html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: I like traveling myself, and I usually like people. But not together.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I like traveling myself, and I usually like people. But not together.

The comments in Unfogged linked to this great post, which reminded me how much I hate travelers. I have a post for today after all! Oh man, I hate travelers.

My first year at CalPoly I lived in a hostel right next to campus; during the off-season the owner rented rooms to students. Three other women lived there full-time as well. Marta from Mexico, industrial engineer. Margit from Germany, architecture. Monica from Argentina, agriculture and irrigation. I swear not a day passed that one of us didn’t have the following conversation:

Traveler (serene and friendly): Hell-o! What are you doing here?
M (avoiding eye contact, trying to cook): I go to school at CalPoly.
Traveler (settling in for a chat): Really, in what?
M (dreading the inevitable): Irrigation/engineering/architecture.
Traveler (surprised): A pretty girl like you?
M (not surprised): I will kill you and all of your descendants if you say another word to me.

It wasn’t any one conversation, just the effect of having exactly the same conversation with a new person every day. Ooooh! And then, if I somehow couldn’t escape and they missed the glare that followed “pretty girl like you”, the next words would invariably be “Water is a very important issue in California. Tell me about it.” All of it? Starting where? It’s complicated and I barely understand it after years of study. Put time into explaining it to someone who will be gone tomorrow? No, no, no, no. I hated every identical one of them. In the nine months I lived at the hostel I had exactly one good conversation with a guest. He was an environmental scientist himself; he had just finished tagging bighorn sheep in Death Valley. But he didn’t consider himself a traveler.

For real, if you are staying at a hostel, do not try to befriend the staff or locals. They hate you. You cannot imagine how profoundly you are exactly like every other person who comes through, even in the ways you try to be authentic and chill and real. They do not want to have a genuine connection with you, because you will leave. I despise hostels now, because they all have the same atmosphere and because travelers go there. I gladly trade money to avoid all of that.



If there is any interest in a series, I could move on to:
My deep and abiding hatred of ex-pats, who are weak, vile people.
Why traveling makes people annoying, especially people who believe it has any purpose besides indulgence.
Don’t bash your home country and compatriots, assholes.

37 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I hate travelling. I hate not sleeping in my own bed. I hate not being surrounded by my own stuff. I have no interest in other cultures or any other such nonsense. I hate airports, I hate security, I hate time zones, and jet lag. I hate the schedules.

I don't mind driving to travel. And, I don't mind the destination, if there's something fun there. It wouldn't take much to get me on a plane to go ski in Colorado for a week.

But, in general, I don't see the draw of travelling to a new city, just to see a new city, try the food, and take in the culture. I rate it right up there with watching sports for unnecessarily wasting time.

Justin

3:41 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

I was going to say number three before you got to number three - no bashing! People in other countries will bash your government and culture more than you ever could yourself, and they do it to your face. It's as if ownership of the dog that is George W. Bush is universal - the dog belongs to all of us worldwide, so we can all kick it together? No. I can kick it because I am an American. If you want to go on and on about how terrible our government is, go preach it to some other choir. There's good stuff about what this country was founded on as well as bad, and no one ever seems to want to tell me about THAT when I travel.

Also, I hate when Italians come to this country and say things to me like, "How can you Americans live without beauty?" (Actually happened.) This is a great one-two punch because it implies that my surroundings here in Philadelphia are unsightly, and also that I am a typical fat and slovenly American. Would I go to Italy and say, "How can you Italians live without ambition?" No, I would not. That would be rude.

P.S. Remember that Bolivian girl, Alcira, who came to Sac that summer? She was awesome because she was resonably down with American life. Or at least she pretended. She liked to go to Target, even though she had never seen a big box store before in her life.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

But traveling is the time to have those inane and vapid conversations you couldn't bear to have with people you have to see and live and work with on a regular basis!

4:04 PM  
Blogger ScottM said...

I enjoy travel, but don't delude myself that it's anything but recreation.

I can imagine the frustration of the same conversation, again and again. How do you keep track of the people who've already had the "what do you do" conversation when they're all interchangeable anyway.

