And Four Traits that Make Us Not So Good Travelers

Because I am incredibly self-aware and always completely unbiased, I thought I’d follow up last Sunday’s post on the traits that make us good travelers with the other side of the coin. I already laid out some of my travel issues in an earlier post about why I wouldn’t be a good contestant on the Amazing Race, but here are four traits that both Jeff and I share.

1. We Like to Change Our Underwear Daily.
Jeff doesn’t always like to change his clothes every day, and I’ve been known to re-wear a thing or two, especially if I’m not going out in public or am unlikely to be seen by the same people who saw me wearing said outfit the first time, but we both agree that changing underwear daily is a good–and essential–thing. We own those Ex-Officio Underwear with the slogan “17 countries, six weeks, one pair of underwear,” and we’ve seen the many packing lists that claim there is no reason to take more than 4 pair of underwear. The reasoning being that if you take the right underwear (such as the Ex-Officio ones) you can easily wash them in the sink, dry them overnight, and put them right back on the next day. Sure, sounds good. But what about when you’re on that 7-day trekking trip, or you’re on an overnight bus? Yeah, you’re wearing dirty underwear. So though it’s good to know our underwear are up for the challenge of everyday wear, for our round the world trip we’re still packing 7 pairs each. We’re such over-packers.

2. We believe in the concept of the line.
Orderliness is good. Lining up…to buy tickets, to gain admission, to place an order…is a good idea. It imparts order to the process, keeps people from getting hurt, and promotes fairness. And though I think most Americans would agree with me, we are still a small minority. Other countries seem to like mobs and stampedes. Or if, by the grace of God, there is a line, people from these other countries see no need to stand in it. This is even true in Germany, which is, to many, the epitome of orderliness. Just go to Mass once there and see what happens. When it’s communion time, there’s no pew by pew procession to the front. No, sirree. Instead, it’s a mad dash, everybody at once, elbows flailing, as if the priest is going to run out of wafers. In a post about Latin America, fellow travelers at WanderingWhy confirm that this is also true in the countries south of the border.

3. We aren’t good at bargaining.
The bulk of the world expects you to haggle–over prices in the market, taxi cab fares, hotel rates…pretty much everything. Having grown up in a world where you pay the marked price period, we’re not used to that. Being averse to all forms of confrontation, bargaining is a true nightmare for me. And though Jeff is a bit better at it than I am, neither of us is particularly comfortable with it. Adding to the discomfort is the fact that almost everywhere we will be traveling, we’re far better off than the people who live here, and often what we’re haggling over is no more than a couple of bucks. It just seems wrong. But at the same time, it’s not good for us to hand over whatever amount is asked. We’ll feel like we got a raw deal, and we’ll also be negatively affecting the overall economy of that place. Though the seller will be a bit better off, every time he makes that first price, he’ll feel more and more justified in raising the cost until the market price is more than the citizens of that place can afford. Economics is weird.

4. We quickly get tired of eating out.
There are people who eat out every day. There are even people who eat out every meal every day. Others eat out a couple of times a week, once a week, once a fortnight, etc. We probably eat out about once a month. The rest of the time we cook. With eating out only about once a month, I look forward to it. I pick some type of food that we don’t prepare at home (usually sushi…mmm), and I enjoy the whole pomp and circumstance of eating out. But make me do that a few times in a row, and I’ll be annoyed. I get sick of the whole process…the looking through a menu, the waiting for your food, the dealing with the wait staff. I just want to cook what I want, put as much on my plate as I want, sit with my legs crossed under me if I want, talk about anything I want without fear of people overhearing me, get up from the table when I want, etc. After a week of vacation in which most meals are eaten out, all I want is my pantry, my dishes, my kitchen, my table. And while we do plan to cook when we can, it won’t be as frequent as I’d like I’m sure. It also won’t be the same. We won’t a stocked pantry to choose from–herbs and spices, jars of random things like fish sauce and curry paste, a selection of cheeses. We’ll only be able to buy what we plan to use immediately, and we’ll also have to work within the confines of the diet in the place we’re at…which will probably mean many things that we’re not familiar with nor have no idea how to cook. Hopefully we’ll learn. Otherwise, there’s always street food and picnics.