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I Don’t Give A Damn How You Travel

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Because new readers discover my site all the time, I’ve lately taken up the habit of posting what I was doing one and two years ago on Twitter. That way they can catch up on things they might not have been around for when I was originally blogging about it.

A few days ago sent out a link to a post I made two years ago during my visit to Taiwan. Someone left the following comment (two years after the fact mind you).

So you only stayed in Taipei? You didn’t visit anywhere else here? I’ve been in Taiwan for five years and have been to Taipei probably less than a dozen times. You have no idea what you missed. There’s seems to be little point in travelling if you’re only going to hop from big city to big city.

I was going to write an email to respond to him, but I figure why write an email when I can make a blog post about it?

Putting aside for a moment the fact that this guy managed to extrapolate almost three years of my life from my visit to a single location and clearly didn’t bother to read about any of the other places I’ve been. What struck me about the comment is:

  1. The implication that he was doing it right.
  2. The implication that I was doing it wrong.
  3. That he felt it was important enough to tell me that he was doing it right and I was doing it wrong

I’ve noticed this same attitude pop up in other articles, most recently in a Boots N All article about how flashpacking (a term I loathe) is hurting backpacking. There was also a user on Twitter who felt the need to tell everyone else going on a cruise, not only how unethical they were for going on a cruise, but also how ethical she was for not going on cruises. I could only roll my eyeballs.

I would like to go on record to say that I do not give a rats ass how anyone else travels. I really don’t. I don’t care if you like to go on cruises, I don’t care if you like to visit spas, I don’t care if you like to drive around in an RV. None of those are really my cup of tea, but I don’t care if you do it.

Likewise, I’d ask you extend a similar courtesy to others. Just because someone doesn’t travel the way you like doesn’t mean you have to tell them. It is extremely tacky behavior. Just because something isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean you have to go on a jihad.

There is no wrong way to travel. Do I think you might get more out of a visit to a country if you left the Hyatt? Yes I do, but at least you are visiting. Do I think you might enjoy a trip more if it wasn’t a packaged tour? Sure, but any tour is better than no tour.

The following video clip succinctly summarizes my views on the matter:

  • 44 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. John m says:

    Great post. Just one thing I don’t really get, why you don’t like the term flashpacking if backpacking is ok. Isnt it just a quick way to describe a different type of travel. Didn’t think my definition of travel would engender such a strong negative emotional response. Cheers mate.

  2. Kristin Cole says:

    Sadly not everyone can be as righteous as the guy you’re responding to. I mean he DOES live in Taiwan. How dare you, as a tourist from 3 years ago, defile his deep wisdom of the country he has lived in for an entire 5 years? How could you possibly have anything worthy to share from a city he deems to be not worth his precious time and energy?
    Why are you writing this blog at all if there are a legion of people out there that knows a much better way of traveling and seeing the world than you? Hell most of us should just wear blindfolds and duct tape over our mouths since apparently a good lot of us have no idea what we are seeing or talking about.
    There are silly things like the availability of time and funds that may determine when and where someone travels to. But of course those seem to only be factors for stupid people that have no idea how to travel.

  3. James Carr says:

    There is a TED talk about Tribal Leadership which goes into this a little bit – The need to see the world as Im right and you’re wrong.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/david_logan_on_tribal_leadership.html

  4. Ed says:

    You also have to remember that there are so many places to see and things you can do there’s just no way to do everything.

    So you never made it out of the capital… who cares? Instead of going out of Taipei, you went somewhere else. You can’t EVERYWHERE and do EVERYTHING.

    Many times people choose package tours and cruises and the like because it packs the highest number of places and experiences as possible in the short of amount of time allotted. Sometimes it really is the best bang for the buck, where the buck is a person’s most precious asset, time.

    For the average person, package tours can also come out cheaper in a lot of places (like Egypt) than independent travel.

    And flashpacking is just a stupid term invented by bums who can’t afford a hotel with an indoor toilet. The only adice you can give them – get a job!

  5. I live in Taipei and I probably have only been OUT of the city 5 or 6 times! LOL. I suppose if the person lives somewhere south like Kaohsiung, I’d not visit Taipei much either since it’s a 7 hour drive.

    The island as a whole has a lot to offer, but that statement was certainly unnecessary and sadly is reflective of many travel snobbery comments I’ve experienced over the years. Everybody travels differently and reading about those unique experiences is something I really enjoy.

