously not the seasoned travel that you are. I looked at your travel blog, and noticed that, while you appear to be around my age, your lifestyle consists of traveling around the world on a boat, while I work and support my family. Good for you.
You are probably right when you say that Guanaja would not be to our liking, especially if the entire island doesn’t contain a road, and there’s nothing much to do there. While sitting in a beach hut all day, smoking pot with the dreadlocked Dutch chick you met two days prior may be exciting to some people, my wife and I like to run, swim, hike and stay active; hence, we do like islands with at least enough development for us to do that.
Also, while I can appreciate your bohemian lifestyle, I don’t have the luxury that you appear to have (whether through your parents’ trust fund or a desire not to work) of taking multi-month or multi-year trips. We love to travel, and yes, we love places with at least the rudiments of development so that our very brief trips are just a bit more enjoyable.
If you one day have a family, or a full-time job (or better yet, both), you may find that it is not so easy to spend weeks at a time in every obscure location on the globe—in fact, you have to pick and choose carefully, relying on the advice of friends and travel forum members. Hopefully, if that day comes, you won’t encounter some douchebag who mocks your tastes as being too pedestrian.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here, dear readers, are TEN WAYS TO TELL IF YOU’RE A TRAVEL SNOB.
1. You’ve sewn a Canadian flag to your travel backpack—and you have always lived in the U.S.
2. You, when in a foreign country, and around other tourists, speak to your travel companions in the local language, so that the other Americans around you won’t think you’re a fellow countryman and talk to you. Note: on our honeymoon in Brussels, the female of the couple sitting beside us at a restaurant attempted to talk to her boyfriend the entire time in French. Nice try, ma’am. Not only did we not care to talk to you anyway, but we could tell you weren’t natives—my French was better than yours.
3. You come from a wealthy first world country, and lament how a particular island is going to become “spoiled” or “overdeveloped”—because the locals are building their first road.
4. You think a hotel isn’t “authentic” if your room contains climate control or its own bathroom.
5. You have met a local whose entire year’s wages are less than one week of your own, and you tell them, knowingly, that they’re better off the way they are.
6. You decry an area as “too touristy” when you see more white faces than just your own.
7. You call an area a “tourist trap” if it’s mentioned in Lonely Planet.
8. You’ve spent less than a year in Britain, and started speaking with a British accent.
9. You refer to every trip to any place you’ve taken more two years ago as being “before it became too commercialized.”
10. You refer to the poor, working class traditional people in your host country as “authentic,” while referring to those people in your home country as “rednecks.”
To the great members of Thorn Tree, thanks for the help, and thanks, most of you, for not being travel snobs. http://investtheworld.blogspot.com