A Rant: Traveller Stereotypes & Why They Suck

I’m sorry travel, I love you, but I need to rant. Actually, this isn’t a rant about the actual act of travelling, but the stereotypes and this perception of the “ideal” traveller and what the right way is to “do” travel.

I consider myself someone who absolutely loves travel – I basically have a one-track mind about it, it excites me, it inspires me… I just love it.

But something bugs me, and it’s been bugging me for a long time. Again and again I’ve drafted posts angled at my frustrations on traveller stereotypes and the notion of what a traveller should be. In one of my less tolerant moments, a draft appeared titled “How Not to Be an Idiot While Travelling” (this was mainly aimed at people who take selfies in really inappropriate areas and boast to the point of overkill of their travels). But I always chickened out slightly, not knowing the right way to phrase it. I don’t want to offend people, but I feel like what I want to say needs to be said.

Some people have managed to put this spin on travel, or the “art” of travel that often sounds pretentious, idealistic and actually incredibly dismissive to other types of travel or even people. This pisses me off as I believe travel is down to you: do it how you like, as long as you’re respectful of cultures and landmarks. There is no “right” way to travel or the “right” person to be.

No "right" way to travel but this is a good start...

No “right” way to travel but this is a good start…

Here are a few of the stereotypes I’ve seen pop up that I really can’t stand:

You’re not a true traveller unless you sell all your belongings and quit your job.

I mean, seriously. People who think this, get over yourself. Travelling does not mean becoming some “nomad” (a word used far too frequently, in the same category as “wanderlust”) who doesn’t want to be “tied down”. Travelling long term is great, sure. So is having a job you enjoy and is good for your future. If you don’t enjoy your job, then fine, that’s a separate issue, but that doesn’t automatically mean you should quit and travel.

Having a job can be brilliant – it gains you friends, you learn new skills and you grow… the same benefits as travel! They are obviously very different things still, but the answer to everything isn’t to quit your job, sell everything, and travel. I don’t judge those who have chosen that path: if it’s right by you, then more power to you. What I do judge is this attitude that you’re better because you have chosen that path. I am positive there is someone out there who has a full time job, who is just as happy in that job, in their lifestyle, as you are in yours.

There are many different ways to travel, and it can be done in a full time job. I’m doing it, and I get to travel a lot. I feel I’ve gained many perspectives and advantages from travel – whilst in a full time job – and I don’t think for a second that someone who is travelling full time has necessarily gained more than me, or has somehow got more out of life. It’s not about how long you’re travelling or taking up the ‘nomadic lifestyle’ to reap the benefits of travel, it’s about how open-minded you are and how observant and connected you are to your surroundings. Someone who travels for 2 weeks can therefore be more well-off than someone who has for 2 years.

Travel Quote

A job is not a chain or your own personal hell/prison in every case. Be respectful to the way people choose to live their lives. Thinking it’s the “boring” or “wrong” way to do things just because it’s not what you think is best just shows you’re not very open-minded yourself.

You have to be some beautiful, free-spirited, ‘untamable woman’ to travel.

That link up there in the subheading is to a piece by Elite Daily on the travelling woman… I dislike it. I dislike Elite Daily most times. While some things are worth reading, I think a whole load is complete pretentious garbage.

With the above jibberish, there are certain things I can agree with: travelling and adventure does indeed make you more independent, and I do believe you should always be looking for your own approval, not someone else’s. I very much aspire to live freely and do what I want to do and what I love.

But what I disagree with is the suggestion that having a relationship or a marriage is apparently a negative correlation/mutually exclusive with being a free, independent woman.

It seems like the person who wrote this is trying to perpetuate this new type of adventurous woman, but what she’s actually done is taken a huge step backwards and categorised women into “good” and “bad”, in fact just making a new way women “should” be… to me, that’s not being any sort of modern woman at all. Let women be who they want to be – a strong, free woman, in my eyes, doesn’t degrade other women. This article basically says, “I’m not like other women”, a sentiment I’ve grown to dislike. Who are these “other women”? Stop dissing your own kind, stop trying to separate yourself from your sex as if it’s something to be ashamed of.

Each of us different but equally as amazing.

Each of us different but equally as amazing.