    Taipei has a lot to offer tourists and I continue to explore the area because I constantly find something new every time. Taipei is bigger than many people realize and has a number of districts, each offering some great tourist stops.

    Plus, I’d highly recommend a visit to Taipei just to fully appreciate how scary the driving is here! NYC, San Francisco and Los Angeles have nothing on Taipei. Take all three of those, add 1,000 scooters coming from every direction and you have instant chaos, aka Taipei rush hour. I’ve contemplated anti anxiety meds just to handle the few times I am in a car each week! LOL.

    But Taipei is an experience I will never forget – it’s a surprisingly beautiful city with quite a lot to offer in terms of sightseeing, culture/history, shopping, and certainly some of the best food I’ve ever had. Now if only I could speak Mandarin, I’d be set! :-)

  6. Gary I could not agree more with you – you are 100% right. I get that type of travel snobbery all the time too.

    I’ve done hiking and backpacking trips, road trips, walking and cycling trips, and have been many places (with a great many more still on my list to see), have always made an effort to learn some of the language and customs, and to interact with locals and learn, but on the few occasions I stay at a nice all-inclusive resort BOY do I get the highbrow attitude about not “really” traveling. WTF?!?

    What IS it with some travelers that makes them believe they are so superior to others? Ego and idiocy is all I can come up with.

    I agree with John’s points about our environmental impact when we do choose to travel – it’s something we all have to consider and hopefully work to lessen our carbon footprint when we can, but I think that we should never, ever judge anyone for their choice of WHERE they travel to or what they see or don’t see when they get there.

  7. Nora Dunn says:

    Great article! It rots my socks when people voice their opinions with ego and inflexibility – be it about travel or anything else.
    Part of what makes this world – and traveling it – so wonderful is the sheer variety and diversity of people/climate/culture/history/even opinions. I just wish we could celebrate our differences more, rather than turn those differences into bones of contention.

  8. Earl says:

    I just found your site and I’m hooked. This is the first article I’ve read and the point could not have been stated any better.

    I love when other travelers ask me in disbelief, “You haven’t been to___?” No. I have not. This is my adventure.

  9. Mike Lane says:

    I really don’t travel, so I don’t have a horse in this race. I ride on your back like a tick as you scamper around the globe, enjoying the view. However you roll is cool with me.

    People with glass backpacks shouldn’t throw stones…at least I think that’s how the saying goes.

    As a side note, I think it’s interesting that both you and Scott have used your blogs for smackdowns this week. Just what happened at the pub the other night that stired the two of you up?

  10. I’ll travel by boat, horse, car, foot, float plane, train, zepplin, hot air balloon or tuk tuk. As long as I’m traveling somewhere exciting; I’m happy!

    Whatever floats your boat, man!

  11. Excellent post! Especially liked the video – I always used to watch that show :)

  12. Adriana says:

    I couldn’t agree more! so well put!
    as long as people get out there and get to know the world, that’s great! hopefully we will have more well-rounded people around us. I don’t get why people criticize others’ way of traveling!

  13. MousE says:

    Bravo, sir. Well said. =)

  14. Know how you feel 100% — here is a blog I wrote on the same general topic a little while back. (good blog, by the way — I’ll put you on my follow list)

    http://mobilelawyer.blogspot.com/2009/09/speed-and-travel.html

  15. John says:

    We all have the right to travel how we see fit. With that right comes responsibilities. There is not only us to consider, but the other inhabitants of this planet, including our great, great, great grandchildren. I wouldn’t dream of visiting your home town and dumping all my litter on the ground as I tour. I wouldn’t dream of taking a 4×4 and gouging great tracks in your favourite bit of countryside. So it would be real good if others didn’t do the same. unfortunately some do. OK, so these activities are usually illegal. How about Stonehenge, do I care that in the 19th century travellers were able to hire hammers to chip off souvenirs from the great stone circle? Yes, it saddens me.

    Then, what about travel using excessive amounts of fossil fuel. Perfectly legal, even promoted heavily by some travel companies (today). How would I feel, if I was a poor Mexican in 2008, who could not afford corn to eat, because the price had shot up as the crop was being used to make bio-fuel? Would I then give a damn how people travel?
    I don’t believe that my travel choices have no impact on others. But, I do believe my choices are mine and so is the responsibility for those choices.

