The Best Travelers

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Mark Twain, “Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It”


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

St. Augustine of Hippo


“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

James A. Michener


Despite my posting my travel pictures here over the years, let me state that I am not the consummate traveler.

Most of what I have seen in Europe was courtesy of the US Army, in the early 1970s. I did go back in 1992 to see Germany and how it was changing with the wall coming down. Haven’t been back since, although I want to. You can see my posts of that time.

The funny thing as I am getting older is that people are interested in seeing these pictures and those of the South Pacific in 1986. For most of them it is history and for me, a subtle reminder of my getting older.

Been to a few other places, but they are prints in a box in the closet. I’ll have to scan them one of these days.

I want to see South America too – Rio, the Andes, Machu Picchu , Manaus. Would like to go to Japan.

As I mentioned, I don’t consider myself to be the consummate traveler. I have some acquaintances who have been just about everywhere. You ask them if they have been to the most obscure remote place, and they have been there. Sometimes multiple times. They are gone 6 months out of the year.

Including here.

I’m still in amateur status.

So for what it’s worth, I’ll give you my observations on the best kinds of travelers.

For many years, I used to think one nationality was by far the best traveler.

That would be the British.

Go to the most remote place, Bongo-Bongo, and you’d likely see a Brit with a backpack happily wandering.

But they have their miscreants, too. Ask any local townspeople hosting an international soccer meet.

The Germans are pretty good, too. Years ago, ran into a charming German girl while traveling in Australia. She was traveling by herself, halfway around her world.

Petra from Bavaria, I didn’t forget you!

But get Germans into a big group overseas and many times to the locals they appear arrogant and condescending.

Sounds like the world’s perception of us, doesn’t it?

But I have seen plenty of Americans, just as the Brits and Germans, happy wanderers.

When I was wandering through New Zealand and Australia, I learned of a wonderful tradition some had upon graduation of high school.

They would travel the world, living in various locales taking menial jobs until they made enough money to move on. What a wonderful way of seeing the world and meeting people!

When I was at Phillip Island Australia, I did a real touristy thing. I sat on the beach for a few hours waiting for the penguins to come ashore. As dusk came, the crowd got bigger. And I started to think what a comedy this was, having 1,000 people on a beach waiting for penguins to come ashore.

But as they started coming ashore, a group of Japanese tourists started elbowing their way through the crowd to get to the front.

To this day I don’t know whether it was a cultural thing or deliberate rudeness.

I have a good friend who emigrated from Hong Kong, and he cringes at how some of the mainland Chinese act abroad.

So maybe being a good ambassador when traveling to other countries has less to do with nationality and more to do whether one is traveling in a big group or individually?

Which certainly isn’t to say that traveling in a big group necessarily means one is a bad ambassador.

Have to say, even I have been an offender there. I was traveling with a group of younger people in New Zealand, mainly Brits and Australians (where I learned, and mastered, the sport of the boat race! I showed them how it’s done!).

One evening at the hotel in Wellington we were so raucous that the manager came in screaming at us.

A few rules that I learned along the way:

Even if you don’t speak the language, learn a few key phrases. 

Please, thank you in their language go a long way. 

If you don’t speak the language, first ask the person if they speak English. 

An old story I learned years ago.

A tourist was in the Paris subway, asking the woman in English at an information booth how he could get to the Louvre.

The woman answered him in French.

He replied in English, again seeking directions.

This went back & forth a few times until finally he said:

“It’s obvious that you understand me; why aren’t you answering in English?”

She replied, “First, you have to ask me if I speak English”. 

It’s simple courtesy and shows the listener that you respect their culture.

A small effort goes a long way.

What prompted me to post this was this article. Apparently many of the locals are fed up with tourists and want to reduce the number of visitors.

LONDON, July 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It is not the sheer number of tourists descending on Venice that bothers Italian food blogger Monica Cesarato so much as the type of visitor.

Not so long ago Venice was considered the trip of a lifetime, said Cesarato, who runs gastronomic tours there. Visitors took days, even weeks, to explore the City of Canals, spending money in local restaurants and businesses.

Today they pile off cruise ships and coaches, go on whirlwind tours run by non-locals, take umpteen selfies and buy little more than a cheap trinket made in China.

As millions of holidaymakers head off for their summer break, increasing numbers of popular destinations are saying they cannot take much more.

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