Nobody wants to be called a dumbass. At least, nobody that I know of. However, locals and wise travelers may label you as a dumbass for various reasons. I have definitely witnessed my fair share of traveling dumbasses and I don’t want you to become one of them. So, without further ado, here is a list on how not to travel like a dumbass.
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Did you know that there are currently hundreds of backpackers in Thailand who have gone on an amazing vacation but did not budget their money well and now cannot afford to get home? Guess how they’re paying for their flights back home? They are literally begging in the streets asking locals and other travelers for money to get home.
Not only is it foolish to book a trip you know you cannot afford but it is extremely disrespectful to local people, many of whom may actually be begging for money to survive. It’s also a little disrespectful to other travelers, especially those from your home country, as you now are misrepresenting well-meaning travelers everywhere. People may not be so welcoming to the next wave of tourists if you behave so disgustingly.
I have never in my life had a trip go exactly as planned. Shit happens, people make mistakes, flights get delayed and cancelled, luggage gets lost, and sickness or injury is always a risk. When my luggage got lost on my arrival into Mexico City there were so many travelers around me shouting and cursing because they needed their luggage IMMEDIATELY.
If they had just lowered their voices, stopped complaining and taken a few deep breaths they would have been able to hear the announcement being made that the luggage would arrive in two days time. Sure enough all of our bags arrived two days later and to be honest being without all my stuff for that amount of time was no big deal. Having your luggage lost, or a flight cancellation is by no means the end of the world. At least you have the PRIVILEGE to be able to even travel at all. Never forget that.
While a little introduction and conversation is usually okay, most people you meet on airplanes don’t want to hear your entire life story when they would rather be sleeping. This happened to me once where the man sitting next to me would not stop talking about his ex girlfriend and asking me for relationship advice. Not to mention he felt the need to tell me all about their sex life as well. Totally inappropriate and unnecessary.
People are people are people. If you only speak English and you are trying to order food at a restaurant in Argentina then please don’t have a temper tantrum if the waiter doesn’t understand you. Be patient and always remember, YOU are the foreigner.
Be polite and for god’s sake stop having sex in shared group rooms. I promise you, no one wants to hear, see, or smell you doing this. Fortunately I have stayed in hostels a lot of times and luckily I have only witnessed travelers doing the deed twice. I don’t care if almost all the bunk beds are shaking, don’t be one of them! Just get a private room okay? It’s not that hard and if you’re at a hostel it won’t be that expensive.
One time I was staying in a hostel in Thailand and I was in a mixed room with three bunk beds. A girl from the next room over started hooking up with a guy in the room I was in and of course they did it in our shared room. They would wait until they thought everyone was asleep and start going at it. They would also wait until everyone was out of the room to do it in the morning as well.
One morning I was the last to leave the room (aside from the bunny rabbits) and I realized I forgot my sunscreen. I knew what they would be up to but I decided to go back and grab it anyway since it was a SHARED room and they were violating hostel policy.
As I opened the door they were indeed doing it and they froze and looked at me. Since they had been so casual and open about their sex life I just looked at them and said, “Hey how’s it going.” Neither one of them answered me and that night they had a private room. Again, don’t be these people. It’s totally unnecessary and completely classless.
I know this is easy for me to say since I’m from Canada and Canadians often get treated very well while abroad. However saying you’re Canadian (or from anywhere else) when you’re not is probably part of the reason why people abroad may not treat you very well. You are literally lying to people and giving them a reason not to trust you if they find out. If you are a kind, polite and fun person then telling people where you’re really from will set a good example of people from your country in their minds. The only lying of this kind I condone is if it is for safety reasons, as in if you will be perceived unfairly as a threat due to any kind of racism and your own safety will be put at risk.
For example, do not ride elephants or pet tigers in Thailand or anywhere else. These animals are usually mistreated or drugged into submission making it safe for you to ride or pet them. It is inhumane and cruel to participate in these kinds of activities. Instead, visit an elephant sanctuary or other safe haven for animals abroad.