If you're really looking to improve your empathy for the shy-- imagine the same faceless/ everyone's the same and going away soon opinion applied to everyone generally, not just hostel people. Viola, you understand (at least a part of my version) of shy.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

"My deep and abiding hatred of ex-pats, who are weak, vile people."

Do you live in the same town you were born in?

4:08 PM  
Blogger capella said...

Part of the deal with being in a hostel - whether you are living there or just passing through - is it is an implicitly communal environment both in practical things (shared kitchen, bathroom, etc.) and in atmosphere. I'm sure you chose to live in the hostel for a reason, and part of the tradeoff was that you had to coexist with the annoyance that is random other people.

4:15 PM  
Blogger NL said...

JMMP, ex-pat is an attitude, not a status.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous shannon said...

Okay, I don't really think you are in any way justified complaining here. YOU LIVED IN A HOSTEL!! Even in the off season there are going to be travelers. Travelers who stay in hostels do so in part because you meet more people. And how do you generally meet people? By beginning a conversation using small talk. Most people don't jump right into a deep and profound conversation, they are usually judged as crazy. The rest of us start with small talk, seeking out commonalities. You should have known this. Choosing to live in a hostel voids your right to complain about people wanting to chit chat with you in the hostel.

You are the person that buys a house next to a bar and then calls the police every night with noise complaints.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

ScottM:
Good analogy. I'll use that when I try to understand shy people.

Capella/Shannon:
I lived in the hostel because it was adjacent to campus and I didn't leave myself enough time to get better housing. I mistakenly thought that my co-op living experience prepped me for having people around. But you are clearly right; I was the person in the wrong place. (Although everyone who lived there came to the same attitude in a matter of months.)

Dubin!:
I LOVE your comments. Philadelphia was gorgeous.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Shane said...

This is why when I travel, I always, always let the local initiate the conversation. And I try to avoid chatting with people who're involved in the tourism industry. They always warp your sense of reality.

I think the problem here is you gave too much info. Why mention Cal-Poly at all? Just say "Oh I live here". They won't have anything to followup, and most should take the hint that you're not interested in a long personal talk.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous sarah said...

Honestly, this post sounds like you hate superficial chit-chat more than anything else. The fact that they were "travelers" seems to have very little to do with it.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous sarah said...

Also, what's so wrong with being an ex-pat? What if you lived in DC, then went to Paris and liked it better? How is that substantively different than living in DC and deciding to move to Chicago?

5:43 PM  
Anonymous justus said...

Don’t bash your home country and compatriots

Why not? What if they deserve it? And who gets to decide whether they do or not? Is it only expats who are precluded from doing this bashing?

I rate it right up there with watching sports for unnecessarily wasting time.

Says the guy posting on blogger.com....

Honestly, this post sounds like you hate superficial chit-chat more than anything else.

I agree and think it points to a potential reason for lack of romantic prospects.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Justus remembers the point of this blog! Way to bring it back to the mission.

Um, I'm not particularly good with small talk, but I understand that it is the window to real talk. At the hostel the small talk was infuriatingly the same, and there was no point to real talk with someone who was about to leave.

Nope, not just ex-pats who are precluded from bashing the home country. Everyone is. And I should have added that no one should be bashing the local country either.

Seems like there are enough questions that I will address the ways ex-pats are small, venal people. Maybe in a couple days.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was younger and poorer, I lived for short periods of time in hostels here in the U.S., particularly in urban areas like Washington, DC.

Maybe my stints were too short, but I actually enjoyed talking to people from around the world (although they tended to be younger Europeans with a bohemian vibe), and hearing about where they were from, etc. This is an instance where I was happy to let them talk, and generally be more quiet.

The closest thing I get to that now is taking a sleeper car on the Amtrak train. Not only is the view from the dining car gorgeous, but it is one of the few times in adult life where you get seated with a complete stranger, with no starting point of commonality whatsoever, and then you have to figure out what to talk about. Sometimes the conversation is a dud, but sometimes it is invigorating...

Sometimes, we make up an identity, and see how far we can take it. That's fun too. It's one of the few places you can get away with it...

--A

6:33 PM  
Anonymous I only hated Milosevic, but he's dead said...

I briefly lived in a poor, predominantly latino neighborhood. My conversations with my neighbors were generally repetitive and unengaging (much as the conversations you describe).

