7 Travel Cliches that Need to Die

I talk about travel a lot, I write about travel a lots, I read about travel a lot and I think about it a whole lot more. In all this travel chatter, I’ve come across a few common assumptions and beliefs perpetuated in the modern travel discourse that drive me absolutely bananas.

1. You “do” cities

This is just semantics, but when I hear someone say they’re going to “do Munich” or have “done Vietnam” it makes me wince. It sounds harmless, but it insinuates that they’ve gone somewhere, absorbed it entirely and have no reason to return.

You do your laundry, you do your taxes and you do the dishes but you do not “do” a place. it isn’t complete once you have left nor have you completely absorbed it after you leave.

There is always more to discover, experience and observe. This is why I’ve visited Paris four times in the space of eighteen months. One time I was studying there, but the first, second and fourth times I was travelling through Europe and still found a million reasons to return. I’ve travelled to new places on every trip too, but it doesn’t have to be this way at all. Places aren’t as static as they seem in photographs, and between a changing city and an ever-changing traveller (ie. everyone), there opportunities for new experiences with every visit.

Golden Hour at Top of the Rock View Midtown NYC

2. You need to “do” as many different places as possible

I am aware of the opportunity-cost of spending a night in Paris rather than a night in Cambridge or nearby Lyon, or Lille, for example. I am aware of the opportunity cost of returning to France rather than visiting Mexico. I think it is a fallacy that you need to tick off a bunch of different countries or cities or continents to have valuable travel experiences. To think that I’d be done with Florence, Athens or New York would be incredibly ignorant. I’ve got other cities in my sights, but I’m going where my head and heart take me.

Maybe if I was a one-woman guidebook there would be some onus on me to tick off far-flung destinations around the world. The beauty of being just another traveller is that my travel plans only have to enrich my lives and those of my travel companions.

I’m excited to push myself further out of my comfort zone in different countries but I also realise the value in finding the deeper and more subtle nuances within a culture with repeated exposures too. Even a trip an hour away from home is potentially a great adventure!

3. Contiki Tours are for drunk bogans, not true “citizens of the world”

I rarely listen to the opinion of people who are doling out advice for experiences they have not experienced themselves. The cities you visit on any tour are the exact same city the independent traveller standing a few feet away is also experiencing. Sure, there are less road bumps along the way because all accommodation is pre-planned however you’re still free to wander away from the herd as much as you like. Some people get drunk every night and are too hungover to appreciate what they’re experiencing the next day however I think if you check into almost any European hostel at 9am in the morning you’d find many proud independent travellers in a similar state.

I’ve met so many different people on tours that it would be impossible (and narrow-minded) to lump them into one category.

There are advantages and disadvantages of doing group tours and I’m not saying everyone should do one. Personally, I’ve done a few tours and with some travel experience up my sleeve, Contiki Tours just aren’t for me anymore. Some people will decide a tour might not be right for them. That’s fine. It just frustrates me when people take a moral high ground for not doing a tour.

4. Staying in hostels makes you a more authentic young traveller

I don’t think there is a set formula for travel, even when you do your first big around the world (or around a continent) trip. For me, staying in hostels isn’t the only way to go.

As far as I’m concerned, whether you stay in The Ritz or a backpackers in Montmartre, all things are equal when you step out your front door every morning. How you travel is dependent on your actions each day, not where you sleep each night.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve only stayed at a hostel once. I’ve never stayed at a fancy hotel, but have always found a middle ground. Often, for not that much more than a hostel and often it is much closer to the centre of town. I don’t see how one’s preferences for privacy, security and hygiene determine the authenticity of their travel experience. I can meet other travellers without staying in a room full of strangers where, if photos are anything to be believed, I’m likely to wake up in a room with a half-naked backpacker passed out on the floor. I also find it easier to meet locals when I’m out and about, without a  crowd of people from back home. I know that the typical young traveller experience is to stay in a hostel, but I don’t think I missed out by not doing so.

5. Your new friends are only as good as their passport

I think all people have equal potential to be interesting and important.

Whenever a local lothario tries to impress me with the fact that he’s from Italy, I feel like congratulating him for being born with a nationality. I’ve met Australians overseas, but I’ve also met French, Italian, Croatian, Swiss, Swedish, Japanese, South African, Canadian and the list goes on. They’re all equally interesting and important in my eyes.

Meeting locals is great, meeting people from other English speaking countries is great, meeting other Australians from different cities and even the same cities is great. I love meeting people from different cultural backgrounds but it’s cool meeting Aussies too. It’s only a shame when you’re discounting either group in the favour of meeting people just because they are more like you or less like you. A person is not their passport.

Photo of people lining up at Senso Ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

6. Travellers > Tourists

Does the whole “travellers vs tourist” debate make anyone else feel nauseous?

I understand the premise of the self-righteous semantics about how travellers are so much more enlightened than tourists. I get it – make an effort to experience local culture, try new things, be mindful and respectful of your surroundings. These are all important ideas, but being proud that you’ve never touched a map, consulted a guide book for ideas or history and that you’re too cool for a photo with the Colosseum doesn’t make you a “traveller, not a tourist”, but a bit of a bore.

