Why Pretentious Travelers Fill Me With Hate (And What I Do About Them)

Nothing irks me more than people disparaging people’s travel choices. I don’t get why people do it. The whole “traveler vs. tourist” argument, talking about what makes someone a “real traveler”, and making fun of people’s routes. People waste so much energy trying to lift themselves up above others. Isn’t travel supposed to make you open-minded?

I do this for me. This is all my journey. I’m not in a race for the most countries visited, street stalls eaten at, or festivals attended. I do what makes me happy, even if it’s some “touristy” destination.

There isn’t a single “authentic” version of travel. Getting off the beaten path, finding some hidden island, or living with some guy in a yurt in Mongolia don’t make someone a better traveler than anyone else. It just means your itinerary and experience were different.

I’ve been riled up about this for quite some time and decided to make a video about this subject. Here’s how I really feel and what I think you should do when you meet a pretentious, judgmental traveler (also notice the new introduction! Spiffy, huh?):

(Want more travel videos? I now update my YouTube channel each week with a new video. Subscribe here and get free videos!)

So go where you want. Do what you want. See what you want. Eat where you want. Maybe I’ll disagree, maybe I’ll try to get you to do something else but, as Sheryl Crow said, if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad — and at the end of the day, I’m just happy you left the house. That’s all I care about.

The next time someone starts harping on your travel choices or giving you grief, turn the conversation around on them, tell them part of being a traveler is being open-minded and if they can’t respect your choice, the conversation is over. Call them out on their crap.

And then walk away.

It’s your trip. Don’t let people ruin it.

  1. I only travel so I don’t run out of dinner party conversations ;P but some people do take it just that little bit far sometimes and think their travel experiences are better than yours or anyone else’s! But it’s not worth spending time chatting to them because you’ll never get it back!

    • HAHA Anthony. Yeah I agree. These people SUCK. Although maybe I am guilty of this too sometimes when I’m talking to pretentious travel newbies who think they know it all. ;D

  2. I’ve said this for years. Except I called it traveler ego. So many people get shot down by “seasoned travelers” because they’re first trip to Europe is the usual whirlwind: as many cities as possible, itinerary. If that’s what you want to do, I 100% encourge it. You will learn either to slow down and enjoy a desintation longer or enjoy the pace of changing locations often. Either way, you’ll end up with some great stories and learn more about yourself and that’s what it’s all about. Travel your way. No one elses.

  3. We are traveling through Peru right now. We have limited time and since this is our first visit we are on the “Gringo Trail” (Lima/Cusco/Puno/Arequipa). We have been taking our time at each destination, but would I love to take more time and go to different places? Of course. When we return in the future, and we will return because it is a wonderful place, we will get off the beaten path to less traveled locations and explore a bit more.

  4. Couldn’t agree more but it happens in every aspect of life really. Travel, like everything else in life, is a personal journey with an unlimited combination of possible outcomes based on options and decisions. Personally when I hear about other peoples journeys it does give me new ideas for my own path but it can also make me feel like maybe I’m missing out on something by doing it a different way. Maybe some people just feel the need to judge others travel choices in order to validate to themselves that their own decisions are the right ones.

    Oooohhh…too deep perhaps? Hahaha. All I know for sure is that I personally can’t imagine a life without travel and I don’t think there is any wrong way to do it. Just do it!

    • audrey

      couldnt agree with you more sarah. its so true.
      everyone’s travel ideas are different. we learn some and drop some.

  5. Genevieve

    I just came back from a month in Thailand and the people that made me feel the worst were gap year travelers. Our trips were completely different because I was on vacation and I wanted to relax and treat myself but they were asking how much I paid for things and bitching about how crazy it was to pay so much for that. And one girl was saying that Thailand is too touristy and the place for a real travel experience is India. So annoying!

  6. Frank

    Well….. When my friends go to all full included resort and tell its a great travel experience I tend to tell them I disagree… especially knowing they will be drunk 7 days in a row without getting out of the resort. (I call that a vacation.)

    But except for that, I do agree with you 😛

  7. I agree. I do confess I can be guilty of this attitude when it comes to big organized bus tours. I don’t like them but if that what works for the people taking them then who am I to criticize. At least they are getting out and seeing the world.

    I recently went to Peru and many people asked why I was not hiking the Inca Trail and made it sound like that was the only real way to get to Machu Picchu. I did not hike it because I did not have time and even if I did have time I would not have hiked it. There is nothing appealing to me about hiking for four days at a high altitude. I took the train and loved it.

  8. Very truly said, I don’t make people harp my travel destinations. If you are alone, never mind, but the main motto should be that I am traveling to my destination. It can be anywhere where I wish to go and get the taste of the bread out there. I care a damn about others mocking about it.

  9. Susan Burn

    I think the difference between travellers and tourists, is not where or how they go, but how they look at things when they get there.
    If they go to Europe only to complain about the locals, ramble on about how much bigger and better things are at home, and eat at McDonalds; then I consider them to be tourists. Someone who ticks things off a list, but has no real intention of getting anything out of the visit.
    If someone is willing to try different things, embrace the culture and not pick fault, then I consider that person to be a traveller.
    Organised tours and bus tours are great. They get you to the best places in limited time, giving people time to see the places without having to worry about travel and lodging, and are good value.
    Not everyone is confident enough to travel alone. As a guide, I think it is my job to encourage the unconfident, and help people to see the best things as well as taking time to savour the little things.

  10. I can’t help but agree with you here, Matt. There isn’t ONE best way to travel. The only best way to travel is your own personal way. Yes, the Eiffel Tower is touristy but that doesn’t make it any less good by tourism standards. I hate these debates too!

