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If you read my articles often you’ll have noticed that I have particular disdain for those who are judgemental jerks.
A pattern I have noticed recently is people whinging about other people taking the “easy option”.
“They aren’t a real traveller because they always take the easy option, I never do because I believe in real travel” (ugh)
There is a time and a place for ‘hard’ but I felt the need to write this defence of easy travel, addressing a few of the offending behaviours.
The biggie. The big one.
You’re in Italy/France/Standard European Destination …. Why would you go to McDonalds??
Well honey here’s why.
I need wifi to find the destination I’m going to.
I don’t want to walk around for 90 minutes in the centre of the tourist zone looking for a meal that won’t taste like cardboard and cost the same as a new hatchback.
So sit down and eat your damn fries.
I am a lover of food, I travel for food, I wax lyrical about food.
I have literally gone without breakfast, lunch, and dinner in order to afford spending my entire days budget on macarons from a famous bakery in Paris.
I have searched, riding my quad up and down a road for over an hour – to the severe irritation of my boyfriend – looking for the turn off to a particular winery. (I didn’t find it that trip, it was another few months until I was fortunate enough to taste at Hatzidakis)
I am not averse to spending money on food. So long as it isn’t 30 euros for the world’s smallest plate of badly microwaved pasta and ketchup.
Restaurants in the tourist zone are rarely worth looking at the menu for, especially in destinations like Paris and Rome. There are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority don’t need to have food with flavour because the patrons are hungry and will never come back anyway.
McDonalds doesn’t taste amazing, but it does taste relatively the same worldwide.
The wifi basically always works.
They won’t charge you a 10 euro cover fee to sit down with your coke because all you actually need is the wifi. This happened in Venice, I was lost and I asked, ‘if I order a coke can I use your wifi?’ They said yes, brought me a coke and a bill for 15 euros. Not only is 5 euros for 130mls of coke criminal in and of itself, they didn’t mention the “no food” cover charge. I was there for all of 5 minutes.
A meal at Maccas will cost you like 8 euros, and you can stay as long as you like.
I’m not saying that you should go to the food capital of the world and eat three meals a day from MaccieD’s. I’m saying that having lunch in a franchise isn’t going to invalidate your trip and transmute you into a bad person.
In fact I have had some really interesting experiences AT a McDonalds.
You know how a lot of burgers are beef patties? Not in India. Because duh. Didn’t think about that one.
Sausage Mc Muffins – pork sausage in the UK. Chicken in Jordan, Turkey, Dubai. Again, because duh.
In Paris we witnessed someone using wire cutters to steal the Ronald McDonald Charity house box. We mentioned it to the security guard and he said, “Yeah but that charity gets millions of euros, he is homeless, he needs it more and he isn’t hurting anyone”.
Not everything you do while travelling has to be the most cultural thing ever and be a life changing experience.
I have been mocked for taking a taxi from the airport in Athens to my hotel. It cost me 45 Euros. Yes this is expensive. Yes this is unnecessary, because the metro and busses do just fine.
But this was when I was coming from Australia. 36 hours on a plane + late night arrival + unfamiliar transport system = way too frickin hard.
So I budgeted for a taxi to my hotel.
Taxis say naiveté – you don’t know how to use the system
Taxis say money – you have the spare cash to pay a driver
Taxis say you’re there to do THINGS – as opposed to experience the place
All these things are judgements completely based on your own preconceived notions.
First of all, you don’t know that persons circumstance.
Is it still naive and wasteful to take a taxi if you’re differently abled or have medical condition that makes standing for an hour on a train unpleasant or impossible?
I’m not talking about the wheelchair user who very clearly can’t take the stairs to the metro station platform and the lift has been broken for 6 months.
I’m also talking about a friend of mine with chronic fatigue. It hasn’t stopped her from travelling, but she still needs to take a taxi.
What about someone with anxiety, a crowded train carriage in a new place where you don’t know the system is a perfect recipe for a panic attack.
OR maybe, gasp, it’s none of your business either way and if someone wants to spend their own money on a taxi instead of taking the bus that’s their personal choice as a grown ass adult?
