04 March 2017

Reddit Travel Rants, No. 1: The Clueless Traveling Americans

I have a love-hate relationship with the "sharing economy". I have dabbled in AirBnb, Couchsurfing, and the like, when it comes to accommodation. I like the concept, but I don't like the people who are using it sometimes. The same thing with Wikipedia. I liked the concept of a free public encyclopedia, which anyone can edit, and for a large chunk of time I was an editor, until when the demands of graduate school became too much and ate the most of my time. That said, there were also people who used it and abused it, which made it easier to let go.

Anyway, recently, I discovered Reddit, and I have been contributing on its travel groups lately. I mostly answer questions of people on travel, and for the most part, I enjoy it, except sometimes I see people who have the craziest idea about travel, mostly because they are clueless on how to do it. For the most part, these are Americans; about 54% of Reddit's users after all come from the USA. And when they attempt to travel, then that's where I want to shake my head.

Note, this is a rant, not a politically correct article. Stop reading if you're too sensitive and get offended easily.

Anyway, sometimes you see Americans who have no idea about European geography. There was one person who was thinking of visiting Italy. He wanted to see Rome, Florence, as well as Venice, and additionally do a day trip in Cinque Terre. Oh, this person also only has 7 full days in Italy. I was like, wow, you really want to see plenty of Italian train stations! Heck, there exists whole travel guide books each devoted to Rome, Florence and Tuscany, and Venice and the Veneto, alone! I feel like one can easily spend 4 days in either of these cities, and have plenty of other things to do. So I really don't understand why Americans are so susceptible to the checklist-style travel.

Someone told me that it has something to do with the fact that Americans don't really have a lot of vacation days. This is what I find great with living in Europe. Anyway, I digress. So you have a limited amount of vacation days. Say you have only 7 days. And you want to do Europe. Ask yourself, do you really think you would enjoy a week full of schlepping your stuff all across the continent? Or are you trying to go to Zurich then Frankfurt then Berlin then Amsterdam then Brussels then London then Dublin, only to say that you have been to 6 countries?

My strategy has always been to scratch more than just the surface. If you're going to Florence, take the time to explore the surroundings. Take a bus to Fiesole. Take the train and do a day trip to Pistoia. I am guessing the typical American doesn't even know that these smaller towns around Florence exist.

There are so many other questions reflecting cluelessness but I won't discuss them further here. A visa is not a credit card by the way, in case you're wondering. Chances are that very cheap trans-Atlantic flight you found to Iceland doesn't include food and check-in luggage, so read the fine print.

I have a theory that the larger a country is, the more clueless its citizens are when it comes to international travel. But I guess that is for another post, so I won't expand on that here this time.

The thing is, I love travel. And I love to share the experience of travel to people who are willing to dive in and open their world. Hence sometimes I take the time to answer questions regarding travel. Except sometimes you get people who make you feel like you have four heads, or that you just landed from Mars.


  1. Eh, I'm on Reddit as well! :-) I enjoy AskReddit and various subreddits, although I rarely participate. I understand your rant... I used to be frustrated with r/IWantOut where clueless Americans don't realize that no, they just can't settle in another country without going through immigration.

    I respect your style of traveling, you really try to understand the culture and explore the world out of the beaten path. It's tempting sometime to just go by the checklist, the must-see places... but with experience, I learned how rewarding smaller cities were. Sometime, the main attraction is the lack of attraction! Just slow down, see a "normal city" and enjoy the people!

    1. Zhu,

      "The main attraction is the lack of attraction" - This is so true! I admit I am still working on this. In 2014 I was in Mandalay, and while it was the last stop in my trip to Myanmar, it was when culture shock hit me. I was in the city for three days, and I had a flight to Bangkok after that, but I found the city rather boring. Eventually, the things I found novel eventually annoyed me, like the Burmese habit of chewing betel nut and spitting red all over the place, the scooter traffic, and so on. The sights were all outside the city, and I just explored the city because for some reason I was getting irritated and didn't want to deal with the culture anymore. But in hindsight, this was the normal Myanmar, not just the temples and pagodas!