The Eight Most Annoying Travelers You’ll Meet on the Road

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.

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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

Hippie

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

The American-hater

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

Rapelling

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

photographer

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.

>> Find out why you shouldn’t join the Peace Corps and read How to Add Volunteering to Your RTW Trip

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:

Photos by: gaudiramone, bjosefowiczJustin Dressel, naotakem, blue monkeyzoetnet, esSos.de, astorg

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  • Doug Walsh said at 2013-06-28T20:38:39+0000: Here's the one you missed, and the one I personally find most annoying: the low budget one-upper. This is the type of traveler who is either always bragging about how little they paid or how much they were to able to snag for next to nothing OR they're rudely trying to mock those around them for "overpaying" as if a great trip couldn't possibly be had on more than $5/day or without relying on handouts.
  • Joey Jordan said at 2013-11-01T20:37:50+0000: Is the UK part of the eu?
  • Lynne James said at 2013-06-29T09:17:56+0000: Met all of these types, most memorable were the two Valley Girls on the train between Florence and Rome. They were so on-stereotype they were like, a parody of themselves. I looked around for the cameraman, sure they were actors filming "Buffy and Babsy go to Italy". Whatevah.
  • Michael Fried said at 2013-06-28T20:53:22+0000: Apparently David Joshua Jennings forgot the most annoying group; the people who try to show how worldly they are by nitpicking at ridiculous points (like someone saying Brits and Europeans).
  • Karin Harvey said at 2013-06-30T10:55:16+0000: Yeah! I'm a bitter imperialist! and proud of it.
  • Matt Ward said at 2013-06-28T22:00:20+0000: I would rather have met all these people than spend the time I did reading this article.
  • Rick Zimmerman said at 2013-06-29T08:48:11+0000: This is insanely spot on. Excellent!
  • Year of the Durian said at 2013-07-30T17:24:56+0000: This was hilarious! Thank you! I especially loved the part about the "spoiled western tourists" shrinking in fear from backpackers. I remember the first time I got that look, a mixture of fear and disgust, and then I realized that I hadn't slept the night before and had spent the whole day tramping around with my backpack on in the sun. Different strokes I guess! If you get the chance, please check out our travel site www.yearofthedurian.com. A bit quirky, but with your sense of humor you might enjoy it.
  • Jane Long said at 2013-07-03T14:21:11+0000: I can think of a couple you have left off. First, there is the complainer who thinks everything in whatever location is inferior because it isn't like home or he/she doesn't have the conveniences of home. I put into this category the people who complained that they could not purchase a cheeseburger in Israel. I want to tell such people that they should just stay home if that is what they want. Closely related is the person who says insulting things about the country being visited whether it is about their religion, cultural practices, infrastructure, foods, etc. I encountered a number of these on a tour of India who loudly ridiculed in front of our tour guide the religious rites performed at Varanasi (yes, I am one of those travelers who sometimes signs up for tours). How can such people expect to have any meaningful connection with the citizens of that country when they are saying insulting things about them?
  • Terri Lynn Merritts said at 2013-06-29T19:30:56+0000: What a pompous, arrogant, and bigoted pile of crap this is. I don't care to be around any drunks, young or old, but the newbies who care what happens to their laptops and health should not be made fun of nor should those on spiritual journeys, those who get a week or two of vacation and go on trips, the intrepid who try out things you don't have the courage to do, those who like to take photos, those who criticize American actions (like spying on citizens and invading countries that didn't attack us so to occupy and boss them forever), and certainly not those who have combined their vacation time with volunteering to make the lives of people in need better or to further protection of the earth and its inhabitants. No, I guess you don't want to hear of how happy someone was to save a poor starving child's life in Chad while you don't help anyone and just want to guzzle beer until you pass out.There are different types of travelers and I think it is wonderful to see people get out and see new places. You seem to think that only people who run around dirty and smelly riding cheap buses and wallowing with the poor and sleeping in a bag or rented sheet among other unwashed people who also eat hepatitis bearing food off the street are valid travelers and even then only if they don't take pictures, ask questions, do any good deeds, have a spiritual side not involving drugs, do anything you are scared to do, or