It has been said that “travel broadens the mind,” but this is a bit simplistic and isn’t always the case. Nor is it true that all travelers possess a similar personality type, or that they are all adventurous, open-minded, or courageous. Sometimes people travel to give meaning to their lives when they don’t have any. They define themselves through travel, styling themselves as independent adventurers and looking down upon the general slew going to and from their offices each day. Their only concerns are where they have been and where they are going next. I, me, mine. Travel becomes solipsistic.
Travel can improve you and help you learn more about yourself and the world, but it doesn’t always. As the world becomes smaller and smaller with ease of access, the caliber of people you meet on the road seems to be steadily dwindling, while the number of annoying travelers is on the rise.
I’ve made a list of the eight most annoying traveler types as a guide to spotting annoying behavior in yourself and others. Most of the insight comes from my own behavior, so don’t feel embarrassed if you see yourself in this list.
The spiritual seeker
Sometimes mistaken for “hippies” (distinguished by their long hair and dislike of baths), the roots of the Spiritual Seeker can found in ancient history, though most scholars generally agree the modern sub-category prevalent throughout the world today can be traced back to the invention of LSD.
Generally an honest and tender lot, these herbivores usually travel alone and can be found almost anywhere east of the Carpathian Mountains, particularly in India. Traversing the world in search of the sort of meaning only irrational myths can offer, spiritual seekers are normally fierce opponents of anything Western, particularly Christianity, but at the same time tend to be a reliable source of false information about religions of the East.
They are often distinguished by loose-fitting clothing and dreadlocks and the best way to find one is to go to a Rainbow Gathering or walk around Marrakesh listening for bongo drums or a guitar. After tramping around the world for months on end they will often return home barefoot and wearing clothing that makes them look a little absurd.
All that aside, spiritual seekers are often a kind-hearted and enjoyable people as long as they are not talking about anything spiritual. They are pleasant company under the influence of drugs.
>> Check out Spiritual Retreats on an Around the World Trip
The drunken American fraternity boy / sorority girl
The natural grazing pastures for this a-bit-too-common breed are normally limited to the continental US, Mexico and the Caribbean, although they have been making steady headway into Europe in recent years. Much of their typical behavior patterns can also be found among those hard-partying contingents of Aussie and European gap year travelers as well.
Migration periods tend to last no more than a week and usually consist of a home-to-destination trajectory, rarely deviating into matters of cultural interest. They tend to gather in places with high concentrations of alcohol and low concentrations of philosophy, and are sometimes fun to party with after heavy inebriation and if the music is loud enough to prohibit conversation.
Although they often travel in herds, the mobile community at large tends to segregate along male/female lines antagonistic towards one another during the daylight. When night falls, however, this temporary gender alliance mutates into widespread same-sex competition and drunken combat, particularly among the males.
Due to hazing rituals, these groups tend to be highly collegial and xenophobic, meaning a single Alpha often controls group behavior and attempts at outsider integration could be met with violence. To penetrate the group, whether they be Alpha Gamma Phi Mu or Gamma Beta Pi Phi, one must discover the common group identity, wear a baseball cap with that logo, and preferably enter their circle carrying a beer bong.
>> Read about places to mix drinking and cultural experiences
These tend to be “small-town-intellectual” types, meaning they are generally the smartest person at the poker table or in an internet chat room. Most hail from Europe, but are still found in significant numbers among Australian, English and especially Canadian backpacking populations (there is also the special breed of the American-Hater who is actually from America).
Indicative behavior includes: ignoring unattractive behavior from their compatriots while simultaneously complaining about similar behavior in Americans; shrinking American diversity into a pro-typical obese ignorant beer monster; complaining about the annoying monotone accents of Americans; blaming their county’s problems on America; blaming the world’s problems on America; blaming their own problems on America; “the look” (a contraction of facial muscles into a squinched combination of superiority and disgust after witnessing such events as a “high five” or upon hearing the phrase “my bad.”); complaining about yards, Fahrenheit, or gallons; and verbally abusing what they call “American culture” while actively participating in and promoting it.
They can be separated into three types: Bitter imperialists (British and Europeans), facsimiles (generally Kiwis or Australians who dislike Americans while simultaneously acting in the same ways as they do) and Canadians. Canadians are the toughest opponent because they generally tend to be accurate when it comes to their assessment of Americans, which is especially annoying.
The most intrepid traveler in the world
Often, you need to be pretty intrepid yourself to encounter these travelers, for the philosophy they follow is that of the rhinoceros – nomadic, solitary, weird. Known to use the US State Department’s Travel Alert newsletter to plan their itineraries, disregarding all familial and societal responsibilities and throwing themselves into the hottest cauldrons of danger around the world, these bold, sometimes socially awkward adventurers tend to be found high among the most evil of mountains, or in regions of extreme poverty, unrest or warfare.
The virtue they worship most is provocativeness. They are a rare amalgamation of personality types, which, when combined, compels them to forge an identity based on egocentric bravery, usually in order to anger/impress an overbearing/uncaring parent. Within moments of meeting one they will somehow manage to squeeze into the conversation their most daring exploit like their recent travels in Pakistan or the many times they escaped death traveling in the FARC-controlled jungles of Colombia.
Often, because of the need to maintain a courageous identity within the eyes of assumed admirers, this traveler tends not to reveal any vulnerability about him or herself, making them less rounded human beings, and after listening to seven or so stories about how close they came to death, eventually quite vapid. They also tend to blog about their awesomeness.
The overenthusiastic newbie
We all know them. We all were them at one point. But of course, now that we are worldly and wise, we find them annoying.
