Who doesn’t love travelling?
It’s one of those passions that transcends race, culture, wealth and personality. It’s probably one of the most oft cited interests on dating profiles – alongside nights on the sofa with a bottle of wine and being generically ‘bubbly’, of course.
As a general rule, most people (we won’t mention Karl Pilkington) enjoy travelling to some extent – whether that’s just a two-week package holiday down in Benidorm, skiing in Chamonix, backpacking across central Asia or, you know, moving to Bangkok for a few years.
People travel how and when they want in a manner that presumably works for their interests, time and budget.
It’s undoubtedly steered by personal preference. But despite this, there’s a new breed of traveller emerging.
The Travel Snob.
The Travel Snob knows travel inside out and he wants you to know that he does it better than you. He will invariably scoff at tourist attractions, package deals, or really any travel decisions that prioritise convenience over what he believes may result in a transcendental travel experience.
He has probably been mugged a few times, and will proudly tell you the tale at the gentlest ask of what he’s been up to of late.
He is almost certainly quite boring.
Of course, he could just as easily be a she. But I’m trying for brevity here.
The Travel Snob can come in many forms, however, and Thailand is a veritable breeding ground for them.
Let’s take a look…
1. The Inverse Travel Snob
This is the traveller who believes that the only worthwhile travelling is that which is inherently uncomfortable, inconvenient and possibly painful. Why would you take a short plane journey when you can take a 14-hour train journey in third class for marginally less cash, brah?
You know the type; they’re very vocal about how much they hate using air-con, abhor eating anything but street food, and they invariably talk with an upward lilt at the end of sentences. Sleeping on a thin mattress in a sweaty hut surrounded by cockroaches? “Doing travel right.”
They’ve probably read Vagabonding by Rolf Potts and therefore envisage themselves as the “real deal”.
They are possibly one of the more sanctimonious breeds of TEFL English teacher.
These people collect experiences and tourist in other people’s lives. It’s all photo opportunities and stories they can tell at a later date – there’s no nuance in simply enjoying life as it is in the moment. Travel is only travel if it’s saturated at high tempo with danger and near misses that you can tell everyone about afterwards.
I’m all for budget travel, and believe you should pursue the experiences you want to pursue. No big deal. Go for it.
Just shut the fuck up about it.
2. The Travel Blogging Snob Paid To Stay In A Samui Pool Villa
Let’s preface this by saying that when travel blogs provide real value – by writing genuine reviews, taking beautiful photos or imparting new or interesting information – they make for great reading and can be the indispensable travel companion you never knew you needed.
But there’s a subset of travel bloggers who apparently have pursued the somewhat questionable career trajectory of simply staying in one luxury resort after the other, at the invitation and expense of said resort, only to provide some lame duck, generically positive review after the fact.
It’s insincere, unhelpful and frankly irrelevant to most of their readership who probably don’t have the funds or inclination for a similarly luxurious experience. They might market themselves as ‘aspirational’ figures, but the smug Instagram updates complete with private plunge pool and freshly squeezed guava juice just comes across as a little boastful.
(Am I jealous, you ask? Yes. A little bit.)
3. The Online Travel Fascist
Otherwise known as “people who don’t understand how the internet works”.
The internet is a great tool to help level out mankind: if you have access to the internet, you have access to a wealth of information that has no wealth, race or education barriers. There’s very little information not on the Internet.
Even if you live in a country without political democracy, you can be assured, for better or worse, of a democratic space online (well, unless you’re in China).
But there are some people who like to protect this information; people who don’t want other people to know what they know. They want to keep knowledge of certain subjects, people and places a secret. Enter the Online Travel Fascists.
The Travel Fascists don’t want you to know about places off the well-trod tourist track.
For instance, we published a piece a month or so ago on 9 of Thailand’s most beautiful destinations, focusing on incredible spots off the beaten track that readers may not be already familiar with. While we had visited some of them and were aware of others, most of our research was conducted online, using freely available information and photos.
But when we hit ‘publish’, in some people’s minds, we had ruined Thailand.
These people were annoyed that other people would find out about their special, secret places, visit them, and then ruin them.
No matter that Thailand doesn’t ‘belong’ to them (nor does it belong to anyone for that matter, although it goes without saying that these commenters are rarely Thai), or the fact that these places may prove to be special for other people instead of just them.
A couple of my favourite comments:
We should approach travel democratically. Yes, there will be more tourists and sure, some of them will litter and will sadly cause a nuisance. This is part of the compromise that comes with internet access and the age of sharing.
4. The Bangkok Is Not The ‘Real Thailand’ Snob
First things first, what does the term ‘real Thailand’ mean anyway?
One of the most wonderful things about Thailand is how utterly non-homogenous it is. Bangkok is different to Chiang Mai which is different to Isaan which is different to Phuket which is different to Hat Yai which is different to Rayong. And so forth. The country is a litter of cultures, histories, heritage, language, food and religion, all brought together under the umbrella of ‘Thailand’.
The ‘real Thailand’ is nothing more than a social construct. Arguing that Bangkok is not really Thailand is like arguing that Milton Keynes is not really England. Or that the Czech Republic is not really Europe. Or that the USA is not the ‘real Earth’.
The people arguing this are inevitably the breed of older expat who claim that Bangkok is losing its identity. They’ve been here 20 years and have since migrated out to the suburbs as inner Bangkok has now ‘lost its spark.’ They preferred it when their money went further, the streets were dirtier, and there were fewer other expats around.
That’s fair enough: cities and people change over time, and what you liked 5 years ago is unlikely to be the same now.
But it’s erroneous to say that Bangkok is losing its identity; it’s simply evolving the one it has. If you’re unwilling to respect the pace of change in the city yet still expect it to continue fitting to your own personal preferences, then the problem lies with you. Not Bangkok.
Globalisation and urbanisation are real. The identities of villages, towns, cities and hamlets all evolve over time. Bangkok is bound to be a different city in another 20 years (and by that point, I’ll probably be the one moaning about it…) but that doesn’t mean that it’ll be any less the ‘real Thailand’ than it is today.
5. The ‘Moaning About Travel Snobs’ Travel Snob
That’s me. I get it.