All women are amazing in their own ways. We all have flaws, we all have our own behaviours, some we condone and some we don’t. We all have things we respect more than others. But I don’t think it’s right to blame that on the female gender and pretend you have nothing to do with it. We have to stick up for and support each other, not bitch and bring each other down.

As for the idea that you can’t be free and simultaneously be in a loving relationship, that’s complete bull. For the second time this blog post, I will say: get over yourself. It is very, very, very possible to be free-spirited, to be independent, and also be with someone. Doing something together with your partner and feeling connected to them doesn’t make you weak or an anti-modern woman. It makes you human.

I mention Alan a fair bit on my blog. I travel with him, and I’m (very) often apart from him, being in a long distance relationship and all that. He is – stating the obvious – an extremely important part of my life and I find both my relationship with him and my relationship with myself of high priority. Does that make me tame, dependent and unadventurous? No way. I think the concept of “tame” a bit stupid, I depend on Alan in some ways, yes, but I also consider myself independent, and I will openly admit that I think of myself as one of the more adventurous people I know.

Niagara Falls

What grinds my gears is that these articles are trying to make this idolised version of a woman traveller, and in reality, there are only two things that make you the perfect female traveller: if you are female, and if you travel. If you have a partner who you love too, then you are still a great female traveller. If you are more cautious than spontaneous, you are still a great female traveller. If you want both a plane ticket and marriage, you are still a great female traveller.

I’m Kirsten, I am a female, I love travel/travelling, I have a lovely boyfriend who I enjoy travelling with, I am adventurous and I love feeling free, but I also like to research and plan. And guess what? I am an awesome, ideal female traveller. Suck it, Elite Daily.

As a traveller, you’re somehow superior to everyone else in the world.

This is pretty much interlinked and spills out from the rest of the points I’ve demonstrated here. Travel is one interest of many. I do, of course, pride myself on my love for travel, but that’s because it’s my interest. I believe everyone should travel, and I want to inspire people to travel. I think it’s of great personal development and connects you more with the rest of the world. I always think, well, we’re in this world, we should get to know it, right?

But, I will never take part in criticising someone for not being as passionate as I am about travel, or making it a focus in their life. People like other things too, y’know? I dislike it when people actively avoid travel or have certain perceptions down to a lack of education about the world or the act of travel, but I will never think I’m superior to anyone just because I travel. I feel like there are some who get on their high horse about it, who make a point to boast, to make people jealous, and I just feel like that degrades the whole point of travel. It’s about opening our minds and seeing we’re all equal, not slamming people and making some sort of travel class system.

The country that changed it all for me.

The country that changed it all for me.

I couldn’t be happier that travel has come up more in the limelight of late, that more people are going off to different places they wouldn’t have thought of before, and sometimes even following in footsteps of blogs they read. But I think it should be encouraged to find your own pace and personality of travel. You don’t need to aspire to the hype people are putting out there, to be a certain traveller, under certain rules. Travel should bring us together and make you grow personally… and there is no way that can be done when you’re abiding to silly stereotypes of what other people think a traveller “should” be.

I am all for inspiring people to travel – that’s what I want to do on this blog. That is my number one aim. But I’m also a huge fan of finding your own style, finding your own interests, finding the things that inspire and feel good to you.

So I hope none of this offended anyone or came across as rude. As anything on here, it’s just my opinion and my way of wishing to show that you can be whoever you want when you’re travelling.

Happy travels. Don’t get too bogged down by the internet’s expectations. There’s a world out there!

 

31 Comments

  • Naomi says:

    Don’t get me started on the traveller vs. tourist debate (already ranted about that on my blog), it actually does my head in. Travel is different to everyone and putting it on a high pedestal makes people think it’s unattainable when a lot of the time, it can be just around the corner.
    Naomi recently posted…Thoughts on Returning to ColombiaMy Profile

    • Kirsten says:

      Haha I remember your blog rant on that and I agree! Exactly, it makes it more unattainable when we should be showing people that it’s easy and it can fit around a lifestyle.