  11. Nina

    I’ve also heard the argument that getting off the beaten track (for example, staying with hill tribes in SE Asia) can be detrimental to that way of life for the people, because travellers introduce a different culture and disrupt their way of life. So those who go on and on about how the tourist trail sucks, could in fact be ruining the culture of the places they visit..

  12. 555555 that hahahaha in Thai language.
    I love these discussions, debates.
    I have not seen Matt’s video, next, but have read the coments.

    From the comments here, I make an assumption that I am a bit older than most here, and have had the opportunities to explore much of this little world before some of you were born. I went to Nepal from new zealand in 1977 as a young 20 year old, with Sherpa friends for Christmas. And after getting my second year university results when I walked back to Kathmandu, I realised then that I was “just a traveller” and continued west overland for the next four and a half years.

    In those days, we, the other wonderers in the same locations, had a gross generalisation of definitions:
    Tourist, those that fly into a county, had lots of money, stays in hotels, stays less than a week, and thought they were an expert on the country.
    The group traveler. There was no term of “backpacker” in those days. People that would go as a group, in a tour, like the magic bus, the double decka, trans africa, and have a fixed locations and times, and tend to have lots of drinking and sex (so I was told).
    And then the other “idiots” whom wondered this way or that, stayed with locals, slept in rail way stations , parks, under bridges, cheap hotels, stay in a hostel about twice a year, hitch hiked, set out to walk across continents, road bicycles, local transport, on top of trains, drank local water.
    And we were called travellers (I spell it with two “L”s).

    Today, having been lucky to go around this little world again, after having a family and career, we are really a cosmopolitan world now.

    But my message is the same.
    “To those thinking of going, I encourage them to go,
    And to those already out there, I find ways to enable them to “get off the beaten track” and experience this something we “overland travellers” call “the Essense”.
    “That something that cannot be explained, only experienced”.
    “That something related to the spontaneous unhinbitited hospitality from a local to a visiting stranger”.

    And what have I learnt?
    The grass is not greener on the other side.
    We are all different. Why can we not just all get on with each other? And celebrate our differences and add all these differences up to make the best of what is in front of us now.

    “The overland travellers goes around the. corner to see who there is to meet around the next corner”

    • gloria

      I love this! I wish I could have been there. I have only been travelling for six months. In my 40s. Decided to go for it and haven’t looked back. Things that have struck me so far: globalization is taking a toll on environment and people; it’s hard to find places not over run by foreigners (because I’m now a local after all:); good people are everywhere. I love this world. I marvel at how miserable we seem in the affluent west compared to our eastern neighbours. Trying not to draw too many comparisons. We are all different and yet the same. Finally, I did a package Europe tour in my 20s. Met great people and consider it a highlight in my life. It lit the travel bug spark for me. Now I’m backpacking it and loving the freedom. People who look down on others, generally, likely have some esteem issues. Peace to all and safe journeys.

  13. My biggest pet hate is when people say that they have ‘done’ a country or a continent. ‘oh yeah, I did Asia in a week, I went to Thailand and Malaysia….’


  14. Jo

    I ate in Burger King the other day. Another “traveller” (not tourist), scowled at my choice. After 3 weeks of eating tapas in Spain, I needed a break. I am a tourist (I don’t live here), but most importantly I am a happy tourist. Pretentious travellers suck!

    • Sophie

      It’s fine to eat in an American restaurant when you need a break from the local food. Sometimes I really crave McDonald’s fries. However, some people only eat in American restaurants (Burger King, McDonalds, Pizza Hut) and only stay in American hotels. They only take a taxi directly to the tourist spot they’re interested in and back to the hotel. Apart from the bellman at the hotel, they never speak to anyone from that country. They never eat at a local stall or go to a market. Apart from seeing the tourist spots, they’re otherwise ensconced in their American culture. I knew a guy that went to Japan for a long weekend. He took pop-tarts and that’s all he ate for 4 days. He took a tour, didn’t ask any questions and has no clue about the Japanese or their culture but has “done” Japan.
      Yes, I’m a travel snob. I find this kind of travel pointless. However, anyone who wants to explore the country and its culture, no matter how they do it (tours, backpacking, etc), I applaud them.

  15. “If we all travel, who would be left at home to visit?”

    Travel is a competition.
    An internal competition .
    A way of learning tolerance, compassion, giving, and receiving.

    Yes I too get asked how many counties, how long, best place,…
    Which I just turn around to ask them “why do you wish to travel ?”
    If they just “want” to see the world, then I recommend them “to go on google earth. There you will see better photos and videos than you will every take yourself”,
    This normally horrifies them. And after discussing, we come to an agreement that it is about interacting with people, different people, different lives, in a different location, And sharing your life history with theirs.
    But one can do this in their own neighbourhood.
    Do you know your neighboughs? Have you shared a meal with new people in your street or building? How did you feel if you did?

    If you “just want to see it for yourself”, great. Go. Explore . Find yourself. Find your style. What you are comfortable with. What I call “where you draw the line”.
    Sleeping in a railway station in Agra or with the wineOs in the Munich bandstand , or 5 star hotels or endless buffets, is not suited for everyone. As we are different, and times change.
    I agree that comparing what people have done leads to nowhere. But humans will always do this. How many humble, unobtrusive , empathetic people do you know?

    I do see, travel, in any form, is a tool to find ways to maybe find yourself, if you need finding.
    What I ask , “is bhow has it helped you be a better person?” What are you doing with your life now?

    But I do have issue with this horrible word “want”.
    One of my mothers sayings was “what is wrong with this world is want want want”.
    I see there is “want”, “like”, and “need”.
    And they are all different.
    But as well, “language is a terrible to communicate in”.
    As well as English is a second language to many.

    As said in my first comment, we are all different.
    Is life about making best of what is in front of us now?

