How Not to Be a Complete Jerk When You Travel

When we envision a particular ‘jerk’ for this opinion piece, we picture a combo of Chris Brown tweeting about airline service, Ryan Lochte’s disregard for the law and general decency, and to err away from claims of sexism, Mariah Carey’s world tour demands for only white roses in her room. There you have it — the ideal jerk of a traveller. But unlucky for us, we know a few more. If you think you might be one, or know of someone who is, admittance is the first step. And the second? Action.

Read also: Quiz: Seriously, How High Maintenance of Traveller Are You?

#1 The Scenario: Meeting Other Travellers on the Journey


What a jerk would do: Assume everyone wants to know where they’ve been (who they’ve been with), and how you “muuuust try this place out” the next time you’re in the south of France. In some cases, brags about their time in Australia and may carry a mild Aussie accent.

Make it right: Listen, laugh, ask questions, laugh politely some more if needed. You could learn a thing or two about a place, and likewise. Plus, you can always unexpectedly meet some really cool cats on the road whom end up becoming the best of Facebook buddies.

#2 The Scenario: Visiting Holy Places


What a jerk would do: Dress inapropriately (“What? It’s hot!”). Next-level jerks do things like climb up structures and strip down for the sake of a picture — it happened a handful of times in Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, urging the implementation of stricter rules.

Make it right: Dress modestly to show your respect for all cultures and religion. Be aware of the history behind these places and show responsibility for preserving them. It’s not exactly a holy place, but did you know that tourists have been making keepsake of bricks from The Great Wall of China? Much of it is now missing!

#3 The Scenario: It’s a Lovely Day at the Beach


What a jerk would do: Boss around the wait staff so you never have to be without a beer in hand. And if your order for a club sandwich takes more than 10 minutes, they’ve got another think coming. You really don’t care that the kitchen is far away from the beach, or that it’s peak season…

Make it right: Slap on some sunscreen, turn on your Spotify, and lounge. Take full advantage of the opportunity to disconnect from the outside world (namely, the office) and breathe in the salty ocean air.

#4 The Scenario: You’re in a Third World Country


What a jerk would do: Whine excessively  and compare everything to the way they do things back at home. And, say things like “If they’d just…. the country would be much better”.

Make it right: Be curious, not crass. Appreciate your travels and the different experiences the world has to offer. Travel is not a competition between countries. You might want to rethink your reasons for travelling.

#5 The Scenario: Scrolling Through Social Media


What a jerk would do: Comment on pictures or posts from other travellers giving them useless opinions on how you’ve (obviously) been there, and the service was just horrible. “The missus and I much preferred the three-starred Michelin down the road. Ask for Jean Paul, he’s an old friend”.

Make it right: Just ‘like’ a post unless your opinion is asked for.

#6 The Scenario: You’ve Booked Appointments


What a jerk would do: These reservations were just an option to you, but how would you know what you’d feel like doing once you got there? The spa, the restaurant, the tour — no deposit, no obligation. Bonus jerk points if it’s a restaurant reservation in Niseko you’re flaking on, these eateries are tiny and many have only ten tables that require a booking months in advance.

Make it right: Unless the jet lag has sunk in with a vengeance, or you’re really not up for it, call much in advance to release your spot. If you can hash out a rough itinerary before your trip, do so.

#7 The Scenario: You’re Not a Fan of the Food


What a jerk would do: The steak is too tough. The eggs are runny. The gravy is too thick. You’ll just die if you take a bite. So you insist the chef make you something new, and be sure to give them a few cooking pointers.

Make it right: Unless the food is truly horrible or unsanitary, never waste it. If you did pay a sum to dine somewhere fancy and was looking forward to the experience, write a TripAdvisor review. You’ll be doing another jerk traveller a favour with your honesty.

#8 The Scenario: It’s a Night Out at the Club


What a jerk would do: Try their moves on local girls with the idea that foreigners are basically golden. But first, an evening prelude of Tinder-swipping or with a premium account, swipping before you’ve even stepped into the country.

Make it right: We’re not saying no to a hookup. Oh no. Holiday flings are a hoot (in moderation now, come on). But in risk of sounding like a teenage girl’s magazine from the 90s, “if the chemistry seems right, go for it!”. Desperation smells the same in any part of the world.

We’ll say it again — any part of the world

Photo credits: Main, 1, 2, 34, 5, 6, 7, and 8

Diandra Soliano

Our resident Wander Woman with a passion for languages, big cities and bronzer. When she's not listening to The Smiths a little too loudly at the office (after hours!), she can be found singing along to the soundtrack of Les Miserables with her two cats for an audience.

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