There have been a lot of articles that tackle the Traveler vs. Tourist argument, including one of our own. I’ve decided to contribute my own thoughts on the matter by coming up with 5 anti-travel behaviors I aim to avoid.

I’ll start off with one of my favorite Travel QuotesIf you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. – James Michener

Not Associating with Locals

During my semester abroad I decided to visit a friend of mine from my high school days who was studying for a year in Sevilla, Spain. I planned on spending most of the weekend with her, but since she was already sick of the tourist traps and I could not pass up a visit to the Alcazar palace, I spent most of my time solo. When we did meet up for some bar hopping on my last night in town I was so excited to speak to some locals. Granted, none of them spoke English and I knew absolutely zero Spanish.

When I asked my friend if she knew any locals who she could introduce me to she responded with a “oh we don’t bother with them.” Not only did this remind me that I was no longer in High School, but I was shellshocked that she had lumped these interesting people into the boring category. That night I made friends with a few Spanish men and women and we communicated in French. It always amazes me how much of a language rushes back to you when you really need it and of course after a few drinks.

Taking Smiley Photos in Inappropriate Places

On a trip to Munich, Germany with my Mom, I had convinced her to come along with me to the nearby remnants of Dachau which was one of the most severe concentration camps. I figured since we were so close, there really was no legitimate reason why I shouldn’t visit the site and learn more about the tragic history that took place there. As soon as I stepped off the bus I immediately felt a negative energy surround me. It bordered on suffocating.

What I couldn’t understand was why travelers were jumping up and down and posing next to these horrific torture devices smiling ear to ear. I guess they wanted something to capture the memory but it seemed wrong to me. I personally don’t like being in photos at all, but even if you are not as camera shy, I think it’s a good idea to recognize when a historic site requires a certain level of respect.

Eating at Fast Food Restaurants

I still remember stepping foot in Venice, Italy. Everything charmed me – the busy streets, the singing gondeliers, and the endless blocks of traditional Italian restaurants. What I wasn’t impressed with was seeing a McDonalds in what is one of the most magical and cultural cities in Europe.

Making matters worse was the amount of people actually eating there. I generally try to stay away from fast food restaurants in the first place, as I’m sure we all do, but it just seemed unnatural that a city like Venice would be tarnished by a restaurant chain, let alone a mass marketed fast food company.

If you are on a tight budget and not ready to splurge on a 5 course meal at a trendy restaurant in town, you can still find delicious food from local vendors on the street or in small cafes and bistros. The best meal I had in Italy was actually a slice of pizza from a tiny shop in Venice.

Following Rigid Schedules

No matter how far ahead I used to plan for trips, I was never able to fit everything in and knowing what I missed out on made me view my experience as incomplete. This is not a good way to travel. While doing some research and identifying sites and museums that you don’t want to miss out on, sticking to a flexible schedule has worked for me. It allows me to explore a city and go beyond the tourist destinations, meet locals, and gain more perspective on my overall journey.

I’ve gotten lost in Peru, Argentina, Luxembourg and countless other places, and while I don’t always recommend purposely getting lost, it did work in my favor and luckily I have yet to have a shady experience by using this method (knock on wood). Finding a balance between your must-do itinerary and your lets-wander list is a good strategy to stick to while traveling.

Megan getting lost in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Technology Oversharers

As a travel writer who needs the internet to produce content, I’m still playing a game of tug of war. Before I needed to blog and tweet in real time during a trip, it was easy to get annoyed by travelers who walked into metal poles because they were trying to send their friends back home a picture of them dancing in front of the Louvre. We live in a technological driven society which has its pros and cons but I think it’s very important to keep the smart-phone use to a minimim.

I don’t understand when travelers are more interested in tweeting a picture than looking at the real thing. For example, when I was in Egypt I saw tourists literally glued to their phones as they tried to locate a signal to email photos back home. They could have done this at a more appropriate time. You can always send a photo but you are not always going to see an Egyptian sunset over the Pyramids.

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