Traveling often allows us to reinvent ourselves, but sometimes we easily fit into a stereotype while exploring a new land. Perhaps its due to unfamiliar settings, letting go of our comfort zones, and being unsure of how one “fits in” when experiencing a different culture. Or perhaps it’s just because you’re a douche. This is a brief guide on how to enjoy your travels without being THAT tourist. You know the one.
Where to find them: Mostly on tour buses or in a day tour group. Main characteristics: Excessive, loud talking – usually while the tour guide is conveying the most interesting/pertinent/important information. Often can be found chewing gum, while loud-mouthing. Usually isn’t too phased about being culturally sensitive or appropriate (e.g. baseball hat stays on in temples).
Need someone to tell you why you’re taking the wrong antimalarial, to give you a brief history of Ulan Bator, or recommend the best curry in the whole of Mumbai? Then this is your guy. He’ll tell you everything you need to know–because, according to him (or her) the tour guide and Lonely Planet are useless. Where to find them: Pretty much everywhere. Main characteristics: similar to a Loudmouth, but they’re well-versed on cultural sensitivity, history, the area’s geography, anthropology, linguistics, and light motor vehicle mechanics, among other skills. And they wouldn’t be caught dead chewing gum (well, at least not sugar-free, because aspartame causes cancer, y’know?).
This kind of tourist, quite literally, lives to shop. The only reason they travel is to buy things (usually things they can buy back home, but that’s besides the point). Words like ‘duty free’ and ‘cheap labor’ warm their hearts. Where to find them: Dubai, Hong Kong, and the like. Main characteristics: Multiple credit cards, no interest in the destination in question (apart from where all the high-end shopping malls are located). Vapid.
Sadly, many tourists have morphed into this kind–the kind that insists on taking photos of everything with their iPhone. If they happen to be in the middle of the Amazonian jungle they will bemoan the lack of Wi-Fi to upload and share said images. Where to find them: Pretty much anywhere there’s internet access. Main characteristics: An iPhone is always–ALWAYS–on their person. They mentally compose tweets while they’re talking to you. They might have a beard. They only eat organic.
The Unwilling Explorer
Not all tourists actually want to be tourists: some have travel inflicted on them by well-meaning partners. Where to find them: Most of Asia, Africa and South America (and anywhere off the beaten track). Main characteristics: Miserable-looking, an abnormal love for their hotel room, a crippling fear of tap water.
The Extremely Awkward Tourist
This type of traveler is an all-round weird fest–they have no idea about social cues and generally have trouble maintaining a conversation. Not the type to make fast friends, but they’re also not the worst of the bunch, as they can’t help who they are. They have a wealth of knowledge and aren’t presumptuous like the Know It All–you need to squeeze interesting factoids out of them. A change of routine often freaks them out, so they’re always on edge while on the road. Where to find them: They seem to gravitate towards more unusual destinations like Uzbekistan, North Korea or even Japan. Main characteristics: Think Rain Man meets David Attenborough meets Sheldon Cooper.
“They” is the operative word as you won’t find a Groupie doing a solo travel show–they always need to travel in a pack. Where to find them: Throughout Asia, but especially in China and Japan. These groups also export themselves to other countries. Main characteristics: An intense dislike of individuality, can be found in huge air-conditioned buses, they prefer it if their tour guide carries around a little flag to indicate as such, and they keep locals at a safe distance.
This explorer knows exactly how deep their pockets are–and let’s just say they’re about as deep as the ocean at low tide. It’s not that they’re cash-strapped–they just don’t like to part with their money. Where to find them: Surprisingly, they can often be found in so-called cheaper destinations, like India and South East Asia. Main characteristics: tight fists, cold hearts, and an amazing ability at remembering the day’s exchange rate. They don’t tip, ever.
The Five-Star Diva
A special breed of tourist that likes to travel–but only in style and in a bubble of luxury. No backpacking and the like for them. Where to find them: Everywhere, but they seem to love the developing world. Main characteristics: They’re disgustingly wealthy.
The Frat-Boy (and Girl)
Traveling is basically just an excuse to get as wasted as possible. Where to find them: South East Asian beaches, Goa and Ibiza. Main characteristics: Just out of college, mostly broke, and will drink (and hook up with) anything.
The Elizabeth Gilbert
Remember her? She wrote Eat, Pray, Love. And she subsequently inspired a ton of women to travel the world in order to “find themselves.” Where to find them: India, Italy and Indonesia (just like the book), and Burning Man. Main characteristics: Previously married with a suburban house and well-paid job back in the States, but they’ve recently given it all up to travel. Often don flowing-type clothes and prayer beads. They say “Om” and “Namaste” a lot.
The Country Collector
This tourist only travels because it allows them to brag about the fact that they’ve traveled. They collect passport stamps with fervour–and the rarer ones the better. Where to find them: Since they’ve been practically everywhere, you’re more likely to bump into them in hard-to-enter/access places, like North Korea, Burma, the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica, or, even better, the Moon. Main characteristics: Douche bags par excellence.
The Jaded Local
Sometimes on your travels you’ll come across a Jaded Local – someone who has joined a tour group “just because”, someone who’s staying at a backpackers because it’s cheaper than a hotel, or someone who is propping up the bar–but they live and work in the country in question. This type of tourist isn’t a tourist per se , as they originally come from elsewhere. They generally hate their surroundings and well tell you, ad nauseum, as to why. Where to find them: Mostly Asia and the developing world. Main characteristics: Heavy-drinkers and/or English teachers.
The Full Immersion
This kind of tourist is hard to come by, but you’ll recognize them instantly–usually by what they’re wearing and their amazing language abilities. Sometimes, you might even think they’re locals–but upon closer inspection, you’ll discover they’re just creepy visitors. They believe that you need to fully immerse yourself in a culture in order to experience it–and they take tourism very seriously. Where to find them: Anywhere non-English speaking, usually Asia. Main characteristics: Linguistic prowess, ridiculous outfits, a strange look in their eyes.