I adore travel -- just about everything about it. I'll go anywhere once: even destinations most people shun based on horrible reputations. My Boomer husband and I traveled and lived around the world for five years so we knew it would be inevitable we'd run across some of the things we hated about traveling.
Of course, when we're on the road, we expect to put up with inconveniences and discomforts -- otherwise we may as well stay home. But certain occurrences are particularly upsetting and no matter how much care we took, they still happened to us. Well, we couldn't keep up our guard for five years and still enjoy the journey. If we had, we'd have returned riddled with ulcers.
It's a pain to know that you always have to be on the lookout for people who want to separate you from your valuables. And the cliché of the Ugly American Tourist irks me because it's applied unfairly and Boomers bear the brunt of it.
Being Cautious and Prepared
You might want to know that it's not only the AARP who takes an interest in you as you age -- so do scam artists, thieves, vendors, touts and beggars. There are many reasons we traveling Boomers are seen as a great target, especially when abroad: we're not likely to know the language, currency or the value of the items for sale, we may be more easily baffled (sorry, but true), and we won't bargain as hard as others might.
All that's bad enough, but when vendors deliberately set out to con us because they figure our age makes us an easy mark -- aargh! Salespeople might add items onto the bill figuring we won't notice, cabbies might take the long way to our destination, and waiters might argue that this is exactly what we ordered to eat.
Because we won't give up traveling and we don't want to distrust everyone we come into contact with, we've developed two defenses: we understand and accept that some of this will happen so we watch out for it and we educate ourselves on the scams regularly perpetuated on tourists in any given region.
Touts -- vendors who follow you down the street -- are a huge nuisance as they try to sell you overpriced watches, handbags, hotel rooms or tours. They're hard to get rid of but you'll never find them when your cheap merchandise isn't what you expected.
Beggars are the most dangerous because they often work in gangs who keep an eye on where you stash your wallet for future pick-pocking opportunities. Some beggar gangs have children take your passport, camera and other valuables while you fend off their innocent cries of "coins for ice cream."
The Ugly American Tourist
It's not enough that we have to suffer through the prejudice that we're old because we're Boomers, we also have to live with the bias of being the "Ugly American Tourist." Well, we no longer have the market cornered on that moniker as there's a lot of competition from many other nationalities. Mind you, every time Congress comes up with something like "Freedom Fries" or an American tourist blows up about something inconsequential, it's hard to think the title isn't a little deserved. Well, it does serve to remind us to be civil in our complaints while abroad and to hold our tongues when we feel the urge to compare something with how things are done back home.
Other things Boomers absolutely hate about travel include: filthy toilets or a lack of public toilets, hidden fees (airlines, hotels, credit cards), overcrowding, TSA security checks at U.S. airports, changing rates for everything from accommodations to air fares, misbehaving kids, transportation delays and lost luggage.
But none of this is enough to stop me from traveling. If you were to call and invite me tomorrow to join you to spend a month in Vietnam, getting there on a puddle-hopper across China to be followed by a chicken bus from Saigon to Danang, to stay with a family in its modest home and eat local food -- even though I don't speak the language, might not understand the politics, wonder at the people's ability to rebuild after the war -- I'd have my bags packed before you heard the dial tone on your phone.
How about you? What do you hate about travel? Leave your comments below.