    Happy travels.

  16. I completely agree. Travel isn’t a contest, and I HATE it when I tell people where I’ve been and they immediately open up a checklist contest. And sometimes these are the same people who ‘refuse’ to travel to a well known place just because it’s well known.

    For example, to go all the way to Myanmar but avoiding Bagan just because “its a tourist spot”. Yes, its a tourist spot, but for good reason – because its BEAUTIFUL! Its akin to going to Peru but saying I won’t see Machu Picchu because everyone else is going there.

    At the end of the day, we are physically limited in terms of what we can see. There are only some 200 odd countries that we can visit, and some 30 odd years or so to visit. For all those who are already making an effort to visit, good for you. Forget the naysayers and those pretentious travelers, snap those pictures of you at the Eiffel Tower, and enjoy.

    You’re already lucky enough to be able to afford and see the things that you do and that should be the only thing you remember to keep. No one has the right to take the excitement and your journey away from you.

  17. A delicious irony for me is that when you stay somewhere on a truly local level (visiting friends or being there long enough to make new ones), you are far more likely to see the ‘touristy’ things. Natives all over the world are actually proud of these and want to share them as what makes their area unique – whether it’s Disneyland or HaLong Bay, the Eiffel Tower or Angkor Wat.

    • NomadicMatt

      You’re totally right! I take my friends to all the touristy stuff in NYC whenever they visit (as well as the local stuff I like too!)

  18. I recounted my travels to Bali as a female solo traveler, & a woman scoffed at how that was so cliche nowadays (due to Eat Pray Love, etc). Ya know what? I *was* influenced by that book & a few others because they made it sound so awesome. And they were right! It was a life changing adventure – cliche or not.

  19. Meghan

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve been researching different ways to travel throughout Southeast Asia during the 2 weeks vacation time I get off from work (group tours vs solo, various country itineraries, etc) and there have been so many negative comments on message boards from “pretentious travelers” to people like me who are looking for help. I couldn’t believe one post I saw that scoffed at the idea of spending only 2 weeks in one or two countries when really you should spend an entire month in each country if you want the “full experience.” I would LOVE that time but it’s extremely unrealistic for most people and these kinds of comments are so discouraging, rather than helpful to those who might not have the same time, money, or past experience to travel, but still have the same passion.

    Whether you decide to travel solo, in a group tour, lay on a beach or trek up mountains, or cram in as much as possible in the short amount of time many have when traveling – I don’t think anyone should be negative when it comes to someone’s preference.

    Thanks Matt for constantly having a positive attitude that attracts positive travelers – I feel like I can always count on this website to get the helpful and encouraging insight and advice. Like you said, it’s the personal experience and journey that is important. I’ll remember this when I’m feeling discouraged again!

    • Kate

      I agree with you as well. I really can’t stand it when people will judge me for seeing what they consider too much. I went to Bangkok, Chang Mai, Singapore, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and HCMC and Mekong in 4 weeks…it was amazing and I had so many great experiences. On some forums I was attacked and called “crazy” for doing this. I would do it all over again (somewhere else though) and would have just as good as a time as the ones who spend a month in one area alone!

      • NomadicMatt

        Wow! That is an intense four weeks! Not something I would do but if you had fun, that’s all that matters.

  20. You go Matt! I have come across one too many people in my time travelling who turn their nose up at the way I travel and the things I see and do. Who are they or I to say what anyone should and shouldn’t like/do.

  21. Jonatas

    I hate overnight experts! I run into people who just landed earlier that day, who have some friend back home who backpacked one summer in college, and think they know everything about a country already! They already know the culture, the food, etc. etc. I remember I was on a shuttle leaving the airport in Israel, and just 20 minutes into the ride some lady opens her mouth, “all the houses in Israel are beige, they’re not colorful like back home” WTH! or the one I hate the most, “my friend says the people over here are very rude!” Shut up! First of all you and your friend are wrong and second, no one gives a damn about your ignorant opinion, why don’t you wait a few days and actually experience the country a little before you come to come to a conclusion!

    I also hate people telling me I “HAVE” to go somewhere or do something, “You HAVE to go to machu picchu” or “You HAVE to go to Haiti”, NO I F!ng don’t! no offense to those places, but I don’t have an interest in going there, it’s not my type of thing to do, and no I’m not missing out on it, because I would enjoy those places as much as “Ray” enjoyed being in Brugges. [I loved brugges]

  22. Sarah

    omg SO TRUE, thanks for sharing your rant cause it’s right on! In any aspect of life:
    An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure. Love your site, keep up the good work!

  23. I absolutely agree with this post- we shouldn’t be preachy with others about their way of travel not being “the right way.”

    I will say some of this comes from being young I think. I’m 35 now and have been travelling the world off and on since I was 19. I certainly thought I had more answers to fix the world’s problems when I was in college.

    Now an American who’s lived in Europe for 6 years, Australia for a year and traveled in over 40 countries feels less equipped to tell people what to do with themselves.

    Cheers, great post, Matt!

    • NomadicMatt

      I definitely agree but I’ve seen this from older travelers too. Then again, sometimes people never grow up!

  24. rob

    I totally agree. After doing many “backpacker”/non western countries, this time I am coming to the States to ride roller coasters…

    and I have had a few people comment on “why” etc thats not my usual style, but this is my journey… and it’s what I feel like doing …..

    • NomadicMatt

      When they ask why, tell them “because roller coasters are fun” and then yell “Weeeee!”

      I bet their reaction would be priceless!