    I don’t care either, if you visit one place or another. Whether to stay for 5 minutes or 50 years. However, there are things that I do care about and so do others. I know that it is easier to change myself than to change the world for the better. But I am also aware that I can change the world for the worse through my carbon footprint.

    What if we don’t realise the impact of our travel? We have been sold a dream by advertisers. “A healthy tan” – did they tell you you can get skin cancer? The Twitter member in question felt passionately that one form of travel was damaging. I did not feel that the way she chose to make her point was the right way, but then who am I to say how anyone should make a point on Twitter?

    • Gary says:

      I’m not talking about behavior while traveling. I’m not saying I’m ok if you travel…..then destroy something, or rape someone.

      As for how to make a point on Twitter, I think there are obvious ways to conduct yourself. If you do have concerns with what a person is doing, then tell them privately. Send an email or make a post about it on your own site. Constantly putting multiple hashtags into every post to maximize the amount of exposure you get is just grandstanding.

      …and the risks of cancer from vitamin D deficiency is far greater than the risks of skin cancer from sun exposure. Get a tan.

      • John says:

        No, I know you didn’t say that its OK to rape and pillage on your travels. My view is that travel has an impact. You have your own views, and I respect them so will not try to have the last word on that.
        I am a little curious though,. You don’t care how people travel. Yet when voicing an opinion, you are sure someone else is wrong.

        I will post no answer to the tan point. I’m sending you a DM.

  16. Red M says:

    You know. I actually get what the guy is emailing about. Most people skim blogs like this. Let alone twitter. He simply meant that you only went to Taipei and only wrote about that place. Yet you do sound like you know everything about everywhere. So why not tell you how he feels? It’s impossible to travel everywhere. Your blogs title can make some skimmers think differently. Unless you just want the blog to be about you and only you. You’ll have to diversify and make it easy for the passerby’s!

  17. Hey Gary – I run into this conundrum every time I take a tour group to Italy. There are so many things I want my group to “get” out of the trip, and inevitably there are some who don’t or simply don’t care to. I’ve learned that is OK. Because, travel DOES mean something different to everyone. As long as my clients come home feeling as though they had the trip of a lifetime, who am I to question what they should “get” out of the trip.

    Keep on trekking your way…I know I will!

  18. Ambrose Chia says:

    Normally I do not leave comments on blogs. But this post. I cannot help but have to write something.

    Now if I want to feel comfortable while on holiday, that is my problem isn’t it? If i want to sleep alone at night free from noise and if I refuse to share my toilet with anyone else, that is my business isn’t it?

    I do not see why it is a must for someone to go at things the rough and tough way to be able to experience a place. And what if the aim of the traveller is simply to relax and have a luxurious time?

    I cannot help but wonder if people like Mr I’ve-been-in-Taiwan-for-many-years really understands Taiwan now. I know of many expatriates in my country (Singapore) who have been here for years but still cannot understand the way things are done here.

    Eating insects 3 meals a day for 20 months will not necessarily impart knowledge of a country’s culture onto anyone.

    I don’t think that a person can fully ‘get’ a foreign culture simply by travelling and hanging out with the locals for a while. At best, he can learn to appreciate the culture. And people who make strange remarks about how people should travel are probably not going to ‘get’ it. They don’t seem very receptive of differences. They are likely to project their own expectations, based on their own culture and values, onto what they see and hear, make assumptions, again based on their own culture and values, and then claim to have an appreciation of the foreign culture.

    And what if I am able to ‘get’ a country without travelling like the locals? Surely I can be expected to ‘get’ much of say China even if I travel like a spoilt brat. I am ethnic Chinese after all and still very much in tune with my Chinese culture.

    The self-proclaimed travel gurus should also realise that some travellers, like me, do not have the luxury of time to travel. I am not able to take off for months or years on end like them. Staying longer at a place I like is simply out of the question. If I have 10 days to travel, that is that. And I have to make full use of it. That also means I have to plan well in advance and perhaps even down to the minutest detail so that I can ensure that my time is properly utilised. Leaving things to chance is not something I am allowed.

    Am I going to have a finger wagged at me now and be told that if I only have 10 days then I should not bother travelling at all?

    Travelling the rough and tough way is perhaps just one way to see a country. Why restrict oneself to just that one way? And what if I am in say Dubai and wish to experience the culture of the wealthy?

