Are You That Arrogant Traveler Everyone Hates? [Quiz]
Over breakfast at our hotel in Bolivia, I witnessed a sad scene.
Two men (part of a cycling tour) were at a table alone. They were quite close to me, so I couldn’t help spying.
One was quietly picking at his eggs. I got the feeling he was a kindly sort who had taken pity on the other fellow.
The other — and I shit you not — talked for 32 minutes straight about his previous cycling trips. (Yes, I was so astounded by his verbal travelog diarrhea, I actually started timing him.)
He talked about cycling across the Balkans, the Kota Peninsula, and around the entire island of Iceland.
He name dropped dozens of people that I’m pretty sure the other dude had never heard of. (“When Col. John Hubert Frankenfurter organized the 19th annual ride to commemorate the invasion of Malaya, I was blah blah blah …”)
And then he talked about cycling the Silk Road, passing through Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Now. Under normal circumstances, I’d probably have shot over to the table to attack him for details. Because I’ve been to Ashgabat, and I literally don’t know anyone else who has.
But because he was radiating Chernobyl-strength “arrogant travel douche” vibes, I stayed put. Instead I thought cranky thoughts like, That is so not how you pronounce Kazakhstan.
Presenting the Arrogant Traveler Quiz
If you’ve traveled even a little, you’ve no doubt run into arrogant travelers like that guy who make a joyous process into a competition.
Travel blogger Nomadic Matt actually created this hysterical YouTube video called “Why pretentious travelers fill me with hate.” If you’ve ever been cornered by an arrogant travel douche, you’ll just love it.
I’ve got a slightly softer view of arrogant travelers than Nomadic Matt (though they annoy me too).
You see, I think a lot of travelers who come across as arrogant have good intentions deep down.
On one hand, they have an overweening need for ego boo. But they also believe that their experiences can make a difference and help others. They may even be RIGHT.
They’re just very bad at communicating their story to the intended audience.
So working from the theory that every traveler wants to uplift and inspire, I created the following quiz.
Answer the questions to figure out your “traveler personality.” Then check out the descriptions below to see how others may be perceiving you.
Here’s how the different travel personalities in this quiz break down, plus a little advice on how each can be a traveler who inspires.
Note that while humans adore categories, you probably have elements of more than one type. (I can definitely see all four in myself!)
Unbearably Smug Traveler
OK, I intentionally ran this one off the rails in the name of fun. So hopefully this isn’t you.
However, there are elements of this parody that lots of people (self included) struggle with.
When we feel insecure, travel can become a way to prove our worth. One way to do this is to latch onto ideologies about the “right” and “wrong” ways to travel. That way, we can pride ourselves in being “better” than others.
There are two major problems with this approach.
First, you’re probably going to drive everyone around you bat shit. You may have set out to help and inspire. But NO ONE is going to want your advice if you come across as arrogant.
Second, no matter how good you are at travel, there is always going to be someone better. (And in the internet age, you will almost certainly meet them.)
So if you use superiority as a defense mechanism, take a look at the person behind the mask. Who are you when you’re not traveling? And why isn’t that person enough? Wouldn’t life be easier if your self worth depended on who you are rather than what you do?
For help with self-doubt and perfectionism, I highly recommend the work of Dr. Kristin Neff. Her website, www.selfcompassion.org, is a great place to start.
Wildly Confident Traveler
Wildly confident travelers tend to be relatively new to traveling. Most of us go through a honeymoon phase where the world abroad is fresh and magical in a way it never will be again. This is an exciting time in your travel life, so enjoy it.
Unfortunately, even when your heart’s in the right place, wildly confident travelers can sometimes come across a bit arrogant. There are a few reasons for this.
First, like novices in all fields, new travelers tend to overestimate their expertise and abilities. This may lead them to position themselves as experts — or even speak for the locals — after a brief visit.
Second, part of the honeymoon involves idealizing aspects of cultures we probably shouldn’t.
For example, when I volunteered in Kyrgyzstan, I lived in a village with one telephone. I thought that was a good thing and that it contributed to a “more relaxed pace of life.”
Meanwhile, the people in my village couldn’t keep in touch with distant loved ones, call for help in an emergency, conduct business, or access services that would have made their lives more convenient. When affordable cell phone service came along a few years later, you better believe they all signed up!
The growing edge for wildly overconfident travelers is to enjoy yourself while acknowledging your limitations. Accept that while you feel empowered, you are walking around partly blind and deaf when it comes to understanding the culture.
And that’s OK. You don’t need a PhD in anthropology to fully enjoy your travel experience — and even spread some goodwill along the way.
For a hilarious (and slightly painful) look at how wild overconfidence looks to locals, check out this post by Cecelia Haynes, who grew up overseas.
Humble and Appreciative Traveler
You enjoy travel and the experiences it brings. And you’re also mature enough to realize that there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
You’re genuinely supportive of people whose goals in travel (and life) diverge from yours. This gives you a strong platform to help and inspire others.
You’ve also realized that other people mostly don’t give a shit about where you travel or how. So you’ve stopped seeking validation for your “accomplishments.” This gives you freedom to venture wherever you want, however you want, without fear of judgment. (You’ll drink Budweisers in Cancun if you damn well please.)
Finally, you realize that every culture on earth is just as confusing as our own. Short-term visitors rarely scratch the surface of this complexity. Rather than pretending to be know more than you do, you remain curious and open to all there is to learn.
So this is a good place to be. But the challenge for mature travelers is keeping the magic alive.
You’ll probably never recapture the heady exhilaration of your first overseas trip. One way to keep your travel life fresh is to journey deeper rather than wider. Some examples:
- Master a foreign language
- Learn to cook from a local
- Visit old friends
- Take up a local hobby (e.g., Chinese mahjong or Russian mushroom hunting)
- Introducing your favorite places to friends and family
- Stay in one spot longer
- Move to a foreign country temporarily or permanently
If you have other examples, please comment below to share. We can all learn from you!
Painfully Self-Deprecating Traveler
You, my friend, are the polar opposite of arrogant. Your life may be filled with adventure. But you tend to downplay your own accomplishments and don’t believe anyone else will be interested in them.
Don’t get me wrong. Humility is a good thing. As we’ve noted, it’s not nice to ram your personal travelog into the conversation when people would rather be talking about the Broncos.
At the same time, don’t assume others are disinterested. Sharing a few photos or stories might inspire someone to give travel a go, schedule a much needed vacation, or just think bigger about the world.
Another thing you struggle with is self-comparison. When you see people traveling and doing the things you dream of doing, you feel despair. How is it so easy for them?
Here’s a secret. When it comes to travel (or any other form of lifestyle art), no one has the secret sauce.
The people who leave their horrible jobs to roam the planet with a laptop aren’t smarter or more talented than you. They just held their nose and took the leap.
Chances are, it felt scary. The timing may have been all wrong. And they probably hit some bumps along the way. But they survived, and you can too.
(Check out this blog post for tips on pulling the travel trigger.)
Travel Forth and Boast No More
So there you have it. I hope you’ve had fun with my not-terribly-scientific quiz. If you had any insights or aha moments, please comment and share.
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