  25. So true! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Matt.
    Everybody has different taste and opportunities. All travels have meaning to the person living it.
    I recently met a couple who gave me ‘the look’ because I am going to tour both NZ islands over ‘only’ 2 weeks. They could not understand as they spent 1 year exploring them…
    Well I am not sure my boss would understand that I must take one year to explore NZ ‘the right way’ :-)
    Yes, it is a lot of time in transportation, but I am extremely excited to get to see some of the most incredible places in NZ!!!

  26. I agree! I have lived in India about a year and a half and hardly eat Indian food anymore- I don’t love it… or hate it.. just am sick of it! When I meet travelers coming through they act like they are better than me because they spend less money that I do on food/etc and I live here, so I must be dumb for not getting good prices… what they don’t understand is I’ve learned what is better quality and worth paying more for AND I love still cheeseburgers and KFC, so sue me :)

  27. Right on! I don’t get it either – especially snobby backpackers. I’ve come across that a lot – like if you make the mistake of spending “too much” money you get this big eye roll.

    I totally agree with you that every individual is on their own journey. And isn’t great just to be traveling in the first place? That takes guts, and it’s something a lot of people never get to do. Maybe you prefer luxury resorts over cheap hostels, or maybe you dig hanging out with locals more than meeting fellow expats, but whatever your preferences are, there’s just no reason to keep hating.

  28. I’m so with you there Matt! I’m taking my husband to Asia. He’s going for the first time. I’m seasoned but he isn’t and is a little nervous, so in order to make my husband comfortable and so that he can have a pleasant experience, I have booked internal flights, chartered pick-ups, boutique hotels in comfortable clean surroundings, and sometimes I even booked a house. Our budget is €100 per day and we’re going to be drinking wine and cocktails all the way!

    My budget buddies think I’ve sold out, but to be honest, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. It’s our holiday and our experience.

  29. Well said, Matt. Recently, when I asked how a friend’s trip to Costa Rica was, she said it was great, sheepishly adding the caveat that it probably wouldn’t be too exciting for my wife and I after all the places we’d been. I immediately told her I had no travel judgement, and she went on to describe a fantastic vacation. Since when are we ready to write off a destination – especially one as stunningly beautiful and diverse as Costa Rica – because it’s “easy” to travel around.

    That travelers’ arrogance that she was afraid of is a huge problem. The idea that you can compare in any sort of hierarchical way your experience with that of someone else is preposterous, whether it’s at Disneyland or in Congo, and is antithetical to the rich personal experiences you can find on the road.

    Thanks so much for posting this.

  30. Hear, hear, I tend to mix my travel up for example last summer I went to Spain for 10 days & visited 3 cities & in that time I did La Tomatina with a tour company, about 2 months before that I did one of the Busabout Eastern Trek trips & had a great time also. Tho’ occasionally you’ll mention to backpackers that you did an organised tour and they’ll be like, “I did that on my own,” and that’s great, for them, but I only get a certain amount of holiday a year so if I can do an organised trip that will get me all the way around in 10 days then great! I can go back to the places I enjoyed in the future.

  31. I hve to say that I am guilty of being pretensions at times and than I remember as you say, your travel experience is no better than someone else’s, it is just different.
    I love doing corny touristy things and I’m damn proud of it!!!

  32. Kelsey

    I used to feel like I was above certain types of travel, and then I learned the best way I was wrong… I tried it!

    After spending a year planning a wedding, my new husband and I were frankly too exhausted to plan a honeymoon. We ended up finding a great deal to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. At first I balked. I had trashed-talked the all-inclusive experience before. Why sit at a resort when you could go on an adventure? But we went and I had the greatest time! I relaxed and drank alfonso trezes every day, and I still learned a lot. Now I really make a point of feeling excited about any type of travel plan. Just get out and go somewhere!

  33. The good thing about being a Baby Boomer is that I’ve traveled all sorts of ways and have a pretty good sense of what I enjoy. Even for me, there’s no one way to travel. I’m too old to have time for haters and those who think their way is the only way. “Holier than thou” is a huge turnoff.

  34. Hahahaha. Perfect! Well said. There are a lot of those..well I call them the bitter travelers. You are right on the money, travel is your personal experience. You have to enjoy every bit of it and not be pressured to do the things. ^^

    Love it!^^

  35. Andy Watt

    I’d love to get off the beaten track and see things that no one else has, my own special memory, but you have to do the “touristy” things in my book or you’re going to miss a hell of a lot of good things.
    The best thing about travelling is everyone has a different adventure. Everyone a different experience. Sure some might be similar, but they all mean something different to the individual.
    Whether you go on a 2 week package holiday with full guided tours, or wander endlessly through wilderness, and engaging with isolated local populations till your ready to move somewhere else and do it again… it does matter. Everyone has an adventure, everyone sees something new to them.

  36. Working in a high end hotel as a bartender, I experience this quite often and it bugs the crap out of me! Especially when people are always talking about the new “party hot spot country”. I think that everyone has their own reasons for traveling the way they do and should share their experiences without being so uppity about it. I personally don’t like to stay in hotels and try to “travel like a local” but that’s just me. It doesn’t mean I’m not gonna see some of the mainstream tourist attractions. Sometimes that’s part of the reason for going there! Thanks for posting this video!

  37. Diane

    .Although I do value their advice, Lonely Planet is guilty of this attitude sometimes. I don’t think the locals recognize the difference between a “traveler” and a “tourist”.

    • NomadicMatt

      I don’t think there is a distinction between the two. It’s a false and often pretentious distinction.

    • Matt

      It’s generally only young people that talk about traveler vs tourist, once you get a bit older, it becomes meaningless.

      I have been traveling for 20 years on and off, I do love talking about traveling, it’s my greatest passion, but it’s never about trying to impress or out do any other person. I just love talking about different destinations whether I’ve been to them, or they have….but as I have traveled a good bit now, sometimes I do worry whether people think I’m bragging, when I’m not at all.

