A Traveller's Problem: Travel Shaming and Why it Has to Stop

Why We Have to Stop Travel Shaming

Are you guilty of this?

It’s only come to my attention now that travel shaming has become a thing. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are people who say discouraging things to travellers or who don’t necessarily agree with what travellers do. But nowadays, these different perspectives have escalated into the “travel shaming” that travellers now have to answer to. So let’s discuss it. Because we also need to say why it has to stop.

The way I see it, travel shaming mainly has two forms. The first is we, as travellers, are made to feel guilty for simply taking opportunities to travel. The second is when we’re being condescended for how we choose to travel. Let’s tackle both, shall we?

Also read: The Ugly Truths About Travelling

Guilty for travelling

Regardless if we’re travelling on a budget, travelling in luxury or anywhere in between, a lot of people tend to make us feel guilty solely because we’re using our money, time and energy for travelling. They make us feel guilty for taking leaves. They assume that we’re “entitled” just because we schedule our trips frequently. Some travellers even get bullied online whenever they share a successful and eventful journey with photos or blog posts. This often happens to millennials, but definitely not limited to them.

Why this should stop

The times have changed. In this day and age, travel happens more often than it did 40, 30, 20 years ago. With social media as a big factor, I get how there would be people who seem to be fed up with the wanderlust hype or the idea of travelling. More often than not, the criticism that stands out is that travellers would do better to allot their travel funds to their savings. Why travel so often if we could just save the money for emergencies? Why travel when we’ve got other bills to pay, officemates who will have to cover for us at work, or when we’re still getting used to our new job?

There are so many questions about the money we’ll lose and things we’ll miss out on. But travelling isn’t about that. It’s about everything else that we can possibly gain, no matter how short or long the vacation. Travel is fun, therapeutic, a temporary escape, an opportunity to meet new people, but above all, it is educational. New York Times Bestseller Mark Manson perfectly tells us how life-changing our travels can be in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

“Travel is a fantastic self-development tool, because it extricates you from the values of your culture and shows you that another society can live with entirely different values and still function and not hate themselves. This exposure to different cultural values and metrics then forces you to reexamine what seems obvious in your own life and to consider that perhaps it’s not necessarily the best way to live.”

Like I said, we’re not just spending our money to enjoy ourselves in new destinations. The world always gives us something in return.  If we want to experience this as often as we can, as long as we’re not running from our responsibilities, and for as long as our pockets can allow us, why not?

Traveller vs. Tourist

When travellers look down on other travellers  — the irony of this situation. But it sadly does happen.

Travellers judge fellow travellers based on their own standards and preferences in travelling. We’re labelled tourists instead of travellers just because we prefer paid city tours instead of DIYs. We’re not worthy to be called travellers because our stay at a certain place was too short. We’re only tourists and not travellers if we go to the typical tourist attractions instead of the off the beaten paths. So on and so forth.

Why this should stop

Since we’re dealing with semantics here, let’s clarify this. Unless one is migrating or studying and working in a different country for a given time, he or she is considered a tourist — especially when the person is in a destination not of his or her citizenship. Backpacker or suitcase lugger, occasional or frequent flyer, we are tourists through and through. And tourists are travellers, regardless of one’s standards when it comes to travelling.

The shaming won’t stop there

People always find ways to condescend and nitpick another’s travel habits like taking OOTDs for the gram, compressing a city-hopping itinerary for a limited number of days, staying in a luxury hotel instead of a hostel. But in all honesty, it doesn’t matter what they think of our travels. It’s our lives, our own way of experiencing the world, and our own stories to tell. It shouldn’t be about who is the better or authentic traveller — it’s about travelling. In whatever shape or form it may come. What matters is the experience and how we make the most out of our own situation. Those people who keep running their mouths just to voice their unwanted “advice” don’t understand that yet. 

Also read: 7 Seemingly Bad Travel Habits You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed Of

Travelling is never a waste, and all of us have our own preferences on how to go about our travels. As fellow travellers, we should honour each other’s travel styles and seek to learn from each other instead of shaming one another. That’s what a well-travelled person would be open to doing, wouldn’t it?

About Author

Therese Sta. Maria
Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around recently, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.


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