Which generalization would you suggest from this? Hate the poor or hate Latinos?

If neither, can you clarify the distinction between the evil travelers and the not-so-evil poor?

And they never even told me I was pretty :-(

9:13 PM  
Blogger billo said...

"Don't bash your own country". Fair point. But sometimes loving your own country partly depends on saying how crap other ones are. Nationalism: "sickness and unreason".

Tourists or 'travelers' can be infuriating and I sometimes feel like shooting them. But on the other hand, there can be something terribly parochial and narrow minded about those who haven't traveled. Americans who have traveled always strike me as liberal minded, cultured, and open.

dubin, you make a good point about manners. But might I sugegst that there is -at least in some quarters-the idea that the whole world must be like america? America as a "universal nation" , city on the hill, beacon of light for all us third-worlders and all that. No?

11:39 PM  
Anonymous thelonious_nick said...

I love traveling. You want to make a good impression with somebody in another country, even somebody in the tourist industry? Learn a few words of the local language. The smaller, more obscure the language, the more effective this strategy is. You can easily learn a handful of useful phrases on the plane ride over.

When I was in Iceland, I used Icelandic courtesies when dealing with locals. Even hardened tour guides would smile and start talking to me (obviously any further conversation was in English). I think I may have been the first visitor to Iceland they had ever heard try to speak Icelandic, even if it was just a few words. I've had similar success with this strategy in Poland and Hungary. Didn't work so well in Germany though, until I learned to speak German with some degree of competence.

In North American cities, try reading the local newspaper. Imagine if one of those visitors at the hostel had asked Megan about a local matter he had read in the paper that morning, or how the local mass transit system worked. It would have been something different and real to talk about.

Do most Americans really bash their own country abroad? Don't most people see themselves as ambassadors for their country? I see being an ambassador as explaining, as far as you're able, American policies and attitudes to others who might not understand. Note that doesn't mean you have to agree with every US policy, and I think it's okay to express that.

Maybe I'm just hopelessly naive about travel....

7:49 AM  
Anonymous thelonious_nick said...

Here's the topic I would like to see Megan address next:

"Why traveling makes people annoying, especially people who believe it has any purpose besides indulgence."

7:51 AM  
Blogger billo said...

Nick, KaliMeera.
Some great points. The foreigners I know who lived in Pakistan learnt Urdu and Punjabi and could swear like no-body's business (this despite them being missionaries! ..that's the effect the Punjab has on people I guess!)

Like I said, people who travel realise that there's a bigger world out there: that all muslims aren't "terrorists" and all westerners aren't "decadent".

8:43 AM  
Blogger thor said...

Megan, if you're taking requests how about "My deep and abiding hatred of ex-pats, who are weak, vile people."

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you actually KNOW someone who identifies themselves as an ex-pat, you would get where Meghan is coming from. M - good luck explaining, I have no words, just relief someone else feels that way.

On travel, I will say that I think it is not super relaxing, slightly broadens the mind, but I have no illusions that I'm anything more than an annoying tourist while I do it. I'm a naturally unobservant person, and traveling has helped me become better at noticing my surroundings, at home as well as while traveling. The contrasts help me to see beauty in the everyday, I guess? But I don't like people who act like travelling is the most soulful thing in the world. I think it's good to see how other people live if you have the means. That's about it.

-dithers

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Mike Jenkins said...

"Don’t bash your home country and compatriots, assholes"

I'm amazed; I share the opinion, but I thought you were a west coast commie. I guess I was too quick to generalize. If you generalize too quickly, you end up saying things like "[all] ex-pats, ... are weak, vile people."

10:55 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Mike,
No no. I wasn't generalizing too quickly.

Dithers:
Shouldn't be too hard to explain.

11:09 AM  
Blogger David said...

Gee, Megan, I've been an expat for the past six years and will be until next Thursday.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Nope, if you know you are going home, you aren't an ex-pat.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But I don't like people who act like travelling is the most soulful thing in the world. I think it's good to see how other people live if you have the means. That's about it."

Aaaaamen, brother. It irritates me when I meet people who have traveled and think that because of it, they are now better people. As 'straw man' as that may sound, I have met these people. -K.