For me, the terms are interchangeable. I understand the negative connotation of the word tourist; they take lots of photos but rarely just stop and observe, they eat the most familiar food on the menu and they don’t learn a single word in the native language of the country they are visiting.

I agree that many travellers/tourists could show more respect to their surroundings and that engaging more with the local culture would enrich their experience. But as as long as you aren’t hurting people, animals or the environment, who is to say you’re doing it wrong?

Paris

Travel challenges everyone in different ways, even the guy who is sitting in a hotel room in Berlin all morning because he’s secretly missing home. Your fellow travellers may not seem as brave or open minded as you, but they probably left home with a very different set of values, attitudes and beliefs than you did.

I’m never embarrassed to take yet another photo of the Eiffel Tower, because I can’t get over it’s beauty. I want a photo with the stunning Duomo in Florence so I can look back on it in years to come. I’m going to walk around with a map in Verona because I don’t have a  Google Maps chip lodged in the back of my head. Walking with a map simply admits there is somewhere you want to go but you haven’t walked there before.

I try and take in as much of my surroundings on the way as I can too and I still like to make time for other wanderings where I can just follow my nose.

Traveller = Tourist

7. You have to quit your job to see the world

There is so much to see, sometimes it feels like the only way to see “enough” is to quit your job and travel full time. There are a lot of people who travel the world because they quit the “9-5 ball and chain” and became “digital nomads.” This is awesome, and certainly a lot tougher than it looks, but it’s not the only way.

You do not have to quit your job.

Your career.

Your relationship.

You don’t have to turn travel into your job to see the world. You’re allowed to be a multi-passionate person. You’re allowed to love your career and living in your city and all the perks of a fixed life, such as having a place to call home, having pets and maintaining a relationship with your partner, family or friends.

You can make the most of long weekends and annual leave. You can take leave without pay. You can travel more extensively in between jobs, go on secondment with your company or find a flexible working solution if you really want to travel more than your work typically allows.

And yes, you can quit your job. The important thing is to find what works for you, not do what you “should” do.

How many people can make a positive impact on the world and chase their potential while travelling? I have a handful of travel blogs that I read religiously, and they all live an exciting life of travel, but they all do it differently.

Alex in Wanderland is a digital nomad, but she’s more than that – she’s a seriously talented writer and photographer, making her blog a delightful and invaluable resource for travellers from every walk of life. C’est Christine has travelled the world, but now lives in New York City – an adventure in itself, with lots of long weekend trips and daytrips thrown in. Young Adventuress is an expat, from the US, who has lived in Spain and now lives in New Zealand. She blogs about her experiences travelling outside NZ, but also has done a tremendous job of sharing NZ’s beauty with the world.

All three of these women live a life full of travel, on their terms. All three of them are also wonderful writers and photographers, which makes them stand out in the sea of successful travel blogs that are run by good marketers, rather than talented creatives.

Noumea

Next time you read an article that makes you feel like you’re wasting your life away for working at the much maligned desk, in a big, bad scary office when you really should saying “Sayonara suckers!”, remember that there is no RIGHT way to see the world. Maybe quitting your job will bring you more happiness. Maybe a year spent travelling is really what you need. Maybe it’s a total career change. Or maybe the problem isn’t your job or your hometown or your friends, maybe you just want to live a life of travel – whatever that means to you.

I’m all for travelling more, but I don’t believe you have to sacrifice everything else to see and experience “enough.”

What do you think? What are the travel cliches that drive you nuts? 

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32 thoughts on “7 Travel Cliches that Need to Die

  1. What an excellent post! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. And thank you for talking about group tours! I just started travel blogging and my biggest experience yet has been with Contiki, and I loved it. But I have to admit that I was scared that people wouldn’t take me seriously or that my opinion wasn’t good enough because I had experienced Europe on a tour and not on my own. I agree that it’s not for everyone, but to experience a new place as a tour can be just as influential on a person! Seriously, I loved this piece and I’ll be sharing it 🙂

    1. Thank you Taylor! So glad you liked it – I know how you feel re group tours, I’ve travelled with a group and without, and I definitely think a tour can be the right way to travel sometimes, and doesn’t make your experience any less valid 🙂

  2. Love what you said about tourist vs. traveler, it mirrors what I’ve been thinking every time I see something about that stupid debate. I totally agree that as long as you are not destructive or insensitive to the place/animals/people/culture you’re visiting, you should travel however you want!

  3. This is awesome and I agree with pretty much every thing you said, especially #5. I really hate hearing people judge other’s ways of experiencing the world. Everyone’s experience is totally unique and what works for one person doesn’t always work for someone else–just like everything else in life!