  • Vlad says:

    Excellent points! I hate it when people try to discourage people that aren’t traveling “the right way”, as if such a thing even existed. I’ve always said it doesn’t matter how you travel as long as it makes you happy and you’re respectful to other people and cultures.
    Vlad recently posted…How To Rent A Car AbroadMy Profile

  • Gin says:

    I just love this post ! I totally agree on so many points !! There is no such thing as “a right way of travelling”. It’s great that everyone has its own style when it comes to travelling, it’s not a competetion :-) The most important thing is to have a great time, make wonderful memories and by happy :-)
    Gin recently posted…Breathtaking view of CastletonMy Profile

    • Kirsten says:

      Exactly, no competition – I don’t believe people who think it is are focusing properly on just seeing and enjoying the world. Couldn’t agree more: make memories and be happy :)

  • I totally agree with you here. I don’t know why travelling always needs to be such a competition. With your first point, it’s all very well quitting your full-time job and selling everything you own but A) You must first have a full time job that pays you enough to save up a good stash of money B) You must have possessions that are actually worth money and C) If not, A and B you need to have some kind of solid plan. I don’t want a full time job, but until I get one right now it’s not actually possible for me to just float off on the wind and leave my overdraft to pay for itself. People who don’t think it’s possible to travel and have a relationship at once are basically denying themselves. I agree that if you are happy travelling alone and don’t need anyone, then there is no point actually looking for a partner, but what if you meet the right person on the road? Ignore all the signs and you might regret it for the rest of your life. I loved travelling single- in a sort of self-destructive, whirlwind adventure type way, but actually travelling with my boyfriend opens new doors rather than closing them. Certain things that I would be afraid to do alone- hitchhiking in SouthAmerica for example- were suddenly open to me.

    OK, I’ve gone on a bit too much now. Sorry, I just found this really interesting. :)
    Katie Featherstone recently posted…International Women’s Day- Why is Feminism a dirty word?My Profile

    • Kirsten says:

      Exactly, it’s all about circumstance and isn’t always something you can just ‘do’. It’s glamourised a lot, and while I do believe people should get inspired and plan that trip and see the world, it can’t always be done at the drop of a hat and it definitely doesn’t have to be done by quitting a job! Completely agree that people who don’t think it’s possible to travel and have a relationship to the point of refusing to accept one and looking down on them are denying themselves! It’s good to be open minded about all ways you can travel, single or taken, short term or long term. Anyway, I’m getting too into this and I’m sure we could go on all day! ;) p.s. really glad you agree!

  • Global Mimi says:

    Yes, yes and YES! I also wrote something similar, seems like a lot of people feel the same. Travel is travel, it’s personal to everyone and there is no right or wrong way to do it, as Nike says ‘just do it’ and do it your way!
    Global Mimi recently posted…IFS – Do you suffer from it?My Profile

  • Nigel says:

    It was really refreshing to read this. I’ve had similar thoughts for quite a while. Travel is something that is very personal and we all do it a different way for different reasons. Traveling the world can seem quite glamorous and the people who do it get a bit of ‘traveler ego’. You just need leave it at immigration and be grateful that you can do it.
    Nigel recently posted…Why I changed my mind about Chiang MaiMy Profile

    • Kirsten says:

      Thank you! A ‘traveler ego’ is definitely the way to put it. You’re right, we should be grateful we have the opportunity to travel so extensively.

  • Well written, Kirst! I feel empowered after reading that!! I love travel but I’d never force my ideals on others. What’s right for one person won’t be for another. Keep up the great work!! X
    Hayley Lovepuffin recently posted…Bed Bugs, Food Poisoning and Getting ELECTROCUTED! How Mysore Created My-Sore BodyMy Profile

    • Kirsten says:

      Thank you!! Exactly, and by the way, I think you’ve been great in how you’ve expressed your choice to quit your job and travel. It’s not at all been done in any ‘superior’ way and has put more focus on travel rather than trying to live up to any stereotype :)

  • Iain Shiels says:

    Love this blog, it made me chuckle
    And nod my head at the same time, that’s multi tasking in any language.
    Good work!

  • bunsongpayat says:

    Thank you for putting these words on the things that always bother me about all the stereotyping of most travel bloggers. I always feel intimidated by bloggers who always say “ditched my job and is now traveling the world”. I don’t blame them for my inferiority because maybe some of them are not aware how it affects some of us who also love to travel but just can’t ditch our job to travel full time or maybe I’ve got my own personal issues about inferiority. Still, the thing is, it ruins the very essence of traveling in one’s life.
    What happens, I think, is that they miss out the opportunity to inspire people to see the world and be open minded on a lot of things. You’re right with “get over yourself” because as travelers we should put our focus on the world and not on ourselves.

