Travel Fetishes, Obsessions and the Things We Can’t Do Without


Huh? What do you mean? I don’t understand.

Possibly the most awkward and powerful f-word in the English language, hearing –or reading- the word fetish makes most people uncomfortable. Their mind immediately leaves it’s ‘happy place’ and slips quickly and quietly into the ‘dark-side’.

You’re standing at a bus stop, angel on your right shoulder and the devil on your left. It’s a typical day. Sun is shinning, birds are singing and all three of you are chilling out waiting for your ride. Then, BOOM! Someone standing close to you says the f-word. Fetish. You let it float around your mind a little. The devil does his happy dance and leaps with excitement. The sky grows dark and cloudy. A small smile spreads on your face, then WHACK! The angel snaps you back to attention and admonishes you. Oh, the shame! The thoughts! Tisk tisk.

The f-word is naughty, right? It conjures images of S&M, feet, people who enjoy being spanked and much more. It’s juicy, kinky, sexy and taboo. The sound sends chills throughout your body. You should keep saying the word over and over in your mind, you’re starting to sound like the Hyena in Lion King who kept saying “Mufasa” and shaking each time.

“I like watching country-specific porn (as long as its not child porn). You learn a lot about a culture while watching people having sex. Are they reserved, adventurous, passionate, sick? Are the dudes hung? Are the girls hot? Besides learning, it can be very inspiring: have I ever tried that before?” – Jen

But fetishes are not always sexually based. In fact, there is a wide range of fetishes out there. Let’s start with a brief definition to help you understand what makes something a fetish.

{fet·ish}- any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion

Do you feel the calm, the peace? Still feel a wee bit dirty, huh.

I recently asked some fellow travelers on Twitter for their fetish confessions. It took a little explaining (I imagine due to the angel/devil scenario mentioned above), but here are some of their confessions.

“I swipe pens and notepads from every hotel I visit. My house is full of pens from around the world. It’s a sickness.”- Andrew

“Rockabilly guys with lotsa tattoos.” – Erica

“I’m too easily excited by dogs. Dogs delight me. The sight of dogs could distract me from conversation and from the direction I was walking to. My face will turn into a huge ear to ear smile. If the dog is leashed to a pole or something and the owner is not around, quite sure I will spend time talking to it. If camera is in my hand, quite sure I will try to sneak taking picture of it, without the knowledge of its owner. So I have so many pictures of random and blurry dogs, many from behind because that’s the most likely timing the owner won’t notice. My dog picture collection looks like I’m about to kidnap these doggies.”- Dina

“I steal the safety cards from airplanes. Before I ever used them for blog posts, I snagged them purely because I found them hysterical.” – Mike

Starting to feel better? As I mentioned above, fetishes can be anything. I have a thing for guys with shaved heads. So much so, that my brothers gave me a poster of Stone Cold Steve Austin for Christmas one year as a joke. Pardon me while I go drool and purr.

Okay, I’m good now. I think. Where was I? Ah, yes! Fetishes can be anything, as illustrated above. A fetish is basically an obsession, kind of like an OCD. In today’s society we’ve been trained to think of fetishes as taboo and wrong, but they don’t have to be. One of my biggest fetishes is bags. Handbags, shoulder bags, any bag. I am obsessed with bags. While preparing for my round-the-world adventures I’ve had the worst time trying to decide which bags to bring, and which ones to leave behind. They’re my babies. Mama can’t leave her babies behind. That’s just sick and WRONG! Perhaps the rest of this conversation should be saved for a therapist. Maybe I can find one with a shaved head. Hmmm…

Aside from inanimate objects and animals (Whoa boy! Come back to the PG side of the convo!), fetishes can also involve food and drink.

“Then there is my ridiculous love of kebabs. Not even good kebabs—the cheapest, dirtiest kebabs I can find. And it doesn’t even have to be at 3am. I’ll go for ‘em in daylight.” –Adam

“I am that girl that has to have a Coke in every country. First thing in the morning I’ve had glass bottle ones in northern Thailand and 6 kuna ones in Croatia. Can’t get enough.”- Caroline

“Pizza. I’m sorely disappointed if I’m unable to track down at least a halfway decent pizza in a country. If I have just one meal in a a new country it would have to be pizza. I generally gauge my opinion of locations around the world based on my experience with it, whether it is maize pizza in Medellin or your standard margarita in Kuala Lumpur. You might say I travel for pizza.”- Joey

“I’m not sure if this counts as a fetish… BUT, whenever I go somewhere I HAVE to find saltwater taffy. It all started when my mom and I would go to the Oregon coast when I was little and I would bring it back for my dad. Now, where ever I am in the world I have to try and find it and bring it back for him.”- Shannon

Fetishes can also be funny and odd. I howled with laughter after reading with these ones.

“I don’t do this anymore, but when I studied abroad in college & traveled through Europe, I would pocket one single square of toilet paper from every public bathroom I used. I ended up putting them in my photo album of that trip. My favorites are the square from the toilet at the top of the Eiffel Tower (I kept thinking about how long it had to go to flush) that was vaguely streamer-like in its texture and stretch, and the DB-stamped square from the German train I took to Prague.” Jessica

“I love using public restrooms in famous places. Wish I had thought of it years ago and took pics. I’ve used the WC everywhere from the Eiffel Tower to the Hagia Sopfia.”- Matt

“Ha, I’m with you on the bathroom obsession. Not only do I use them but I get a sick sense of pleasure from trying to guess where the bathrooms are located.” – Brian

What’s with the bathroom fascination? I know we all have this thing about looking in the toilet before we flush (Oh yes, you do it too. Stop saying you don’t). I actually took a photo of a squat toilet in China a few years ago. I was mesmerized. I showed it to my family! Seriously, why are we all obsessed with dung? I don’t get it.

Aside from men with shaved heads, bags and ahem-the above, I’m also obsessed with cocktails. I’m not an alcoholic. I just love the taste of them. I want one in every country I visit. There are so many options and varieties. The blue ones are the yummiest. Mmmm

Whatever your fetish is, don’t be ashamed of it. Beat that angel’s ass and embrace it. Shout it from the rooftops, share your confession with friends or fellow travelers- unless it’s illegal, you might want to keep that one quiet.

Pamela is the author of Spunky Girl Monologues, a blog about the spunky solo side of travel. In July 2010, Pamela quit her job to pursue her dream of sustainable travel. The adventure began Sept. 10, 2010. Follow her on twitter: @spunkygirllogue

Photos: shoes by Pamela McNaughtan, dog by VagabondQuest

Filed under: 170, Travelers