I am well-travelled: I've been to over 40 countries, have lived, studied, and worked abroad in 4 different countries (for a total of 5 years), and have been on too many plane rides in too many time zones to bother keeping count. The varied and shape-shifting nature of my voyages have revealed certain travel truths; I know what I like and, alternatively, what I can't stand, when I'm on the road. I've come to realize that these travel preferences, gripes, and tenets to which I hold dear colour and temper my experiences on my jaunts abroad.
So what are they? Here are my 7 travelling truths.
1. I am a bit of a princess when it comes to travelling.
I am squeamish at the sight of mildew in my hostel's bathroom, hate flies, and fight nausea when confronted with unfamiliar smells. If I could afford it, I would stay in posh hotels all the time. I pack light but like to look "cute" when I travel, so I am sure to pack at least one dress and my makeup kit (consisting of at least concealer, eyeliner, and lipstick) every time I travel. I can't eat at dirty establishments, and will send for a new fork if the one on my place setting is crusty. No shame in my game!
2. I hate museums and art galleries.
Don't bother stifling that gasp and concealing that look of abject horror. I don't mind. I'm comfortable enough to admit that I am not a museum/history/art gallery buff. Years ago, I took students on a trip to the Louvre in Paris, only to drop them off at the entrance and pick them up two hours later (don't worry, I left them in the care of another (appreciative of art) teacher. I have yawned through many of the exhibits at some of the greatest museums in the world and have skipped dozens of others. Put me in front of natural archeaological wonders or man-made structures (i.e. Ngorongoro crater or the Acropolis) and I am caught up in the rapture. But artwork or pieces of artifacts on display/ behind glass? Meh. I'll pass on the museums and meet you at the market instead.
3. I'm not a partier when travelling, but when I do party, I party on my own terms.
I don't drink and I like to go to bed (fairly) early, so going to Ibiza and partying the night away just doesn't appeal to me as a 'must-do' on my Spain trip. Nor does going to that Full Moon party in Thailand and dancing on the beach until dawn in an alcohol-induced haze. Don't get me wrong. I love to shake my bootay on the dancefloor. But I also like to be home before 1:30am, in time to get a good rest so I can get up early the next morning and explore my travel destination with energy and zeal. Call it old age...
4. I can be inflexible when travelling with others (i.e. I'm not that concerned with following the status quo).
Ok, this isn't as bad as it seems. I don't think that just because we're travelling together, we have to do and see the exact same things at the exact same time, or alternatively, do things that we are not interested in at all. Travelling with a partner is about compromise, but it is also about asserting your independence and preferences when you see fit. Sometimes "going with the flow" can mean that you'll miss out on that museum exhibit you really wanted to see (that I obviously don't, since I hate museums). Sometimes, splitting up and doing what you like, instead of going with the status quo/group mentality that says that everyone has to stick together all the time, can be a peacekeeping measure. Win-win, and everybody stays happy!
5. I'll come to your country, but I probably wont eat your national dish.
I've fought really hard against this tendency, but is more of a health issue than anything else. I love to travel, but my stomach is the weakest link when I'm on the road. I am a champion upchucker and it would seem that I have tossed my cookies in the most exotic of international locales: over a cliff whilst trekking in the foothills of the Nepali Himalayas, in the quaint and idyllic surroundings of a small village in southern China, and in a restroom in Monterrey, Mexico, after an experience with a mystery meat sandwich just outside of Zacatecas. Eating local food has left me in intestine-twisted, writhing-on-the-floor agony in Turkey, Tanzania, Germany, and Indonesia. So I skip the drama and accept that my stomach just doesn't jive with foreign delicacies. For the time being, this girl will stick to the basics whilst abroad: bread and peppermint tea, biscuits and broth.
6. I hate those "know-it-all" travellers you sometimes meet on the road.
Great, you've been to 80 countries. I (kinda? sorta? maybe?) envy you, but I don't dig that you think that you're the resident expert on Prague because you spent two days there back in 2006. I try to avoid travellers that wear their stamp-filled passports as a badge of honour; they annoy me with their incessant recitations of their travel history and their arrogant "been there, done that" know-it-all attitude. Travel is not a race, and I'm not interested in getting into a pissing contest.
7. I tend not to get along with "hardcore, die-hard" travellers.
You like to rough it when you travel? Fabulous. But I don't, (see #1), so you take the floor and I'll take the bed. There's nothing wrong with going back to basics when travelling, but I don't take well to those who feel they are superior precisely because they go to "extremes" when they travel. Have you hiked Kilimanjaro in half the recommended time, with a bum leg, and $2 a day budget, all whilst learning to speak fluent Swahili from the porters who DIDN'T carry your pack since you were more than able? Cool beans. But don't hate on my 5-star all-inclusive vacay to the Dominican Republic. All travel is valid and valuable, my friend.
What are your travelling truths?