One time my family went on a trip to a resort in the Mayan Riviera of Mexico. We had a wonderful time there but on the way back our flight got delayed over and over again until it was finally cancelled. We were flying with Air Canada and they ended up putting everyone who missed the flight up at a beautiful resort overnight and set us all up with another flight for the next day.
One woman from the group was complaining non-stop and even yelled at a hotel worker saying, “This would never happen in Canada. In Canada we have something called Customer Service!”
Not only did the hotel staff have absolutely nothing to do with the problem, but we were flying with Air CANADA, not a Mexican airline. Furthermore we all got a free night at one of the nicest resorts in the area. This extremely ignorant and rude woman even went so far as to start a petition and tried to get people to add their emails and signatures to her list so that she could make a more formal complaint.
Don’t be this woman. Don’t complain about stuff like this and don’t negatively compare your country to another. All countries are different and that’s what makes them exciting and beautiful.
Some people like to stay at five star resorts, others prefer hostels. While some people like to go for week long vacations here and there, others like to travel slowly. Some people like to work or volunteer for long periods of time in other countries. Others just want short road trips and luxury bed and breakfasts.
While I personally encourage people to experience places that are frequented more by locals than tourists I would never tell someone that their trip sucked because they only went to popular or touristy places. People are going to do things that they enjoy doing. Just because you disagree with someone or would do something differently doesn’t mean you are any better than anyone else. Just be happy for other people because they are also exploring the world and they also have a passion for travel.
The only time you should ever talk negatively about someone’s trip is if they did something really disrespectful to the people, animals or culture that they were visiting. In this case, it may be a good idea to gently explain how certain actions abroad can negatively affect communities and the environment.
No I am not super rich and yes I make travel work by saving my money well. Almost every travel blogger out there has a list of ways in which they save money more easily for travel. These are definitely great places to get tips and can be really helpful.
However please do not buy into the notion that ‘everyone can afford to travel if they try hard enough’. This is completely false and ignorant. Many people in the world don’t have jobs, don’t have homes and are struggling just to stay alive. Don’t be that person that talks about travel as if it’s something everyone can afford. If you talk like this you are really saying that if someone can’t afford to travel it is all their fault and they should just try harder and get a job already. This simply cannot be done for the MAJORITY of people in the world.
Yes, you as a traveler are the MINORITY here. Recognize that travel is a huge privilege. It’s truly amazing that you have the ability to hold a job, have a place to live and travel on top of it all. Hopefully this will make you less boastful and more thankful for the opportunities in your life.
People from different places have different ways of understanding and interacting with the world. For example, when you meet someone in South America it is polite to kiss them on the cheek. In Thailand it is polite to put your hands together as if to pray and to bow slightly when greeting someone. Research some of these customs before you travel so you can respect the culture you will be visiting.
If you have plans to go to a sacred site such as a temple or church please dress appropriately. With the Internet at our fingertips you have absolutely no excuse to not dress appropriately. You cannot go somewhere dressed immodestly and say you simply didn’t know how to dress to visit a sacred site. Before you go to a sacred site research online what is appropriate to wear.
When I visited Thailand I was told that I would need long pants or a dress to visit sacred temples. There were even officers checking people’s outfits at the gates to enter temples. One thing I saw, however, really upset me. Many people (mainly women) would get past the officials and then strip off their long pants or skirts to reveal extremely short shorts or mini skirts. This is beyond inappropriate and disrespectful. These people were setting awful examples for travelers from all over and outright offending local people as well.
I hope this list has helped you to make good choices and show respect while you’re abroad. Hopefully you can remember and use this useful information to not be a dumbass on your next trip. Or perhaps you can have a chat with a friend who may be guilty of being a bit of a traveling dumbass.
Have you ever seen someone acting inappropriately abroad? Has anyone ever annoyed you on a flight? What happened and how did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
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