    I am sure people who travel have some objective to achieve, whether it be to understand a country or simply to just stop using their brains for a while. If they want to travel in a particular way, that is really their choice. They can be expected to do the right thing and which suits their requirements best.

    I had always thought that travel was supposed to broaden a person’s mind. I had always thought that adventurers had broad minds.

    Anyway, I am a flashpacker and very proud of it. Better a flashpacker than a snobpacker I say.

    P.S. Great journey!

  19. Linda says:

    Don’t think of what others think, U just keep on doing it your way it is your trip not theirs. Lov your adventure, I see thru your eyes.

  20. Here! Here! Isn’t there enough angst, strife, and bitterness in the world without attacking each other for the way we experience the world? I saw the Twitter exchange you are citing, too. I was rolling my eyes right along with you.

    Carry on!

  21. Lisa Bergren says:

    Amen. As we relaunch our family travel website, I’ve learned that just getting people out the door–particularly Americans–is a big, fat hairy deal. I’m all for people getting out of their country, heck, even their STATE, and seeing that the world is wide…and wonderful!

  22. Mark Wu says:

    I think that guy’s comment really shows how how ignorant he is, let alone arrogant. If he implies that travel is only worth doing when spending 5 years in one country, he must believe we all live forever. There are too many things wrong with his attitude.

    Having said that, I don’t have any idea about his travel history or background to judge. But based on his comment, I’m not really interested either.

  23. You said it – Different Strokes! I love your title. It sure tells it like it is. I agree with everyone else that travel is highly personal. So how you do it, it’s up to you.

    BTW, do you and Matt coordinate your post because his post this week is also more or less about personal travel experience as well. :)

  24. Hey Gary, great post. Tips from other travellers are one thing, but judgements are quite another. I’m delighted that others are travelling and I certainly expect the wil travel differently than me. One of the great things about travel is that you can “do it your way”. Not sure why some people can’t see that…
    On a related note, I was thinking about an ah ha moment I’d had about the places we go and our responses to them. It arose out of connecting virtually with Nomadic Matt when he was in Berlin recently for a few days (where I am spending a month (hi Matt!). After he left, he blogged that he didn’t really care for Berlin (or words to that effect). As I really like it here, I was a little surprised. And it occurred to me again how different we all are and are going to repond differently to the same things… Do I think Matt is “wrong” for not liking Berlin? Nope. Do I question how I feel about the city now? Nope. Do I think less of Matt that he doesn’t like what I like? Of course not! Sure, we might have seen and done different things, and that might have something to do with it. Or not. Might have something to do with the interests of a 50-year-old woman vs a younger male. Or not. Doesn’t bother me, and I don’t judge Matt, just as I assume he doesn’t judge me. … Ah, what was I going on about? Oh, yes, even if we see and do the same things, we are going to have different responses to those experiences. That’s cool.

    I just wish people like the guy in Taiwan would say, “if you are back here again, you might like x…” or the anti-cruise fanatic were to say, well ideally nothing, otherwise just, “I choose not to cruise anymore, but have fun!”

    Life is too short for anything else..,

  25. pam says:

    As you might know, I recently traveled by RV. I was really curious about that choice — I hadn’t done it before though it’s crazy popular in North America. I get it, I totally do. Even if it’s not for me.

    I MOSTLY don’t give a rats ass about how you travel either, but I do spin a little bit on the environmental impact of travel choices. I’m not okay with sex tourism, I probably wouldn’t be down with the idea that you could slash and burn a few acres of rainforest as a tourism opportunity either.

    I’d rather you travel than not. I’d rather you travel thoughtfully than not, too. But I’ll settle for the fact that you travel.

    Or, sort of, what Matt said.

    • Gary says:

      I would like to say that the official position of Gary Arndt and the Everything Everywhere Travel Blog is against child sex tourism and against forest fire tourism. They are bad.

      Just thought I’d clarify that.

  26. Donna Hull says:

    What Nomadic Matt said. He expressed my thoughts exactly.
    Great post, Gary.

  27. C. Lucas says:

    Thanks for this post.

    Looking forward to meeting you later in the week.

    Cheers,
    Cheri

  28. Shannon OD says:

    Can I just say that I love that you ended this with the “Different Strokes” theme song – you are so right that there is no universal “right” way to travel – it’s highly personal and travel in and of itself is the message!