    • Kirsten says:

      I know what you mean – I kept getting annoyed that these types say it in an intimidating way, as if the way they travel makes them better than anyone else. Everyone is the same, however they choose to see the world! I agree, there should be more focus on the world itself :)

  • Amanda says:

    Awesome! You go girl! I have a job(s), a husband and kids, but I love to travel. I travel when we can and I hope to inspire other busy parents to follow their dreams of travel by sharing my tips on my blog. I don’t like the pretentious attitudes of some travelers too, but you find that in any arena of interest like art, food, fashion, literature and etc. It is cool to call it out and remind others that travel is about freedom and that includes freedom to travel how you please!

  • beth says:

    Really enjoyed this! Very well written and sums it up for me.

  • Emma says:

    This is fantastic
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  • Sarah says:

    *Applauds* Well said! I’ve only just started a travel blog in October 2014 and for the first couple months I wondered if I was the right person to be doing this. I didn’t leave the job I had for 12 years and travel to some far flung part of the world but I took a ‘vacation’ each year and did the ‘touristy’ things instead. It’s taken me a while but I now realise – who the hell cares!! I’m not doing this for other people, yay if others read my posts and like them – but at the end of the day this is about MY journey and MY experiences.

    I’ve started to realise that there are plenty of people out there like me – the ‘everyday traveller’. Since I have decided this, I am finding more and more posts like yours where people are poo pooing the traveller labels and saying it really doesn’t matter.. how you travel is up to you and shouldn’t be dictated to by someone else.

    Oops sorry for the mini rant – I am very passionate about this :) Also I am like you – travel makes me happy, “I consider myself someone who absolutely loves travel – I basically have a one-track mind about it, it excites me, it inspires me… I just love it.” << I was nodding away at this line!! Travel is what gets me up in the morning!
    Sarah recently posted…Destination: My Experience in New York CityMy Profile

    • Kirsten says:

      Exactly! Who the hell cares?! Blogging is for talking about your personal experiences after all :) And I really think you have just as much insight on short trips than someone who’s been on the road for a year – depends person to person.

      Oh don’t worry about it, I love the mini rant and seeing you agree with me! No labels should exist – we should just all love travel together!

  • Art says:

    This is my first time on this blog after linking from your excellent review of spots in the Pacific NW of North America on Travelettes. I’m so thankful that you wrote this post, and so thankful that I came across it. I’m 33 years old, married and fully into a career now and never considered being a full-time traveler, or even knew that there were so many people who did that. I think it’s alright to say that it seems more popular now than it was when I finished college in 2004. I read these blogs and cannot help feel a tinge of jealousy for all the wonderful experiences and freedom of these people and I wonder if it’s too late for me, or if I simply don’t have the guts to be that free. To read this is, and maybe this is putting too much into it, a calming and reassuring thing. I am doing the best that I can to travel and make do while also meeting my responsibilities with student loans and other bills, so my travel has to be planned far ahead and it has to be diligently saved for (especially since, because I live in the US, traveling out of the country can be quite expensive). I am scratching my travel itch with mini-adventures to the beautiful reserves and parks nearer to home that don’t require flights or much planning ahead. Still, it can be disheartening to compare that to people who seem to jump from Bali to Palermo to Iceland week to week. It helps to read this, and to know that comparing yourself to others is a losing proposition. Again, thanks! You’ve earned yourself a new follower

    • Kirsten says:

      Oh thank you! :) So glad to have you over from Travelettes – wonderful site! Oh yes, it definitely seems to have become more popular to be a full-time traveller, and a lot more pressure with it. I don’t think you have to be jealous: everyone chooses their path and it’s never too late for anyone. Do what’s right for you, which it sounds like you’re doing as you’re also travelling within your country, which I think shows a very open mind (a lot of people dismiss their own backyard). My travel has to be saved for too (student loans are a pain aren’t they!) so I completely understand that. Never compare yourself to others :)

  • David says:

    Great article! One of my biggest pet peeves is the attitude of ‘what I’m doing is more fun than what you’re doing’ and I’ve seen it all over social media.

    I’m considering visiting places like USA and Japan albeit for a few weeks at most because I work full time currently and I’d like to keep it like that.

    Do you have any advice for single people who want to travel but don’t have a partner or friends to travel with because of money trouble, work commitments etc.?

    All the best with your continued travels!

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