  38. I have done enormous group tours (with my marching band of all things), meandering cheesy tourist road trips across the U.S., overland tours, all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, and independent seat-of-your-pants travel. I skipped the whole backpacker hostel thing, but as far as I am concerned it is all wonderful. And I LOVE hitting all the tourist sites when friends or family or friends-of-friends come in for a visit!

    I do think it is a good thing to challenge people’s reluctance to go certain places because they are “dangerous” or “dirty” or “third world” and to challenge some people’s need to constantly have all the first world comforts (although if you have money, you seldom have to leave these behind anymore). But you can’t be a jerk about it–it’s about questioning assumptions. Even well-traveled people can be ignorant about certain parts of the world.

    As an American it is frustrating to talk with Australians, Canadians, and Northern EU travelers who can often spend 6 – 8 weeks traveling every year if they want. I will never be able to take that much time, so I’m not going to be able to experience the “true” anywhere like they can. But it’s not because I don’t want to. They are probably within their rights to feel superior to me, but they should really keep it to themselves. Only the a-holes cop superior attitudes. If they are nice (and most of them are) then they usually help with tips on things they really enjoyed and they will usually admit there were things that they would give a skip. Now an American who has the means to travel endlessly is another story…they are usually insufferable :)

  39. Frank Levin

    Once, when speaking with a woman in Blois, France, about a particular Italian restaurant at which my wife and I had just eaten, she said,”The French don’t know how to do Italian. I’d never go to an Italian restaurant in France.”
    He pretentious comment left out what she didn’t know, that the people who ran this particular restaurant were Italian.

  40. Nia

    My experience had been a bit of the opposite but still had to deal with travel snobs. I started out on a 3 month backpacking trip through S.E Asia and only got as far as Thailand and Cambodia. I just fell in love with Phnom Penh, made incredible friends, got a job and settled down. I get the third degree because I DIDN’T go to a massive amount of countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia etc.
    Frankly, at the time, I didn’t want to. Of course, I want to eventually travel to those places ( I went to Indonesia and Malaysia recently) but it’s not a race and I was having an incredible time in PP!!
    Traveling is not a checklist so you can brag about how many places you have set foot on. Funny enough, I found out that, out of this “snob traveler’s” list of 80 countries she’s been to,15 of those are stopovers. So spending 2 hours in the Bahrain airport waiting for a connecting flight counts as her going to Bahrain. LOL
    How sad is that.

    • adam

      So true how people are with their CHECKLISTS! ughh..
      I completely understand what youre saying, I also spent about 2 months just in Phnom penh having an amazing time, and also spent a similar amount of time in saigon having an amazing time as well, and I was in my late 30’s and constantly dealt with these snobs (mostly in their 20’s with their checklists) putting me down for not having island hopped around indonesia or other far flung places instead of just letting me do my thing my way!!! i can go on for hours about this geez but ill keep my rants to a minumum

  41. Mary

    I totally agree Matt. I have a family member that likes to “one up” on everything. And he one upped on our travels one time. I try to avoid travel conversations with him because it’s all a competition.

    Also, you can’t judge people. You don’t know what shoes they are walking in. I travelled Europe by backpack and found my place to stay when we landed in the city. And I’ve toured Italy on a guided bus tour. Both trips were amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing about either trip. But I know many people do not understand the bus tour trip and I’ve had people give me funny looks (don’t care what people think, but reactions are funny).
    The backpack trip was when I was single and had no kids. I travelled with my sister and we were in our 20’s. Free and easy, a little stressful, but so fun.
    The bus tour trip was 10 years little. I now have a 2 and a 5 year old that I left at home. My husband and I didn’t want any stress and we didn’t want to plan and be responsible for an itinerary. We had enough on our plate with jobs and kids. It was the perfect trip to get away when you have toddlers at home. We saw so much of Italy and we met many wonderful people from around the world.


  42. adam

    WOW!! i’ve been thinking of starting an entire blog about this subject! haha. Maybe sometimes I personally just care a little TOO MUCH about what others think and I know I shouldnt , but having said that let me agree here that PRETENTIOUS TRAVELERS SUCK!!!! sooooo true and yes they have ruined some of my trips. a couple examples from my long southeast asia trip: one girl asking me where ive been in europe, me answering italy germany switzerland etc etc, her then saying: “oh I see so you only went to the usual places! because thats what americans always do!” I felt like just screaming at her, but Im too nice,(by the way, i couldn’t walk away because it was in a crowded small boat) another example: a nice local Laos girl asking me if id been to chiang mai, with a pretentious jerk listening in and interrupting who said ” oh god everyone has been to chiang mai!” have you been to bangladesh? i went there!!”
    people like that are just pathetic and insecure and feel the need to compete with everyone and I wish they’d just STAY HOME!!!

  43. One thing that primarily sticks out to me, in addition to all the other things mentioned is this sort of travel timeframe snobbery of some sort, like a contest of who is traveling for the longest amount of time. God forbid you say 3 weeks or less without being scoffed at while people claim to be traveling anywhere from a minimum of 3 months to a year or more.

    • NomadicMatt

      Yeah, I hate that too. Not everyone can get away for long term. People need to get over themselves sometimes!

  44. Totally agree that travel oneupmanship is annoying & horrible, but hey, everyone honestly succumbs to a bit of travel snobbery & bragging once in a while; in fact, claiming that you never have would be (in my opinion) a form of snobbery in and of itself!

    And if anyone’s still sittin’ on their high horse thinking they’re sooooo above travel snobbery and all indignant about it: come visit Taipei and spend an entire afternoon travelling next to tour groups from Mainland China; and you’ll see how hard it is not to get super judgmental! (Again, not saying that feelings of superiority are morally right, just saying that it inevitably happens, even to the best of us)

    (Disclaimer: I’m Taiwanese & I currently live in Taipei).