I tend not to use taxis apart from the occasional airport transfer, because I am comfortable with public transport in general and I tend to travel on a super tight budget. However if I am travelling with a friend, or a group of friends, and all of a sudden the taxi option is 5 euros each then I am not going to stand on ceremony and insist we use the bus.
I hate selfie sticks. I do. I really do. Not because the people who use them are bad, or vain, or vacuous.
But because when some people use them they lose all consciousness of what is around them.
I have been smacked in the head by a selfie stick wielding individual who did not even apologise! Even though she and I made eye contact after I yelled out in pain and she looked all sheepish.
I have seen a man tuck his selfie stick under his arm, then turn quickly around which caused the handle to hit his own child in the face – causing her to bleed. Then as he turned around to find out why she was crying the same handle end swatted a ceramic church off the shelf and on to the flagstones.
I witnessed a very large museum guard in Rome almost pick up a person to prevent them from walking backwards into an antique vase, their selfie stick waving around trying to get an angle without other tourists in.
I fully support the banning on selfie sticks in museums, because of the haze that seems to descend over people once they have it extended. All of a sudden the 2000 year old vase doesn’t matter as much as getting the right lighting to erase that double chin.
But that doesn’t mean people who use selfie sticks are bad travellers or people
No one thought it was vain or vacuous when GoPro brought out an attachment for their camera which could extend it away from you for a better angle.
Oh no, you want a picture that consists of more than your face floating in a bottom corner of a cool thing?
You want a picture with all your travel friends without having to decide who has the longest arms and smushing together?
Tourist. (like that’s a dirty word)
Travelling alone and don’t want to give your camera or phone to a passing stranger?
All things I have heard with my own ears said about people with selfie sticks. I am not immune – while living on Santorini I did get, let’s call it frustrated, with having to slide along walls because lines upon lines of people were blocking off the whole narrow street with their 1 metre extensions.
Selfie sticks are probably here to stay, because let’s face it – they take a good photo. I mean, they can take EPIC photos
So rather than being a jerk about people who use them – get on with your own life and take photos how you want to.
And rather than being the prat who walks backward into me/a child/a priceless work of art – use your f#$%ing brain and look where you’re going.
These two things together will make the world a better place.
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If you are one of those people who think that tours are good for nothing, pause your rage for a moment and think about something.
Everyone is not you
Not everyone has the time to plan meticulously every detail of a trip.
I am a fan of doing things myself, a fan of not being told what to do and when, I’m also a fan of actually achieving the things I want.
When I decided that I was going to Egypt I was working a horrible job that was screwing up my mental health and eating up all my time. I didn’t have the time or the energy to plan a trip in a country not known for it’s stunning infrastructure and deeply held love of punctuality.
So I booked a tour.
It meant that I could go to my dream destination, and not have worry in the world about pulling it off. Knowing that I was going to Egypt kept me going through a few months of hell with my job.
Not everyone has the experience to navigate challenging places and systems.
Everyone can use online booking networks and buy flights – but it is much harder to buy tickets on the night train from Varanasi.
It is another thing again to take that train, if you are travelling on your own and haven’t experienced India before.
Do these things mean you don’t deserve to travel? Bollocks they do.
Because tours only take you to boring, touristy places, never any where remote or off the beaten track *insert eye roll here*
In Defence of Easy
There is a societal prejudice of, if it isn’t hard then it isn’t worth anything.
Tim Ferris talks about this in his book Four Hour Work Week. Now I don’t necessarily agree with Mr Ferris on every point but he has one story that rings particularly true for me.
Upon getting a job and noticing that the cleaning processes he was charged with replicated efforts and took far longer than necessary, he was fired for finishing his work early and messing about the rest of the time. He was told that maybe one day he would learn to appreciate the value of hard work.
Some things should be hard – a work out, a stick of rock, building foundations. Without being hard these things are a stroll, a puddle of sugar, and a health and safety disaster, respectively.
Some of the most transformational and beneficial experiences come from the hard times in travel – indeed I would not be the person I am today without the disaster that was the first few days of my first trip ever.
But that doesn’t mean that travel NEEDS to be hard in order to be of any worth. Anyone who suggests that because I took a tour in Egypt means it wasn’t beneficial, eye opening, and life changing doesn’t know what it’s like to travel with a good tour company.