The Tourist’s Contradiction

The world is a contradiction, the universe is a paradox. That definitely applies to people too – human beings are a series of contradictions. Some people say that one is only fruitful at the cost of being rich in contradictions, because the truth lies somewhere in between.

Throughout my travels, I have observed some contradictions that exist in tourists. These contradictions make me chuckle, somewhat an entertaining feat that leaves me wondering of the extent of human contradictions. Probably the most common contradiction committed by tourists, myself included of course is….

Hating on other tourists….When they are a tourist themselves

Tourists have a tendency to complain about other tourists.

Man, why are there so many tourists here?

Bloody tourists, go back to where you came from!

If I got a penny every time I heard those statements, I’d probably have enough money to fund my world travels… I share this sentiment though, it is definitely harder to enjoy a place when you spend half your time lining up for entrance, and the other half attempting to take the perfect picture only to be ruined by unintentional photobombs.

It's hard to enjoy a spot when it is crawling with tourists - Parc Guell, Barcelona

It’s hard to enjoy a spot when it is literally crawling with tourists – Parc Guell, Barcelona

It is however quite ironic that tourists hate on other tourists for visiting tourist destinations, speaking their own language and looking lost and out of place, when they are doing the exact same thing.

Wanting to “go off the beaten path” but expect it to be reached by public transport

Off the beaten path

[adjective]  In a secluded location, in a place which is not frequently visited or not widely known.

Kayaking in the Polish wilderness away from the usual tourist routes

Kayaking in the Polish wilderness away from the usual tourist routes

A popular approach to traveling nowadays is to go off the beaten path and experience “the real deal”. By definition, it would mean that the place is hard to reach and requires somewhat jumping through hurdles to get to. Yet tourists often complain when a place lacks the infrastructure to make it accessible.

I can’t believe they don’t have trains/busses/roads to get to this place!

Well if they did, it wouldn’t be “off the beaten path”, would it?

We had to kayak 6 hours to reach this campsite and walk 6kms to reach the nearest bus station

We had to kayak 6 hours to reach this campsite and walk 6kms to reach the nearest bus station

Due to this contradiction, a lot of tour companies have taken advantage of the situation and start offering services for off the beaten path experiences.

Tired of all the tourist-traps? Get off the beaten track and experience the real deal. Let us show you how to experience *insert country here* like a native! Visit X, Y and Z for the authentic experience where no other tourist have visited.

That all sounds very excitingly genuine, doesn’t it? Of course it does, to you and the next 10,000 tourists who read the advertisement.

Want to indulge in the culture but don’t even try to speak the language

A big part of a culture is made up of language. You can learn so much about a culture through their language. Even if countries speak the same language, it can still differ in colloquialism. For example, the Spanish in Spain differs so much from the Spanish in Latin America – some examples;

Fresa

  • In Spain, it refers to strawberries
  • In Mexico however, the word is used to refer to egocentric and conceited people

Capullo

  • In Latin America, it means the bud of a plant, e.g flower bud
  • In Spain, it is a slang word used to insult people, e.g asshole, idiot.

Even in English, slang words differ greatly between the English-speaking countries. I love seeing the look on the English/American faces when I say

“I usually take my thongs off before going in the water.”

In Australia, thongs are referred to flip flops (footwear), but in any other English speaking country, it refers to a small sexy female underwear.

I have seen such a difference in the treatment I get from locals when I start the conversation with their local language or when I do in English. The must-knows basic phrases of each country are “hello, thank you and sorry.” If you know these three and make a genuine attempt at using them when you converse with a local, they will appreciate it greatly.

Travel to see the world but bring their whole home with them

The concept of traveling light seems to elude some people. For instance, when I went traveling to the UK with my parents a few months ago, it blew my mind that my mother packed a rice cooker with her. I’m not even kidding, a fully functional family sized rice cooker, all the way from Malaysia.

Traveling with my mother was something I haven't done since I was a child

The last time I traveled with my mother was probably when I was a child!

I understand the whole thing about Asians and their need to eat rice every single day, but surely, there are other methods of cooking rice that doesn’t involve transporting an electrical equipment to the other side of the world. The total time she actually used it? Twice. And my poor dad had to carry it around for her….Ahh family quirks are always amusing.

Family trips are a rarity in the Davis family because we are rarely in the same country all at once. It only requires an important event like my brother's graduation in London!

Family trips are a rarity in the Davis family because we are seldom in the same country all at once. It only requires an important event like my brother’s graduation in London!

Extending this scenario to tourists in general, I find it ironic that tourists put so much effort into leaving their homes – arduous preparations, time-consuming flights, spending exorbitant amounts of money – only to bring their whole homes with them. If its so convenient at home, why bother leaving? Forgive me for being so critical on this matter, but when you have to carry your own luggage on trains, busses, hundreds of staircases and across cobblestoned European roads, it quickly becomes a crash course in traveling light.


These are just some contradictions I have noticed throughout my travels, by no means it is an exhaustive list. I would love to hear more about other contradictions people have observed in tourists (or themselves when they travel).

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