  45. J

    Thanks for the article. I’ll keep it in mind wherever I travel :)

    I was visiting Singapore a while back and I wanted to check out Raffles and try out the Singapore Sling. My friend, who’s a local, didn’t think it was worth a visit and so I didn’t push the subject. I regret it now but if I go back to Singapore, I know where I’ll go first 😉

  46. Samantha


    Well I don’t think these pretentious sorts limit themselves to just travel. Everything from career choices to music is something they’ll criticize. To me, life is a journey, an experience and an experiment, there is no right or wrong way, there is only your way of doing something/anything and that’s exactly how you should do it. If it makes you happy and you feel enriched by it, that’s all that matters even if the whole world disagrees with it.

    Happy travelling.

  47. Sue

    Goodness, this has unleashed some deep seated feelings. Travel is personal, and varied. Some places I have really travelled on the cheap, and made my own way around – largely places where I speak the language well enough not to get into trouble. Sometimes I want more luxury and to take advantage of a local guide to make sure I see what I want to see, in safety. I used to eat any food, anywhere, but a very bad stomach problem in Jordan, after which I lost 28 lbs fairly quickly, has made me a whole lot less adventurous, sadly. I prefer to travel alone so I don’t have someone trying to stop me seeing what I want to see, or too many compromises. So let’s not judge anyone for their travel choices – we are all different!

    • NomadicMatt

      There are definitely a torrent of comments here!

      We are all different. You’re right. Makes the world a wonderful place.

  48. laura

    Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve been travelling for nearly 6 months now and the amount of people who think they have it right, judge and try to give advice (unusually uninformed and unwarranted) is far greater than I anticipated. I kive to my own beat and it seems too many

    • laura

      People question it. Each to their own I say in everything. If the pretentious ones hopped off their high horses long enough they might actually learn something!! Shame they wont be the ones reading this post.
      Peace and love

  49. Slinky

    The worst vacation ever is someone else’s. Which is pretty much how group vacations feel to me. Anyone who likes group vacations want to explain them to me? I’ve done them twice now with results of, “Meh.” and “UGH!” But maybe we’re just doing them wrong. Other people like them. I know they do. So what’s the deal? It’s probably just me. But, if there’s a way to make any future obligatory participation in such things more enjoyable, I’d really like some help.

  50. I love this post, thank you for writing it, everything you say is so true! I do sometimes find myself getting trapped into believing I have to do things a certain way, but you’re right, I should do it for me!

  51. You are so right!

    I used to get really bothered by these people, then I just started walking away and havn’t looked back since.

    I think often these people are missing something in themselves which is why they travel, so I do feel bad for them but it’s not my job to fix them. I’m here for my own reasons and to get what I want and need out of my own adventure.

  52. Melissa Marshall

    My biggest irk is when someone asks me sarcastically, “You’re going to Mexico in August? You should go when it’s cold here!” I am going on vacation to Mexico. It is not any better to me in August or January. I love it no matter when it is! I think they are a bit jealous that I’m going and I smile and walk away! Happy travels!

  53. Well said! If it’s your trip, enjoy it for what it is, rather than trying to compare yourself with others!! It doesn’t matter where you go – some people are better suited to some destinations, and not others – but it’s all travel, and you can’t help but be affected by it at least a little bit :)

  54. For me, the more I travel the more I want to avoid having travel conversations with other travellers on the topic of travel. Its sad because we obviously share a common passion, but invariably I find they just want to tell you where they’ve been. It’s like they are showing their hand in some sort of competition. That bugs me no end, as do the travel blogs that have, front & centre, how many countries someone has visited/ticked off the list.

  55. Supreeth

    Seriously – some people just don’t get it. They bring this element of “racing” in everything. There is no fun in comparison. Travel is more like self-discovery and personal development.

  56. It is the materialist fallacy: One trip is good, two trips are better, three trips are better still, and on and on . . . However much they travel, these people will never reach contentment and there will always be someone who has gone farther or done more.

    I believe travel should be treated as a sort of spiritual exercise, much as a monk would chop wood, not because this is a better way than others to travel, but because it makes it possible for each of us to reach our own contentment.

    Or travel to live out your own dream of who you are: If it’s your dream, you won’t care what other people did.

  57. Hi Matt

    This post really pulled a string in me – I love traveling, do it as often as I can, and by all means never cared much about how I get places, as long I as get there. Sometimes “there” might be a five star touristy resort, and sometimes it’s a hut somewhere in the jungle (yes, far, faaar away from nearest wi-fi). There’s just so much world out there for me to see, and I feel happy and privileged for every single tiny bit I do get to see…
    But as so many other fellow travelers, I’m surrounded by these travel snobs that seem to live for the doubtful pleasure of talking down any travel experience that doesn’t meet their “genuine” standard. I most often deal with them just like you – turn on my heel and walk away. But there are times where I wish I could swing my halberd and make them all go away… so I could go back to planning my next trip in peace! :)

    Good post. Feel free to drop by my little piece of the inter-world if you got a minute over…

  58. audrey

    there are all kinds of travelers and tourist. heck care them what they do. as long as you are happy with your destinations and journey.

  59. audrey

    seriously you wanna make your vacation as ‘yours’ as possible. do whatever you desire because its your holiday!! come on people, this is not gonna be right or wrong and there’s no judge to it even if you wanna eat mac donalds or wendys every day.

