How To Be A Good Traveler: Observations from 3 Weeks On The Road
I promised myself when I got back from my road trip, I simply had to document all the dumb, strange, and pet-peeve-y things I saw travelers do while I was traveling. By the time the three weeks had come to an end, I had a whole laundry list of bad travel behavior to pick a bone with.
How To Be A Good Traveler
- If your child enjoys speaking like she’s possessed, maybe you should invest in a pacifier…and a psychiatrist – On the flight to San Diego, I sat in front of a a child, maybe 8 years old or so, who was honest-to-goodness speaking in “we are legion” devil voices. You know the kind they use in the movies when someone’s supposed to be possessed? Yeah, those. And all her dad had to say was “don’t do that here, honey.” Where is it ever appropriate to do that, might I ask? Lucky for me the flight wasn’t full and they eventually moved to the back of the plane.
- Wear shoes in public dining areas - Because there’s nothing less appetizing than watching a grown man or woman putter around the hostel breakfast area barefoot while wearing pajamas. Especially when you have a giant, fungus-y big toe. I know foot fungus is nothing to laugh about but you should probably keep it covered up.
- Do not feed the animals – I almost ashamed to admit this now, but I was chased by a trio of squirrels outside of Morro Bay on the central California coast. And then I remembered I’m like a bajillion times bigger than they are. When animals get used to being fed by humans, they begin to look to humans as a food source, becoming aggressive in their pursuit of food. This is bad because 1) it makes for an unpleasant experience for other travelers (I mean, gawd, people had to watch me running from squirrels!) and 2) a lot of human food (which is bad for us) is doubly bad for animals. I know animals are cute and all when they stand on their hind legs and beg but you’re not doing them any favors. Keep your plain M&Ms-laced trail mix to yourself.
- Don’t attack animals in the wild or ever, really – At the elephant seal viewing beach in San Simeon along California Highway 1, a woman crossed the fence on the short cliff overlooking the beach and threw small objects at the elephant seals in an attempt to get their attention so she could take a better picture. What’s worse? Her toddler daughter followed her out onto the small cliff. That’s just dumb. Did you know elephant seals can weigh up to 6,000 pounds and, when threatened, can charge at surprising speeds? I’m just sayin’.
- Don’t litter in nature – This one makes me truly angry. While I’m certainly not condoning litter in urban areas, most people escape to nature because they appreciate the simplicity and serenity natural surroundings can bring. Well, what’s more natural, simple, or serene than an empty can of Red Bull hanging from a tree in Big Sur? A trail of Starburst wrappers along the John Muir trail up from Yosemite Valley, of course! Shaking. My. Damn. Head.
- Know how to use your camera – There is little more annoying than going to a museum where policy allows non-flash photography and then seeing visitors using flash photography simply because they don’t know how to turn the flash on their cameras off. Sigh. Many museums have the no-flash policy because repeated exposure to bursts of strong light cause pigments in certain artifacts like paintings and tapestries to deteriorate. Read your camera’s manual before you set out on that next trip, will ya? Speaking of which…
- If you really don’t know how to use a DSLR, use a point and shoot camera - I know the allure of shooting with a DSLR is great, but if your response to taking a photo with said DSLR is “hopefully it’ll turn out” (yes, folks, I heard this) then it’s too much camera for you. Even the pros will tell you it’s not the size of the ship, it’s the motion in the ocean (or something like that). Bottom line: you don’t need a DSLR to take amazing photos. If you’re truly interested in mastering the art and science of photography, well, that’s another story.
- Don’t hit the highway with less than a quarter to a half a tank of gas – Even if you think you can fuel up for less at the next gas station, fill up anyway or you may end up running on empty in the middle of nowhere. I mean nowhere. Nothing but the dying light of the sun on California’s golden hills to keep you company for miles. Okay, so this one was me, except I rolled into Buellton, California with its two gas stations just in time. Just in time. Thank you, Buellton. Smooches.
- Don’t climb Half Dome drunk – Yosemite’s iconic granite peak is crazy popular in the summer and with so many people attempting to reach the top, accidents are bound to happen from time, especially if you’re not being careful. To my knowledge, no one attempted to summit Half Dome while intoxicated while I was there, but I thought I’d make a preemptive strike. ‘Cuz that ish is scary.