Halloween, like traveling, can bring out the best, and worst in us. Trick or treat? Think of all those alter-ego costumes we dress up in to become somebody we're not. Think of all those guests behaving badly (aka that old Ugly American stereotype), or creating your own on the road fictional persona. Traveling heightens our fantasies, and living a fantasy is human nature.
The acting out of borderline personality disorders traveling can, and does, lead to some pretty harrowing displays of human behavior. Every traveler has heard crazy on-the-road stories--the comedies and nightmares--revealing once again that old truism: that life is truly stranger than fiction. I've seen my fair share of Zombie's, Werewolves and Dracula's come out at night in the world's tourists ghettos from Amsterdam to Kathmandu and Kuta to Negril beaches.
Call it the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the road. We've all met a swash-buckling Indiana Jones wannabe dressed like he just came off a Hollywood set. Or that Norman Bates look-a-like that all too frequently runs those little holes-in-the-wall motels!
It is simple human nature to want to have fun when traveling or on vacation, and almost nineteen of twenty road warriors (people traveling on business) admit to misbehaving while traveling. Ninety-four percent! It seems that we are more prone to be naughty while traveling and that cheeky What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas pitch reinforces it.
Bad travel behavior includes: drinking too much (71%); taking illicit drugs (31%); staying out too late (57%); eating bad and/or unhealthy foods (53%); spending too much money (54%); having too much sex (31%)--is that even possible?! And when traveling alone, we allegedly cheat on our spouses (36%). One Australian survey found that 95% of solo travelers search out adventurous sex, think: Mile High Club, beach bars, sex tours, cougar cruises and red light districts. And why not, because 64% of travelers say sex is better on the road. We all know How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
So why do we act so different, so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like when we travel?
Beats me. Maybe it's the getting away from it all syndrome? But over the years, I have noticed a whole slew of travel-related infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Here are some funny, and not so funny Halloween frights seen around the world:
Ethnic Costume Dementia (aka going native): How many of us blindly succumb to this cultural emulation disorder while traveling? We end up wearing corn rows in our hair, getting henna tats, wearing bad Nehru jackets and harem-scarem pants. On the flip side, how many times have you seen inappropriately dressed tourists as a scantily-clad Paris Hilton wannabes at sacred religious sites.
Fictitious Travelers Persona (aka lying about who you really are): This form of exaggeritis is prevalent among travelers you meet in the remotest of places, and whenever liquor flows. They are like Halloween ghosts who don't exist in real life. Call it Vocation Amnesia in which everyone seems to answer the What do you do? question with glamorous answers, like: travel writer, screenplay writer, artist, actor, hedge fund manager or life coach. In reality most are shameless trust fund babies or just plain shameless escape artists.
Guests Behaving Badly: We know about the TSA's ever-expanding "No-Fly List", well better international hotels have their own version, a "No-Stay List" that is actually called Guests Behaving Badly (GBB). It is a five-tiered database listing guests who are persona non grata from respected hotels, for being too loud, being vandals (Keith Moon & Joe Walsh we know who you are!), acting naughty, being notorious deadbeats, smoking in non-smoking rooms (yes, pot is smoking!), and stealing hotel items.
Kleptotoursits: Speaking of guests behaving badly, seems there is a little larceny in all of us. It starts out petty enough--stealing hotel towels, bathrobes, pillows, umbrellas, remote controls and bibles (3% of Americans admit to stealing bibles!?); and then elevates to restaurant supplies like: salt and pepper shakers, shot and margarita glasses and utensils. These gateway steals move us onto pilfering pieces of ancient ruins, exotic plants and corals...sometimes called souvenirs; police refer to them as stolen cultural artifacts! Seems hotel guests will steal anything not bolted down; in fact, 40% of travelers admit to stealing from a hotel.
Super Heroes: From James Bond-wannabes making silly wagers on blackjack tables to hyper-active adrenaline junkies--you know the type. They give the appearance of being Super Heroes with a death wish, always pretending that war zones are fun places and that being in unnatural "killing zones" with little oxygen is just another day. They brazenly drive the world's most dangerous roads at high speeds--on skateboards. I call them Darwin Tour travelers--as in culling the herd! (Truth be told, they are usually badly suppressed risk-takers who for fifty-one weeks a year work and live the life of sedate boring cubicle workers, but for one glorious week a year look for danger in all the wrong places, usually involving extreme heights, speeds, temperatures, wild critters or AK47's.)
Trick or treat? indeed. As Warren Zevon sang, "Send lawyers, guns and money...dad...get me out of this"...or was it "Ah-hoo, werewolves of London"? Happy Halloween everyone!