  60. My first long trip I read my Lonely Planet daily. My second big trip I turned my nose up at anyone I saw carrying one. My third big trip I got over it and learned to embrace all travelers regardless of style because that’s all it is… a style choice. Now I love to engage with the diverse spectrum of travelers I see from the lonely plant toting, trip advisor checking, book it a month ahead folks to the gone bamboo because it’s “the way”.

    Traveling for years probably had something to do with it, but mostly I just got older and maybe a bit less self-righteous.

  61. Dana

    I live and work abroad, on vacation time I always try to travel. Planning trips is often like a second job. Figuring out what I have time to see, what’s important, how do I get there, where can I stay, doing research on the place and culture so you don’t come across like an idiot tourist etc. But sometimes by the time you get to vacation you’re worn out and tired, and although you really want to go see Burma, you can’t be bothered to plan it all out, so occasionally I join an organized tour, make some friend, see the important cultural relics and avoid the headache of trying to figure out bus schedules. It may not be for the whole time I’m there but for the first couple of days its a nice way to relax and head into your travelling.

    Do I get judge for this once a yet tour group booking? Yes. But one of the things I’ve learned form living in SE Asia is that regardless of how long you stay in a place if you’re white, you’re always going to be seen as a tourist doesn’t matter if you’ve been there a week or a decade. Even if you do the off the beaten track, get the true “local experience” you’re going to be treated differently because of ‘western privilege’ (don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist). So as much as I love hiking to remote locations, eating street food, taking the local transit, sometimes its nice to embrace the stereotype, visit the big temples, take some cheesy photos, and eat at Subway.

  62. Say No to Pretentious Travelers!

    What gets to me is when I see a bunch of people pretending to be discussing about their travels when they’re actually waiting for the opportune moment in the conversation to show off their been-there-done-thats! You can almost hear their thoughts as they’re waiting to pounce.

    I think the ‘real’ travellers are those who like to listen as much as they like to share :)

  63. Hi, I totally agree. I live in Berlin and sort of everyone complains about the tourists (it would be freaking boring without them). I always wonder where the difference between a traveller and a tourist is and why is it in the eyes of many individuals so much better to be a traveller than a tourist? As you said, as long as one is happy. Oh man, I consider the whole topic as so annoying that I christened my blog ‘The-Touristin’ (Touristin is the German word for a female tourist).

  64. I remember sitting on a coach in China and there was an American girl on her own, a Dutch guy sat down next to her and just 1 upped everything she said, she went to a really nice traditional village in Vietnam – he was invited by a village chief and treated like a god. This carried on for about 90 mins until the toilet break, she got back on the bus and asked to sit next to us!.
    The only thing that winds me up even more is people complaining “they don’t speak English” when they have travelled abroad!.

    Rant over and keep up the good work!

  65. Martha H

    Go where you want, do what you want, that’s what I say. I do find that the more nomadic, world traveling, odd-job finding types seem to sometimes be really snooty when it comes to trave. If it’s not authentic, not a village somewhere in the middle of nowhere, not a cheap hostel that costs next to nothing, it’s labeled as “tourist”. I’m far from a tourist. My dad worked for the airlines and I was on my first airplane when I was 3 months old. Since I’m 55 years old, that plane was a DC-3! I’ve been traveling all of my life, but I have a full time job, so my trips are limited to weekends, weeks or once in a great while, two weeks. If I choose to go to a touristy area, I go. Usually, however, I enjoy things more true where I am. For example, in Orlando I avoided all the amusement parks and went swimming with the manatees instead.

    But my rules of thumb about travel are: plan ahead, go where you really want, leave open time for changes that may happen (because they always do), appreciate the people and things you are visiting and enjoy yourself!

  66. Gosh, tell me about it. More often than not these days the hostel lounge is just about people saying “DON’T do this, DON’T do that, instead, do it this way, it’s how you’re supposed to do it.”

    Travelling is not a competition and it has no rules. Anyone who turns it into that is completely missing the point.

  67. Susan

    Hi Matt,

    Thank you for this post.

    I know someone who always rubs it in my faces how many places she has been and where she is going next. I think she only cares about how many stamps she has in her passport. And she is always bragging about her “unique experiences”, compared to my relatively tame travelling experiences.

    She owes money to people left and right and has maxed out her credit card and has not paid off a cent of her loan from the bank. She never has any cash on her when we go out. I am tired of her snobbery. So next time she talks about how I am not living my life, I will be tempted to email her this post. haha.

  68. Karen

    Couldn’t agree more. Well, I’m from Malaysia and most of the older generation frowned(and some unadventurous youngsters) on backpacking. Some will question why would a respectable young woman bunk in a mixed dorm with full of strangers in a foreign country while she could well afford better hotels?
    Then there are some who ask me whether i visited the long list of sites they spew out then look at me weird when i didn’t visit every single sites they named.
    And when i meet some travellers they will say I’m a tourist because i only stayed for less than a week. For someone with car installment and student loan to pay, i need a full time job and that means i can only afford less than 10 days to travel.
    Oh, there’s also one peeve of mine, those who compare their country with the place they visit.
    Seriously, traveling is a very personal experience don’t ruined it for others!

  69. Matt, solid topic with sound advice. I have experienced this a lot lately. I have traveled a lot for both work and pleasure and I have visited and lived in Madrid several times. It was suggested to me recently by another traveler to stop going to the same country twice when I have already seen it. Unreal! Like you said, each trip is our own and we shouldn’t let it be hijacked by envy. Those that turn travel into a competition may have left the cube life but they have taken the cube mentally with them when they travel and it’s counterproductive.

    Again, thanks for sharing!

  70. Thank you for this! Although I consider myself fairly well-traveled, at the end of the day, I have a day job, since I have to pay off student loans. This means, that, although I still get plenty of long weekend getaways and one or two “big” international trips per year, I do not have the time for the completely off the grid immersion experience anymore.The number of times I have faced judgement for this is frustrating- you can never tell another person’s circumstances, so why judge them?