  29. Lisa says:

    Hey Gary-
    Great, great post!! I couldn’t agree more. I also have been traveling for years and have heard it all. I wrote a post a while back called “My Fellow Americans” talking about stereotypes I have heard around the world–many have truth to them. But either way, i always said…if I ran into other travelers being annoying or obnoxious somewhere…i always tried to still give them the benefit of the doubt–at least they WERE traveling and chose to get out and see the world.

    You are right–who gives a rat’s ass what everyone else does??? I didn’t go to Peru…just skipped right over it for Ecuador. SO many couldn’t understand that. Too bad. Screw Machu Picchu (well not really)! I just wanted to see the Galapagos more at the time…so I did.

    Coincidentally, I too was given a comment once from your Twitter ‘pals’ about why i chose to go a certain place at a certain time of year. “It is so much better in the summer.” I went in February because i could and I was simply near it and always wanted to go. But my reasons aren’t even important, right? The back and forth odd emails ensued…continuing to tell me I was wrong. Well, too bad…I had the opportunity to go when i did, I am not a fan of waiting or putting off a trip. The time was now and it was amazingly beautiful and I wore a coat!

    Keep it up!
    Lisa

    http://www.llworldtour.com

  30. Craig says:

    Amen, brother. Well said.

    For some, the “right” way to travel is almost a matter of religious orthodoxy.

    Nothing steams me more than a holier than thou attitude from some who would prefer to “instruct” on the proper way to travel as opposed to merely sharing other views.

    Fortunately, the vast majority of travelers that I’ve encountered have a decidedly live and let live approach.

  31. jamie says:

    I’ll even take it one step farther: I don’t care if other people travel AT ALL. I barely have enough time to run my own life, let alone worry about other people’s choices.

    I recently went on a cruise (which I tweeted about, and came under some censorship for). It wasn’t my normal mode of travel, but I got to hug a dolphin and play Nintendo Wii on a screen that was bigger than my house.

    Travel, like life, is what you make it.

  32. T-roy says:

    I’m not sure if I laughed harder at what the guy said “I’ve been in Taiwan for five years and have been to Taipei probably less than a dozen times” or you fuming mad about it. Can’t blame you and more power to ya for not writing him back (I would have).

    If you lived in a country for 5 years, no sh*t you could see more then a major city or sites… but who cares? I’ve lived my whole life in the US (except the last 5 years) and never been in Washington DC. Never interested me much, does that make me a bad person?

    If there is one thing I have learned from traveling, is that the whole world is made up of people from different views and interests. My father thinks leaving the state is “International Travel” but to me I laugh as it wouldn’t even come close to my wants. But in the end we’re both happy about the trips we made for the single factor “WE MADE THE TRIP!”

    Why don’t you just delete dumb comments from your site like that? I mean the ones beating you up about typo’s are the one’s usually sitting in an office all day, bored and miserable. They have know clue what it takes to run a blog all on your own and keep it interesting. So if they want perfect (and boring) tell them to read the New York Times…if they want real and honesty…keep on reading.

    Damn got on a soap box and didn’t even know it…sorry :(

    • Gary says:

      I don’t delete comments like that because it just makes me look bad. If someone says something stupid, it is always better to keep the comment up because the vast majority of people can spot obnoxious behavior, whereas if you take a comment down it just looks like you are covering something up.

      I suppose there is some line a person could cross where I’d take down a comment, but I have yet to see it on my site.

  33. Cate says:

    AMEN!!!!! Isn’t travel suppose to be open minded. It amazes me just how closed minded travellers actually can be.. and judgmental. I read those tweets yesterday and was shocked by the pushy nature of the twitterer.

  34. Dave says:

    I think an RV trip could be cool. I know for a fact that there are some interesting people roaming the highways and campgrounds of the USA. Reminds me of Into the Wild.

    As a blogger who puts 90% of his travel life and thoughts into the public domain, I have to agree that it feels tacky when someone says you’re missing out on this or that, but I’ve been guilty of it too. I try to be aware, and leave nudging comments that hopefully make the person aware of a destination or place they might not have known before.

  35. Nomadic Matt says:

    When I read this, I thought about that twitter user. People can be so judgemental. To me it is that people travel. I don’t care how they do it. Different strokes. All I want is for people to get out more- if that means backpacker, flashpacker, tour, cruise, or walking- i don’t care. The act of travel is far more important than how you travel.

    even if it is by RV.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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