Don’t be an insufferable travel snob

palms I think it’s fair to say that travelers are an excitable bunch.  We’re passionate people and we like to share that passion with others.  Unfortunately, this often comes across as insufferable snobbery.  Here are five ways to sounds like a jerk, and some suggestions for what to say instead. 1.  “You should really travel!” I cringe looking back at 22-year-old me and the stuff that used to come out of my mouth.  This was definitely one of the more common ones.  There’s a fine line between inspiring people and belittling them, and the phrase, “You should really travel, it’s amazing!” crosses that line.  If someone is speaking to you about travel, odds are good that they’re already interested in travel, and saying they should travel is a definite “duh” statement.  It also conveys the idea that they’re not good enough as they are, and that travel will fix that. What to say instead:  Ask them about their dream destination and what they’re doing to make that dream happen.  Offer advice (financial, motivational, etc) if they’re stumped on how to achieve their goal.   2.   Monologing Back in college I shared my travel stories with anyone who would listen.  There was one girl in particular that I loved to talk at, until one day I [finally] noticed the irritated look on her face.  Once I shut up and started listening I found out she too was a world traveler with heaps of her own stories to share.  Travel stories are wonderful things to share with other people, but sharing is a two-way street. What to say instead:  Nothing.  You love having people listen to your stories, right?  Return the favor.   3.  Story hijacking I’ll admit it: being a world traveler makes me feel special, like I’m different from others because of my travels.  But man, nothing takes the wind out of my sails like having someone interrupt a good story about Guatemala  to say, “Oh yeah, Zephyr Lodge?  I’ve been there, it’s awesome.  Did you meet Paul?  He and I had this crazy ass night where…blah blah blah.”  Don’t be that asshole.  Don’t hijack someone else’s story.  Seriously.  Not only is it rude and off-putting, but it takes away from the original teller’s “specialness”.  Forget your own spotlight and let it shine on someone else. What to say instead:  Asking a question can be a gentler and more conversational way to let the other person know you’ve been to the same place.  Try something like, “Oh, you stayed at Zephyr Lodge?  Did you like it?  What was your favorite/least favorite part?”  That gets the conversation ball rolling without taking the focus off the other person.   4.  One-upmanship We’ve all had some crazy shit happen to us on our travels.  Conversations about these things should be opportunities to share experiences, commiserate over bad luck, and rejoice in good luck.  If someone says, “I almost stepped on a rattlesnake once” and that reminds you of the time you were attacked by a black mamba, don’t say, “You think that’s scary, you should try being attacked by a black mamba!”  Not only is it a dick move, it’s super passive aggressive and it makes the other person feel like crap.  Don’t do it. What to say instead:  If you really want to tell your story, do so after you’ve taken the time to appreciate the other person’s story.  Again, ask questions: “Woah, where were you?  What would you have done if you’d been bitten?”  Once you’ve really listened to what they have to say, tell your story.   5.  Negativity There are plenty of places I’ve been that I didn’t like.  Some of them I disliked for obvious and widely-shared reasons, like the dirty, violent, unfriendly hole that is Bluefields, Nicaragua.  It’s easy to talk about Bluefields because almost no one likes it, so we all get to gripe.  But with some other places I go against the grain.  Pretend that, like me, you hate Antigua, Guatemala while every other traveler moons over it.  When everyone else starts talking about how much they love Antigua, don’t butt in to talk about how much you hated it–that just brings the whole conversation down.  (Along the same lines, don’t poo-poo someone else’s style of travel, their packing choices, or their penchant for photographing everything they see.  You’re not the Travel God–your opinion is just an opinion.) What to say instead:  Think about why you didn’t like the place: maybe you lost your camera while you were there, or were in a bad mood, or were sick.  Share that you didn’t like the place, but acknowledge that it’s not a final verdict that makes everyone else’s opinions irrelevant. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There you go, five ways to stop being a dick about travel.  Moral of the story is:  listen to others, ask lots of questions, and don’t act like you know everything.  Here’s to plenty of future conversations about travel that leave everyone more inspired!

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  1. That was a pretty sweet blog…man I have a great one too! It’s probably a bit more intense than this one….www.blogspot.i’m just :) Great read Sarah. Thanks!

  2. Mister Mattykins

    I am TOTALLY a travel-snob dick. And now I know it, haha. Thanks :D

  3. Love this- ‘You’re not the Travel God–your opinion is just an opinion’.
    Very well said!

  4. Sarah dear- I don’t think I ever wrote to tell you that Richard changed my life back at the age of 12 when I pledged to do as many things as he did during my life. Well, I managed over two-dozen and now at 88 years I’m still trying. Done many of his ventures but am not a pilot. I’m not bragging but only making the point. I almost dove into the pool at Chichen Itza, but did wade in a pool at the Taj. Got to the top Cheops’ pyramid, Gibraltar and Mt. Olympus but not the Matterhorn. Slept overnight inside the Parthenon and outside next to the Tholos at Delphi, but couldn’t manage the Hellespont. I failed to visit and conquer China/Japan but covered almost all of Africa for three years. I certain now I haven’t enough time left. I hope you will make it all? Godspeed, bon voyage, dios protegera, kala taxidi, saphalata, etc. I prayed for Richard at each stop.

  5. You hit the nail on the head here, Sarah, especially with the points about hijacking people’s stories and one-upping people. Even if you’ve been to 100 countries, you can still learn something from someone who’s been to two. Whenever I feel the urge to butt in, I count to three and tell myself to listen.

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