When a group of hardcore tramps has gathered round a campfire and the role of storyteller is being passed from hand to hand, when it reaches these timid creatures we listeners are usually rewarded with something awkward and boring.
These travelers have usually just quit their office job or just began their gap year before university. They have shiny new backpacks and stars in their eyes and an enormous Lonely Planet in their hand. All three months of their trip has been planned out meticulously. They trek through the streets of Italy with hiking rods. No, they can’t stay overnight here – all their important stuff is at the hostel. No, they’d rather not eat street food – they don’t want hepatitis B.
Their conversation generally revolves around how different things are here, or whether anyone thinks it will be safe if they leave their laptop in the hotel room, or what you thought of the museum. They can often be overheard saying things such as “what have I gotten myself into,” “you only live once,” “when in Rome,” and “I’m a traveler, not a tourist.”
They sometimes apologize about their country too much if they’re from the West. They don’t really know how to act around poor people yet – a sudden panic rushes into their faces if a beggar grabs their pant leg. They have difficulties finding their way home at night. They ask too many questions.
>>If you’re a newbie traveler, sign up for our free Plan Your RTW Trip in 30 Days course.
The spoiled westerner
One day you will be walking along a boulevard in some “exotic” city and will be feeling pretty daring and independent, then you will round a corner, and bam, there they will be. Peeking over the handrail atop a red double-decker tour bus, fanning themselves with tour brochures, wearing fanny packs, flower shirts, and clip-on sunglasses, the pink frightened people will stare down at you as though you were an alien.
These are the spoiled westerners, the middle-class one-week-a-year tourists. For months they’ve slaved at jobs they hate and have managed, now that their children are older, to purchase a 7-day package tour of the orient or somewhere equally “daring,” where they will spend much of their time in an air-conditioned hotel room, or lying on the beach absorbing the sun’s radiation until their skin is red leather, and complaining about how dirty the food is or how late the buses are.
Spoiled westerners typically graze in territories dependent on their nationality. North Americans can be found throughout the Caribbean, Australians are most likely encountered in Southeast Asia, and the Turkish coasts are popular with Europeans – particularly Russians and Brits.
As they are generally quite insular, suspicious of foreigners, and especially of trampy backpackers, you will most likely not have many interactions with these people. Their annoyance simply comes from their presence. Clutching their handbags and following the tour guide’s upthrust flag like moths behind a lamplight, these hulky, beef-eating reminders of your society’s affluence will destroy the ambiance wherever they are.
>> Find out how to make a tour guide work for you
The snap-happy photography enthusiast
Stand there, let me take a picture! Hold on, let me take a picture! Stand there, let me take a picture! Can you take my picture? Can you take my picture? Hold on, let me take a picture!
Cameras, camera phones, and Instagram have become a bane in this world. The need to photograph absolutely everything is a curse, and it has been infinitely accelerated by the invention of Facebook and digital photography. Most of us no longer take photographs for aesthetic reasons, we take photos to upload them on social networking sites in an attempt to attract admiration. This is particularly true of travelers. Ignoring the fact the some place like the Taj Mahal has been photographed 17 trillion times, a few thousand people continue to snap the same photograph every day. A zeppelin could burst into flames behind the photographer, and it wouldn’t matter.
We rarely actually look at what we’re photographing any more. It is almost as if we now travel to document our experience and then brag about it rather than to actually experience it.
The worst of this lot is the must-take-a-picture-of-and-in-front-of-absolutely-everything photography enthusiast. These people just don’t get it. Often these tend also to be overenthusiastic newbies, but they can be anyone, really. These people feel a divine urge to document everything they do, and ruin many of the things they photograph by standing in front of the camera with an exaggerated smile.
>> Get tips for taking better photos
The Boastful Volunteer Worker
Okay, we get it. You’re an outstanding and virtuous person. You’ve been blessed with the free time and money to whisk yourself into the unfathomably depressing shadows of this world, and you’ve survived to tell the tale. But it’s a weekend, and we’re on holiday, and we’re trying to have a beer, and all you’re doing is making everyone else feel horrible and guilty that we’re not doing more to help the less fortunate.
So you’ve just returned from Chad. I’m feeling sick and don’t want to eat the rest of my chips and you keep telling me about staring into the eyes of starving children. Where was I when you were rescuing an orphaned boy from the mouth of a lion? I don’t know, probably working. I understand your one month stint in Uganda has given you an insight into death and poverty never before seen, but really, the superiority you project to strangers is getting on everyone’s nerves. What you have been doing with your free time is very admirable, but when you go around boasting about it, then its valor is somewhat diminished, particularly if you’re only doing it to beef up your resume.
Obviously, these are just stereotypes of some of the most annoying traveler traits. Not all American fraternity or sorority members are traveling drunks just looking to party on spring break. Most volunteers are gracious and humble. Not all Westerners are spoiled, and not everyone who takes a tour is annoying and clueless. Not all hard-core adventure travelers are ego-maniacs, and some people really do find spiritual enlightenment on a trip.
Few travelers fit squarely into any travel type, though many of us may recognize bits and pieces of ourselves in each stereotype. And of course, there’s one glaring omission: travelers who make sweeping generalizations and judgments of other travelers. While we can all take a step back to poke fun and laugh at those annoying traits we see in others and in ourselves, most of us travel to open our minds, broaden our perspectives, and challenge the assumptions we’ve made about ourselves, each other, and the world.
Read more about different travel types, and fill out a traveler profile to join the BootsnAll community of travelers:
- 10 Backpacker Stereotypes
- 10 Things Backpackers Do But Don’t Often Talk About
- How to Impress Guys From Around the World
- Stupid Travel Arguments – Andy Why We Should Stop Having Them