    A lot of my friends from home have barely left my home state. For them, a huge trip of a lifetime might be Disneyland. And who am I to judge on that? Always glad to see anyone trying something new, seeing something new, and maybe putting themselves a little outside of their comfort zone- how ever it may manifest itself!

  71. Good post and I agree with the idea that as long as you don’t bother me I won’t bother you, travel as you see fit and don';t judge me and i’ll do the same. I’m pretty laid back and easily let most things slide but what really get’s me is when travelers treat locals like crap or like 2nd class citizens.

  72. This is a great post! it really makes me angry when someone tells me “oh, you’ve ONLY been to countries in Latin America and Europe? why haven’t you been anywhere else?” I afford my travel by doing things that make sense to me. currently, I’m teaching English in Brazil and at the start of next year I plan to do the work and holiday visa in Australia. Since I have an actual job, I don’t have so much time to be flying all over the world. hopefully one day I can save up and take a really long backpacking trip, but for now working abroad seems to be best for me! and sometimes I even eat at subway or mcdonalds (gasp!)

  73. Jay

    I found this blog while googling “pretentious travellers” and it is spot on!
    I live in Thailand, and have done for over a year now and I can’t count the glares and scoffs I have recieved from these “holier than thou” pasty faced, lonely planet carrying, hipster-esque backpacker types when they see me shopping in a western supermarket or eating in a western restaurant.

    Any expat (no pretentiousness intended) will tell you, no matter how good the “authentic local cuisine” is, after 3 months of eating it every day, you soon start longing for some familiarity. I was never a big fan of Thai food so I very rarely eat the “authentic” smelly fish slop on rice they rave about. Spend more time than the initial honeymoon phase in any country and even the most deep-down, soul searching, culture seeking individual will seek some home comfort from time to time. And from what I have seen, many expats will look upon backpacking travellers with a similar disdain to what backpackers show towards mainstream tourists. Its an endless cycle.

    Whats worse is that I now have a local girlfriend so not only do I get scoffs from these know-it-alls about my “in-authentic” eating habits but they also judge me as being a “sexpat” (bearing in mind I’m only 24, my girlfriend is the same age as me, fluent in English and has a good job)…The ignorance of these such “open minded” travellers is an irony I can’t even describe. I love my life in Thailand and gladly put up with the scoffs and glares in the knowledge that most of these “1-year-wonders” will soon be back to a boring job in their boring hometown surrounded by boring workmates who couldn’t care less about their “authentic soul searching jungle trek with the hill tribes of Mae Hong Son”.

    Any travel is better than staying at home and doing nothing, live and let live!

  74. Meg

    Ugh, HATE pretentious travelers. I’m sorry but, I love visiting goofy tourist traps, If you don’t, then by all means don’t spend your time or money there. I go to India with my husband often (he’s Indian and you can’t really “experience the local culture” better than that, so there!) I love Indian food but, after weeks of eating it sometimes I just feel like eating at KFC,TGIF or Pizza Hut, sue me! I have no desire to live in a Yurt in Mongolia. For me, part of traveling is allowing yourself luxuries you would not necessarily indulge in at home–unless the Mongolian Yurt has room service and Spa, it’s just not my thing. If it bothers you that my travel experiences aren’t “authentic” then I must say I don’t know whether to be flattered or creeped out that you feel so invested in my choices and my life.

  75. Meg

    I will also add that my husband routinely makes fun of these pretentious hippy backpacker types who think they know more about the country that he grew up in than he does. Yeah, you may be “having and authentic experience” but, the locals don’t like you or see you as one of them any more than other tourists. In fact, they probably like you less than other tourists because you don’t spend money and you do stupid things like wonder alone and clueless into bad neighborhoods, get mugged and then cry, “But I’m an AMERICAN” when the local police don’t take your complaint seriously. I think as a local he’d prefer a tour bus full of camera toting, schedule following tourists looking for the closest McDonalds any day.

  76. geoffrey

    the difference between a tourist and a traveller at least as in my perspective as a Australian is, a tourist is a person on a set budget and time to travel, ie they go from A to B and then back to A. a traveller is a person with a unlimited income therefore they can go from A to B to C to D etc. etc, just get the next visa required on the road.

    so as a excercise put yourself in my country Australia with limited income, and with no return tickets, and see how long it takes for you to afford to leave Australia and go back to your home country, that’s the problem I face with trying to afford to do world travel, there needs to be a cheaper option. ie $1500 to get a cheap ticket

  77. Great stuff.

    Obviously not taking itself too seriously and purposely a bit bad writing wise but it’s just to raise a chuckle here and there, mainly a nod to pretty much every traveller, and (almost) every travel blog or community that seems to be around right now. Same cookie cutter blogs popping up (simply to try and fund their travels), same lists, same pretentious views, constantly whored on every fb group going.. what happened to unique, quality content or genuine personal opinions without an agenda?

  78. Trevor Smith

    It kills me to see others who get to travel. My wife and I are foster parents and haven’t been able to go anywhere and I am so sick and tired of seeing my relatives travelling and having great times.

  79. Azrul

    What irks me sometimes are those who like to post their boarding passes on social media with the word ‘business class’ or ‘first class’ printed on it.

    I am fine with people sharing their travel destinations but not when it becomes a show off.

    I do travel business class for work but thats because my company pays for it but I never post this on sites like my Facebook. My personal travels tend to be more towards affordable or budget airlines like most if the folks here :)

  80. John

    Absolutely – hate the type of traveling – eat, take pictures, sleep, “see things,” come home and show off to friends with photos. Travel is fun if you do something on your trip. John

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