I’ve let you all down. When I started this blog I made a promise that I would write about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of my adventures.
Over the past four years I’ve posted about the beauty of countless cities, the benefits of going both above and below water in many destinations and even managed to see the positive side of working in an abattoir! Never though, have I been completely open about those moments that I’ve really disliked, or more importantly perhaps, the elements of travel that I don’t really enjoy that much. Yes, there are some.
As a generally positive person, my perspective on the places I visit is heavily influenced by my determination to see the best in any experience, from food poisoning to belonging theft. Years of travel and embracing the unknown has taught me that even bad situations can often make for funny memories with hindsight and that, even the most torrid of moments can sometimes have a silver lining.
However enough’s enough and I’m ready for a moan! Here’s a top-five countdown of the things that really grind my gears when I travel:
#5 – The lack of readily available wine and cheese
I’m pretty sure that this is a very personal problem. As those of you who have been reading for a while will have guessed, I love eating and drinking. A nice bottle of Malbec and some good camembert take this enjoyment to a whole different level for me. In fact as I get older, it’s probably one of the few elements of my lifestyle that I’m not willing to compromise on. So I actually become quite distressed when I’m in destinations where these two glorious items are either not sold at all, or simply too pricey to justify.
Turning this problem on its head during recent trips, I’ve actively sought destinations where the wine is excellent, like the Chianti region of Italy.
#4 – The bragging wars of budget backpackers
I get it. You’re on a tight budget. You’ve managed to live for five months on just over $2 and that’s admirable. However I certainly don’t want to spend all my hostel evenings discussing the finer points of how you’ve haggled each and every price. Aside from the fact that this means you’re draining the infrastructure and resources of a place without putting anything back into the local economy, you also think it’s appropriate to judge others based on how much they are or aren’t spending. The worst kind of Budget- Bragger? The one who has only been able to live on $2 for five months because they ‘borrow’ everyone else’s milk/beers/cigarettes etc. I’m not on a two month trip so that you can be here for four.
We’ve all bust a gut to save money for the experience of a lifetime – let’s just get on with it!
#3 – The ignorant traveller who makes life harder for the rest of us
From mindlessly thrashing selfie sticks around in a church in Zagreb, to making hurtful and occasionally racist comments towards locals, I’ve seen it all. Of course, I’ve never known absolutely everything about the destinations I’ve visited (who does!) but I’ve always taken the time to know enough to be mindful of my actions as a tourist. My greatest frustration about this type of ignorant traveller is that by not bothering to educate themselves about the language, culture and traditions of the places they visit, they give the rest of us a bad name.
Should you get angry because you’re turned away from a sacred temple in hot pants? Probably not. Should you openly mock the quality of someone’s stall wares? Nope. Should you complain if someone doesn’t speak your language in their own country? Please.
#2 – Traveller’s tummy: when the fun really stops
From time to time, travel just becomes crappy. Pun intended. From terrifyingly close calls on long bus journeys, to cancelling whole activities because I’m vomiting every five minutes in a dirty communal toilet – these are the moments where I really wonder why I travel. Unfortunately, I suffer from a sensitive stomach at the best of times (think tolerance for nothing spicier than lamb balti) so I’m always faced with dilemmas when abroad. I love trying new things, but I always have to weigh up the possible consequences. Rules I’ve sadly learnt to put up with include: no street food the night before a bus journey, no tap water pretty much anywhere and a well stocked first aid kit!
My main bugbear about these unfortunate tummy troubles, is that the majority of the time I have absolutely no idea why I’ve become ill. Often, there’s nothing left to do but to ride it out and hope that I don’t become too weak to make it into the bathroom…
#1 – Mosquitos: I’m with Bill Gates on this one
I’ve thought long and hard about my number one travel annoyance and have firmly decided on mosquitos. I’ve read recently that Bill Gates is using his millions to fight a war against these redundant, disease-spreading pests, and I completely back his mission.
Let’s forget the many nights I’ve personally spent suffering the side effects of anti-malarials and fiddling with nets, the rashes I’ve suffered from mis-applied DEET mixed with suntan lotion and the infections I got as a kid from scratching the bites.
All this is of no significance when put against the abject misery these creatures deliver to whole communities in developing countries where drugs, nets and clinical help are not readily available. The mosquito is the biggest human killer in history, and continues to kill. Even worse, they aren’t even pollinators and as far as I’m aware, neither do they provide enough food within ecosystems for their absence to be sorely missed.
I wish they would all just buzz off!