Travel is all about meeting people: locals, fellow wanderers, enthusiastic tour guides, con men and perhaps even your soul mate. You might set out as a solo traveler, but it’s impossible to stay alone for long.
Of course, the problem is that sometimes you might prefer to go it alone. That’s when you meet one of those dreaded travelers.
They linger in hostel common rooms, they strike up conversations on buses, they corner you at famous landmarks, they try to exchange words in restaurants as you’re engulfed in your solo diner’s security blanket – a good book.
These travellers drive you nuts and they make you crave your solitude, but as much as they annoy you, travel just wouldn’t be the same without them.
TYPE ONE: The Penny-Pinching Hippie
The traveler vs. tourist debate rages on: tourists observe while travelers experience, but snobbish backpackers might do well to remember that ‘tourists’ also spend money when they travel – lots of it. When did travel become all about spending as little as possible?
Everyone’s met this type of traveler – a dreadlocked, barefooted meat-hater who likes to brag about their lack of luggage and how they managed to live in India for a month on $100. Wake up and smell the incense, hippies: sure, grass-roots travel is all about avoiding multi-nationals in favour of local businesses, but shelling out two or three dollars a day is worse than spending vast chunks of change in five-star hotels – at least that creates employment.
You want to scream at them that spending less than the locals does not make you one of them, nor does it make you a superior traveler. But as infuriating as the penny-pincher is, you’re glad of them when you need to vent after a stressful day of haggling with traders or arguing with deceitful tour guides. You have to have someone to take your travel angers out on, and challenging the miser on their cheap travel philosophy is better than screaming at the next local who approaches you to practice their English.
TYPE TWO: The Klingon
We’re not talking alien life forms here, nor Star Trek aficionados (although they might also make it onto this list). Think of those people you meet en route who travel alone but can’t bear to be alone.
You meet in the hostel bar then hook up to visit a temple or sample the local nightlife but as far as you’re concerned that’s where the relationship ends. Sadly, the Klingon has other ideas.
You find them lingering outside your dorm wondering “what are we doing today?” and you quickly discover that when they asked for your email/cell number/Facebook ID that they actually intended to use it.
Of course Klingons do have their uses, and if you’re feeling a little lonely, you know they’ll always be there to provide some company. Granted, they’ll also be there to annoy the hell out of you when you’re craving solitude, and alas, scraping off a Klingon can be a tricky business – these are sensitive beings. You could try lauding the virtues of solo travel and how it helps you grow.
Failing that, change your travel plans and move on – unannounced of course.
TYPE THREE: The Bragger
“Everybody hates me because I’ve been everywhere,” they claim on first meeting, but this is not entirely true. It’s correct that people don’t like the bragger, but it’s really because they claim to have been everywhere.
They might fill a passport a year or they might wander just as much as those around them, but the difference is that they feel the need to shout their travel exploits from the rooftops.
Dig deeper and you’ll find the bragger is often a novice traveler. Uneasy with their own accomplishments, they feel the need to shove them in others’ faces. If you want to play them at their own game, then pulling out your tales of Moldovan wine tasting, Burmese hiking trips or counting polar bears in Greenland will probably make them realize that they’re not the only ones who know how to strap on a backpack.
Or why not take the high road and just let them boast? If nothing else the bragger creates a wonderfully harmonious atmosphere since they tend to serve as a common enemy, uniting everyone else in their midst.
TYPE FOUR: The Late Starter
This might be a controversial choice, but hear me out. Every ESL school, ex-pat bar or backpacker joint has its, erm, more senior members. Nine times out of ten they’re cool ex-hippies or worldly-wise grandmothers starting a new chapter. Their stories are cool, their experiences awesome and their attitudes inspiring.
But every so often you find yourself unable to avoid the traveler who everyone refers to as ‘Weird Older Guy.’ He thinks he’s 21. He lingers lecherously around female travelers trying unsuccessfully to strike up conversation. And however much you admire his spirit it’s kind of like hanging out with your friend’s dad (or your dad’s friend) – odd and uncomfortable.
Your first instinct will be to give the late starter a wide berth, but give the old guy a try – he (or she) is bound have some cool tales to tell. If it all gets too weird and he’s inviting you to strip clubs or all-night drinking sessions, appeal to his ego – tell him he has more energy than you and you just can’t keep up.
TYPE FIVE: The Giggling, Guzzling Gap Year Student
There comes a time when your travel preferences change.
Call it grouchiness, call it jealousy, but listening to a group of teens screeching about how wasted they got last night while you’re trying to write in your journal rarely makes it onto a ‘top travel experiences’ list. I’m sure lots of them are lovely, but for every young traveler eager to explore the world, there’s a gaggle of gap year students whose main goal is another stamp in the passport and another notch on the backpack. And if that means stumbling in at 3am and keeping their peers awake with noisy dorm sex then so be it.
Just be grateful if you don’t have to hear about it the next day.
Of course, if you’re much over 25, they’ll be pretty keen to avoid you, too (perhaps seeing you as Type Four, above). If you do get trapped in a ‘flashback to freshman year,’ telling them you’re teetotal should do the trick.
TYPE SIX: The One Who Should’ve Stayed Home
For all the faults the Penny Pinchers, Klingons and co. have, they are nothing compared to this guy. He’s the traveler who seems to hate travel.
At his worst he’s racist and offensive – at best he constantly criticizes whatever country he’s in, claiming that the food/weather/landscape/culture is better back home.
His reason for traveling is a mystery. Perhaps he seeks to convince himself of his own superiority. Perhaps he just loves a good moan. Or perhaps his goal is to irritate every traveler who crosses his path.
Thanks to their love of confrontation you will never win an argument with Type Six. The best plan of attack is to remain obscenely cheerful and tell them how wonderful the country you’re visiting is – even if you don’t believe it!
Mindless optimism is the only thing they’ll shrink from, which is the only plus point of having these folks around. You might have lost your passport, been royally ripped off, spent 15 hours on a cramped and toilet-less bus and checked into the grottiest hostel in town all in the same day, but butting heads with this obnoxious wanderer will turn you into the country in question’s most vocal supporter.
- 10 Things Backpackers Do Often But Don’t Talk About
- 10 Backpacker Stereotypes You’ll Meet on the Road
- How to Impress Guys from Around the World
- Stupid Travel Arguments (And Why We Should Stop Having Them)