When it comes to travel debates on social media I regularly read the same recurring beliefs.
I’ve always been a questioner and when I put the brakes on from blindly accepting things and analyse these ten commandments, they don’t always make sense.
The Ten Travel Commandments
Ask a Local
Assumes every ‘local’ is a travel guru who knows all about history, culture, traditions and where there’s a secret attraction only locals know about. When it comes to food there’s an assumption these ‘locals’ are culinary experts.
Truth is we’re all ‘locals’ somewhere, and not everyone has discerning palates and an in-depth knowledge of the place they’re local to.
Reality: Locals aren’t automatically travel gurus.
Hole in the Wall Places Are Best
Hole in the Wall restaurants might be decent, but often people eat in these places mainly because they are cheap. It might be an ‘authentic’ eating experience but it’s only one of many. Where the ‘local’ doctors, lawyers and teachers eat are bona fide authentic restaurants as well.
Reality: Being a hole in the wall place doesn’t necessarily make it good.
Dress Like a Local
Dress like a local to blend in more? It is awful advice. Throwing on the same garb as the people who live in the place travellers are visiting isn’t going to fool ‘locals’ (those sage travel gurus) into thinking we’re one of them. ‘Respect local customs when it comes to how you dress’ is a different matter – that’s common sense. I live on an island which welcomes tourists from all over the globe. Not only can the local population tell from a glance that any visitor is just that, a visitor, they often know exactly what nationality they are.
Reality: Dressing like a local might make you look more out of place.
Never Research a Destination
Don’t use guidebooks, simply turn up an explore for yourself. That’s what travel is all about. I don’t believe the great explorers of our times simply decided to set off for a place without some research first. It’s crazy to not carry out some research, especially if time is limited. I’d go along with the belief that those special little places we stumble across can often lead to the most satisfying experience, but to find them in the first place I’ve usually had a plan of some sort formulated by research.
Reality: Cities are big places and wandering aimlessly hoping to find the holy grail of travel experiences can just as easily lead to ending up in some dodgy places.
Avoid Popular Tourist Attractions
One of the classic commandments of travel snobbery. Popular tourist attractions are bad because they’re… well… popular. Avoid them like the plague. Huge crowds of tourists aren’t pleasant (and let’s be honest with ourselves) us being there adds to the crowd.
Popular tourist attractions are generally popular because they offer something unique, interesting, incredible. Does saying ‘I went to Paris and totally avoided seeing the Eiffel Tower’, or ‘yeah, I was in Agra but there was no way I was going to have a look at that Taj Mahal tourist trap’ make people sound savvy? Not to me.
Reality: Dismissing attractions just because they’re popular is daft.
Tourists Spoil Locations
More travel snobbery is when travellers get all sniffy when they spot another person who’s not a local.
‘We went to our favourite local restaurant but there was a British couple there so we left’ and ‘I went to my favourite beach which is only used by locals but some tourists had discovered it and it was spoilt’ is the height of arrogance and is hypocritical.
Ironically, people who say this don’t recognise that they also are a ‘visitor’ to these places. I recently read a blog by someone I respect who had a go at other tourists for not enjoying a travel moment and for taking photos that they could post on facebook or social media. There was absolutely no sense of irony in the comment.
Reality: You’re no different from the tourist you think is spoiling your experience. Look behind you, there’s another traveller saying the same about you.
Budget accommodation is More Authentic
People use the ‘cheap’ argument as though it’s a badge of authenticity. It isn’t. Accommodation is accommodation. Locals stay in various types of accommodation depending on their circumstance. I’ve stayed in luxury hotels in various parts of the world and in most at the weekends they’ve filled up with well to do locals.
Reality: Who stays where depends on how much money they’ve got.
Quiet is Authentic
That quaint little village in the hills isn’t more authentic or real than the bustling big city. It’s just quiet.
Reality: Bustling is as authentic as quiet.
There’s Better Advice on Social Media than on Tripadvisor
Tripadvisor is full of misinformation and reviews from people whose tastes I don’t know. But it is a useful travel resource when you know how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Similarly, if I ask a question about a destination on Twitter or facebook, unless I know the people who reply, I’ve no idea whether the answers I get are from people who have similar tastes. They all have their usefulness when it comes to research.
Reality: You can’t really trust the views of people you only know from a comment on Twitter or Tripadvisor.
Travellers are Good, Tourists are Bad
One of the most common mantras – travellers are good, tourists are bad. I’ve cringed in bars because of the behaviour of package holiday tourists and I’ve cringed in bars because of the behaviour of people who viewed themselves as travellers. I can’t see the difference between a ‘tourist’ posting on Tripadvisor ‘I’m going to be in Benidorm next week, anyone want to meet up?’ and a traveller posting on Twitter ‘I’m going to be in Laos next month, anyone up for a tweet up?’ Both are following that herd instinct.
Reality: There are people who are interested in discovering the places they visit and in respecting different cultures and there are people who aren’t. Whether they’re travellers or tourists is irrelevant.
It doesn’t matter whether anyone agrees with any of the above or not. What’s more important is that people think for themselves about statements that are trotted out willy nilly.
It’s healthy to ask questions.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+