2:28 PM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

Vile might be a little strong, but expats do drive me nuts. So do travellers. My trip through Vietnam changed dramatically the day I decided to spring for my own damn room in an inexpensive hotel ($7) instead of staying in a dorm ($3).

Suddenly, I was alone. I was sometimes meeting people, most times not, but I definitely wasn't tearing my hair out trying to avoid inane conversations that all seemed to boil down to comparing sites and cities like we were all talking about Disneyland. Which was your favorite ride? Didn't you find the people of Tomorrowland just lovely?

PS, I am not imaginary! I lived at Loth. Hmph. Actually I've never been able to figure out whether it was the same semester as you or not, but I did live there right about then.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You lived at Loth! You must know Chris and Dan and Karen E. and maybe Karen L.? '92-'94 for me. I can't think of an Amanda... What house? What room? (Rm 6, Rm 3, Rm 14, South House.)

Fucking ex-pats.

3:35 PM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

All of the above, I think. I can't remember who Karen L. was but I know there was a reason why Karen E. was Karen E. If by Dan you mean Dangle Day then yah. I don't remember north from south but first I had a room in the no-kitchen house, it was dark but we could get to the secret patio and we had our own bathroom. It suited us. Small children used to climb through the window and go through our drawers. Brian convinced them that there was a Giant Terrible Snake on his up-high-loft-bed so they wouldn't climb up there, but they most definitely did some jumping on my bed.

Then I had that room right over the Kitchen that used to be a sun porch with the windows all around and actual rodents came in through the windows and nested in my sweaters. It was getting warm so it took a while before I discovered that my sweater drawer had been taken over. I think that was room 2 or something. Maybe room 4? I can't remember. It was above the kitchen, but not the crazy big room that Bimla and Lela were in that was a triple or quadruple or something.

But I think I was there the year after you left ('94/'95) so maybe I am still imaginary.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Sounds like you were in what used to be the Sex Pad for Rm 3. Chris and I remember that room fondly.

But I don't think we overlapped. You were there with Christy, no? And Beth?

8:52 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I meant Dan Genius, but know Dangle Day less well.

2:08 PM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

Secretly, I know we didn't overlap, I've been through it with Dubin. But I like to assert my non-imaginaryness anyhow.

Also, the tag cloud thing, it is a WordPress plugin. I looked, it doesn't seem like there is an easy plugin on Blogger.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Old elves aren't imaginary!

It would be nice to have a tag cloud that didn't take people off-site, but this one seems to be working. People are using it, anyway. Thanks for looking.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous M/tch M/lls said...

and there was no point to real talk with someone who was about to leave.

I'm way late to this thread, but this seems so over-utilitarian to me as to rate comment (from so august a person as myself).

Um, seriously? You rank conversations primarliy based on your perceptions of whether or not they'll lead to some future relationship? I don't like to judge, but it just seems really unnecessarily dismissive to me. For one thing, you don't know how long a particular person is staying, or whether they might choose to stay longer if they get to know you. You also don't know if you might meet up again some day.

But probably even more important, talking to someone (interesting) can be a reward in itself. There's always more to learn, even if you never set eyes on each other again. One of the great things about travelling can be meeting locals who have never travelled but who are nonetheless willing to talk to you. If they all just assumed that there's no reason to talk to people who they'll probably never see again, well why would anyone travel anywhere?

That said, I do understand (and largely share) your general annoyance with travellers and expats. But I try not to be totally closed to interactions with strangers.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

It is too demanding to have genuine conversations with people who keep leaving. If you make a connection, it gets severed the next day. If it is a great connection and s/he stays a while longer, it just hurts that much more when they leave. It is just giving away small bits of yourself, and if you live there it adds up.

Besides, travelers only talk about where to find the 'real' places to go and how they found the most unpoiled beach ever. Where there were no white people and they ate slugs and iguanas. Not worth it.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Paloma said...

How can you hate travelling? You think the world is only American, that there is only one culture in the world and that is yours. Why don't you get out there and broaden your horizons? There are zillions of people like me who love travelling. It makes you wordly, it teaches you, it informs you about things, and it brings out parts of you that nothing else can. This world is beautiful. Take some time to learn about it and the people and wonderful cultural diversity.

1:02 PM  

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