travel differently than you do.I go to 6 continents regularly. I take a LOT of photos. My daughter and husband take a lot of photos and guess what- we sell a lot of them professionally. We bring a slice of where we have been to others who are then inspired to want to go there. We do a lot of volunteer travel. No one is doing this to add to their resume or to brag. You get a special emotional high from this and want to talk to others about your experiences. It is hardly our fault if you don't ever bother to do the same and feel a little crummy about it. We also like adventure travel and have gone to hotbeds of unrest but not to brag about it. What's wrong with you- jealous? As for spirituality, many people who do this are Christians who go to Israel and Italy.Our family only flies first class and only travels first class on trains. We stay in luxury hotels and eat at good restaurants. How does this make our travel experiences inferior to those who travel as if they were homeless? Both are choices and there is nothing wrong with either. Why write such a negative article criticizing people for going out of their comfort zones into the world? I think it should be encouraged, not mocked because they do things differently from you.
  • Bill Beasley said at 2013-07-03T14:02:55+0000: Then there are the people who divide travelers into groups and find something mean to say about each group.
  • Joan Crounse said at 2013-06-28T15:21:18+0000: The "spoiled westerner" on the bus doesn't bother me so much, especially if they are up in years. At least they are getting out of their comfort zone and not just going to FL (or wherever old people go in their country) every year. How do people go to Disney year after year after year and not get bored? The type that annoys me is the young adult who sleeps while traveling from place to place, spends evenings in the bars, sleeps all day in the hostel, and then brags about all the places he/she has been. What have they actually experienced of the country?
  • Ageless GlobeTravels said at 2013-07-01T14:54:28+0000: Still laughing and cringing. I think I'm the happy snapper! Great article and SO spot on.
  • Jennifer Miller said at 2013-06-28T20:47:44+0000: GREAT article... I laughed all the way through. SO FUN and FUNNY and TRUE! Any man who can work "solipsistic" into the first paragraph of annoying things simultaneously wins the game and my heart! <3 Nicely done.
  • Denise Pulis said at 2011-09-13T08:30:58+0000: why does the author keep saying 'British and European' as if they were different? Brits ARE European!
  • James Quintana Pearce said at 2011-09-13T17:38:36+0000: The only other one I would add is the Compulsive Advisor: People who give unasked for advice about a place, what you should do, how you should get around and detailed information on what the place is "really" like. This is particularly annoying if you obviously know the place a lot better than they do. For example, people telling me what Mexico is "really" like after their month-long visit, despite the fact I've lived there for 8 years.
  • Mriga Rao said at 2011-09-17T06:05:38+0000: writer has an extremely annoying tone, the little blurb at the bottom claiming that all these are stereotypes doesn't help the rest of the article where everyone and everything seems to disgust the writer. maybe we should add another category, disillusioned travel writer! lol
  • Darren Weir said at 2011-09-13T15:28:13+0000: What a brilliantly written article! You covered off everyone I have met in my travels... and yes they are the most annoying people you will meet! I was trying to think of something witty to add... but can't compete with your sardonic wit!
  • Cat Gaa said at 2011-09-14T14:42:42+0000: As an American living abroad myself, I tend to flee from my countrymen. Not all of them, just the ones who take those dreadful buses! Fun read.
  • Gareth Phillips said at 2011-09-14T08:16:29+0000: Love it! They missed the drunken Welshman with very little money and a guitar. (From what I remember).
  • Jesue Valle said at 2011-11-05T11:47:26+0000: Can I just say how perfect the images are in this article. I can vividly imagine the people in the photos doing exactly what you wrote in the descriptions. Made me giggle.
  • Sherry Hardage said at 2011-11-01T23:08:26+0000: I'm glad to have proper names for these irritants I thought the Spiritual Seekers I met were just guys trying a new approach for hitting on women. Well, I still think that, but now there's a better name for them than the one I'd adopted.....
  • Liesbet Collaert said at 2011-09-19T18:33:29+0000: How about the traveler who keeps raving about the amount of countries he/she visited as if the more countries you visit the more experienced and important you are? Fun article!
  • Sean E Keener said at 2011-09-16T13:54:47+0000: I love this take.We wrote a similar piece - not as well back in 1999, a few months after we started BootsnAll.http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/99-07/travellers-weve-all-met-part-i.html
  • Jeremy R. Last said at 2011-09-15T15:48:40+0000: Bitter much? Travelers should be so lucky to be one of these types, in fact I think all travelers should strive to be all of them at some point.