By Lucy Miller
Nobody wants to be that person on a trip. You know who I’m talking about, the one who makes you cringe, the one you makes you angry, or, quite simply, the one misinformed soul who is giving the rest of us free-spirited wanderers a bad name. But what if that person (heaven forbid) is actually you?
Here’s how to spot the tell-tale signs of backpacker with bad habits. Avoid these at all costs.
1. Being unprepared in the airport security queue
Wearing ALL your jewellery, are you? I mean, obviously I can see why you’d need to wear seven metal bracelets and a spiked necklace to sit for nine hours on a long-haul flight, and I can completely see why you forgot to take them off before you attempted to pass unscathed through the airport metal detector. And why you’re now arguing with the security guard. All this logic seems to be serving you well. Oh wait.
2. Falling into tourist traps just because they’re busy
Unless of course you want to spend those precious travel funds on overpriced food that you could get anywhere in the world. If you’re travelling rather than just holidaying, we’re guessing this isn’t the case – so don’t be scared to divert from the well-trodden guide book path and uncover your own under-the-radar gems. All clever travellers know that the best stories start this way.
3. Being the over-enthusiastic (ahem, creepy) solo traveller
Spending time alone is something that just happens when you’re travelling for an extended amount of time, especially if you’re passing through on your way to meet more friends after leaving another group elsewhere. It’s common, so don’t try to overcompensate. And don’t be the guy who joins a random group over dinner in Bratislava because “there are no other tables”, insists they meet him later for drinks and then kicks up a fuss when they’re not waiting for him at 10pm on the dot. Don’t be him. No one wants to be him.
4. Being territorial over your new best hostel friends
Yes, you arrived at the hostel on the first evening and immediately found your people – and now you’ve spent ten days traversing Central Europe’s most ruined bars and honestly, you can’t remember a time when you didn’t know them. But we’d just like to remind you that that time was less than a fortnight ago, and that these people are not your property. At some point, they are going to meet new travel friends. They might even be tempted away by them and leave you for roads not yet travelled. Try not to be too offended by this. Also, see point #3.
5. Not having an opinion
Yes, we get it – you’re pretty chilled out about where you go, what you do, who tags along and who doesn’t. You don’t care how long you stay in the city before heading up the coast, or whether it’s a hostel or a hotel, or if a train or a bus is the best option – and you’re happy spending time in the art gallery, or the market, or on the beach. Hey, you’re easy! Except you’re not, because you’re leaving all the important decisions to your lucky travel companions and getting away with just the fun part. They’re not your parents, and this is not cool.
6. …or being the itinerary Nazi
So your friends want to stay another night in Bangkok, but you’re ready to head, and suddenly you can hear yourself talking about previously agreed train times and seeing as much as possible and this not being the original plan – and we MUST stick to the original plan.
Breathe. Travel plans change. If you’re in the minority, don’t go off in a huff. This is a democracy and if you’re going to avoid drama, you need to be open to change. Now, relax please.
7. Being scared to try terrifying foods
Hamster on a stick, cockroach pie, blended frog smoothie? It’s a story. Go for it
8. Living through a lens
You can’t remember a single conversation you had in three months trekking across the Andes because you were spending the entire time angling your iPhone camera, and you missed those breathtaking final few seconds of sunrise because you were selected the perfect filter. Shucks.
9. Taking photographs with no imagination
Oh wow – look at that picture of you sitting on a bench in front of the Taj Mahal/holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa/picking up a Pyramid with your thumb and index finger! That’s unique…
Or not. When attempting your Instagram-filtered very amateur travel photography, do us a favour and at least try to come up with a picture that western visitors haven’t already shared to the internet 549 times just this year. Please. No more Princess Diana shots.
10. Forgetting cultural nuances
Yes, India is hot and sleeves are restrictive – but do you really want to be that person walking down the street with your shoulders out? Even if you don’t care about the stares, you know that in certain areas this is not respectful. Scarves are your very good friends here. Get shopping.
11. Whining about relatively minor discomforts
We’re talking train delays, confused waiters bringing the wrong food, not understanding the currency, perceived rudeness from locals… don’t be the negative one, unless you want your companions to be fully justified in abandoning you in Zagreb before day three is out.
12. Getting too drunk on the first night
…and spending the next three days in bed in a vodka coma. You might as well be at home.
13. Speaking very, very slowly in English
It isn’t a stretch to say that, if you’re on a tourist trail, the majority of people you encounter will speak at least a few words of English. But occasionally they might not – and even if you’re totally thrown (and don’t speak a single world of Swahili/German/Thai) you’re going to have to work it out somehow. Speaking slowly and loudly, pointing and looking confused are not going to get you out of this one.
14. Talking about it endlessly when you get back
Let us take a moment to remind you of Orlando:
You’re not Orlando, of course. At least, we definitely hope that you’re not. But if you can’t stop talking about how much you helped those poor African orphans by just being there, you might start to remind people of him. And it’ll be entirely your own fault.
15. …or forgetting it entirely
One of the main accusations levelled at those engaging in ‘voluntourism’ (now, there’s a word) is that their efforts don’t necessarily have long-term effects. It’s often true – even if you’ve spent the last eight months fully absorbed in the activities of a Nigerian street school it might fly to the back of your mind as soon as you hit the UK tarmac. If you’ve made promises, keep them.
Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments…
Lucy Miller is Assistant Editor of The National Student, a lifestyle platform written by and for UK students. Visit the site here.
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Thanks to Titanas for the image from Flickr. Please note, all Flickr images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.