    Great post, you gained a new follower!! 🙂

  4. I really loved this post – I found myself nodding in agreement with pretty much everything you said!

    I have travelled a lot in my 28 years, thanks in particular to my parents who whisked me off around the world as a child (and passed on the travel bug :))– and as a result I’ve been to over 50 countries. However I certainly can’t say that I’ve seen anything close to all those countries have to offer, and wouldn’t declare myself any more well-travelled than someone who has spent a year in just one country thoroughly exploring all of it.

    Unfortunately on my trips I have come across a lot of close mindedness and one-up-manship regarding how people should travel and what constitutes ‘real’ travel (such an awful phrase!). As you say, travel is a very personal experience and as long as you’re not hurting people or your environment, then it is up to you how you choose to do it! I stay in hotels too rather than hostels and work a full time job in the UK, but I don’t think that detracts from my appreciation of the countries I visit or what I get from my journeys.

    I’m glad I came across this blog and look forward to reading more from you 🙂

  5. Such a great post! Absolutely love it and agree with all your points. I think the immense recent development in social media and its relationship with travelling has definitely created too much of a competition in ways we can’t measure by countries visited or time spent in a destination necessarily. And the ‘personal resume’ observation that Chelsea made seems very apt too!

  6. I love your refreshing look at all the smug know-it-alls that believe their way is the right way! Like you say: There is no ‘right way’. Do what pleases you as long as you don’t negatively affect others.
    Thank you for not turning this into click-bait about how great your travel life is (although I’m sure it is great).
    I personally have travelled most ways possible from hitching on horseback to 5 star luxury and still believe you can get a lot out of all experiences if you try.
    In South America I flew from Buenas Aires to Iguazu for $90 to avoid an 18hour crowded bus ride for $25. All the backpackers judged me as not a ‘hardcore backpacker’ like them but I didn’t mind because I spent an extra day at the Falls & hours relaxing in the hostel pool drinking Cervesas!
    Safe travels & Bon Voyage

    1. Thanks Joey for your kind words! Sounds like you’ve had some amazing travel experiences – totally agree, sounds like you made the right choice in South America! You don’t get extra points for taking the cheapest/most difficult route

  7. I hate the one-up thing that kind of exist with people who travel longterm. Travel should be an individual experience and treated as such. We’ve been traveling for 6 months and we’ve met people who just short of painfully annoying with their competitiveness. Great you ate a greasy sandwich from a gas station for only 2 dollars- I enjoyed every second of my 15 dollar meal. Now get off my lawn!

    This post definitely brought out the grumpy old cat lady in me but good points for sure 🙂

  8. “Walking with a map simply admits there is somewhere you want to go but you haven’t walked there before.”

    I agree so much! Well, with your whole post, but particularly that.
    When I was travelling, I loved bumbling around with my maps. It’s taught me to be a better navigator in general, mapless.
    And I feel We are on the same page: I too feel it is important to just wander when in a new place, “follow your nose” as you put it.

    Very interesting post.

    I’d never taken much notice of the “do” thing. I’m quite certain, because of the way I speak, that I have never used that phrase. It’s always been “I will be travelling to…”, etc.
    But I agree with you. It sounds rather terrible.

    1. Thanks Ashleigh! I’m so glad to hear you found it relatable 🙂 I think my navigation skills have definitely improved since being forced to use a map too!

  9. Love this article!! I agree with all your points 100%. So many people believe that a high number of visited countries = travel experience. As someone who has travelled as part of Contiki groups I also agree! Most tours do have a party atmosphere but you are able to travel with a fun, varied group of travellers while still experiencing a foreign culture 🙂

  10. Excellent post , especially points 1,2 and 5. I have no experience of Contiki tours or hostels. We go back to Paris every time in Europe and enjoy it differently each time. We add a couple of new cities though to enrich the experience. I am a movie geek so was a real tourist in San Fran recently just checking out movie locations. I do find sometimes I spend too much time trying to get “the photo” rather than actually fully enjoying what I am seeing but for me a lot of travel is sharing your adventures with others.

    1. Thanks for commenting, I totally agree – every time is a different experience. It sounds like your trip to San Francisco was exciting! I’ve never been to the states so haven’t had too much opportunity to see the scenes in the movies in real life (apart from scenes from Amelie!). I definitely spend a lot of time taking photos, but I cherish my travel photos above every other material possession. They’re the only proof of your memories 🙂

  11. I was in the Louvre and saw a man dash up to the Venus de Milo, snap a picture, and dash away. That kind of travel seems really sad to me. Not that I do everything right, but your blog just reminded me of that example of the kind of traveler I don’t ever want to be. Great post

    1. That is a little sad, isn’t it! Who knows, maybe the photo was for someone else and he wasn’t much of an art buff. It would be a shame though if he just felt he had to tick it off the list. Thanks for sharing your experience! 🙂

  12. i LOVE this! i could no agree more about “doing” cities. like when i hear someone being like “oh i want to take a winter holiday and do Australia and new zealand”…no please stop and just don’t say you want to travel like that ever again. haha.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad at least one person isn’t thinking that I just made an ass out of myself on the Internet, haha. Hahah yes it’s frustrating isn’t it! A destination is never done. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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