7 things I hate about travel
I love travelling, but I do have a few complaints...
1. Too many other travellers.
The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre noted that "hell is other people". This pretty much covers how I feel about the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimate that there were 880 million international trips in 2009. A large proportion of these trips are taken in the northern hemisphere's summer months, especially July and August. Or they are taken whenever and wherever I go. Although, always a little bit ahead of me. So they'll typically be queuing in front of a museum in their thousands when I arrive, or crowding into a restaurant I want to eat at.
Evidence of this can be found in the photo below of the Spanish Steps in Rome when I was there in April. Spot the steps?
Solution: First, don't go in the peak season (typically, the summer months). Second, get up early or go late — if there is access to the sight at night, and it's safe. Third, go somewhere off the beaten path. Instead of Italy, go to Lebanon.
Wikipedia defines a Tout as "any person who solicits business or employment in an importune manner". Importune is the key word here. Trying to sell me stuff is not annoying in itself, it is the persistence: either the individual persistence of a "salesperson" (following you down the street) or the collective persistence of multiple people trying to sell the same or similar thing one after another even though they've seen you reject five other attempts. Below is photo of Nanjing Rd in Shanghai, whose touts are choreographed into a hellish combination of individual and collective persistence.
Solution: Avoid eye contact, say no politely. And, if all else fails, try to sell them stuff.
3. No public toilets and diarrhoea.
These two things invariably go together. You get the runs, then you can't find a public toilet. Or, if you can find a toilet, it doesn't have any toilet paper. Which brings me to the worse night of my life, spent on a Mexican ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. Before I boarded I was walking down the street in La Paz when, un-announced, I passed a nugget of a turd. It dropped out on the pavement and I stared at it in wonderment and fear as if it were a sparrow that had just fallen from the sky. I walked on, successfully repressing all my fears, because later that evening, when I was getting on the ferry, several small children on the wharf offered to sell me packets of tissues and, not having a cold, I declined. Shortly after departing, the earlier nugget was followed by a stream of refuse. Two hours later all the toilets were blocked (by other people's tissues) and I had to hold my member up to avoid it being a dipstick. Having not bought the aforementioned tissues, I used pages from a novel I was reading at the time.
The picture below is of me, the morning after (with nothing left in my bowels), and a fellow passenger. (You can tell the age of the photo by the size of the portable music device and my fashion "sense" — 1989.)
Solution: Clean your hands often, and carry some loperamide on you at all times.
4. Delayed flights and missed connections.
Some people claim to like flying. I am not one of those weirdos. I endure it, like I endure diarrhoea. Flying is typically faster than boats or trains. But not as enjoyable as those two forms of travel, or going to the dentist. However, I've yet to meet a person who enjoys delayed flights or missed connections. Waiting for the next flight would be fine if it weren't for the fact that all airports are just land-based versions of aircraft: boring, expensive, culturally bankrupt, aesthetically challenged, and hours away from civilisation.
Solution: Become rich and buy your own airline.
5. Visa fees.
Why are visas so expensive? Answer: because they can be. Not only are they expensive, but you probably have to do some very boring queuing to get them. And talk to some grumpy officials, who you have to be nice to. But you'd best not talk too much. I've heard of some countries' embassies warning that any query as to the status of your application, means immediate rejection of your request.
6. Jet lag.
Jet lag is the earth's way of annoying humans. I finally get to that exotic, wonderful place and now I can only see it through a haze of sleepiness. And, if I'm really lucky, I'll get acclimated to the timezone in the last few days of my trip, then return home and get it there as well.
Solution: So many solutions, but none are guaranteed to work.
7. Irish pubs everywhere.
So I spend loads of money to travel around the world, and when I get there I find the locals going to Irish pubs. I like Irish pubs, don't get me wrong. But do they have to be everywhere. It is perfectly acceptable for me to find them in Ireland, or places that have had Irish immigrants. But Italy? Thailand? This I cannot abide.
Solution: Please drink elsewhere.
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