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.

10 Replies to “And Four Traits that Make Us Not So Good Travelers”

  1. T,

    I must disagree on one point. Order does not promote fairness. It actually promotes the agenda of those with power. Disruption and chaos, then, are the tools of the marginalized, the disenfranchised. Order forwards the rank-and-file way of operating, not the possibility of changing that means of operation. Order, such as lining up for admission, favors those who are invested in playing by the rules because they find value in those very rules. Convincing people to operate via order, is the ultimate means to indoctrinate into the rank-and-file.

    Interestingly, your desire for order and your aversion to confrontation(bargaining/haggling) go hand-in-hand. I’m sure it is the same for me. Haggling, by it’s vary nature, is void of a power structure. That’s the joy of it, and also the pain.

  2. But when there’s chaos, mobs, and rioting, who succeeds? The strong, right? For instance, in plane crashes, the #1 determining factor for whether you survive or not is your gender. Males survive at a higher rate than females, because they muscle their way out, shoving aside anyone who gets in their way. Studies have shown that if people would be orderly and proceed, then more people would survive. But when order is eschewed fewer people survive, and the ones who do are the strongest. Where is the fairness in that?

    And just in case you were wondering, the second most important factor is proximity to an exit.

  3. I don’t quite understand why some folks believe carrying only two pairs of underwear will somehow make a huge difference in the weight of their pack… just how large is your rear?

    I’ve got 4 pairs of Exofficio boxers and while they do dry quicker than cotton (and don’t get funky smelling), the idea that you can wash a pair at night and it will be dry in the morning is a myth. Whoever came up with that idea has never been in a rainy, humid climate. They probably live in a hot dry desert and like doing laundry every day.

    I highly recommend getting an apartment at some point in your travels to snuggle up with some familiar domestic items and take a break from eating out. It can actually be cheaper than hosteling! Eating out all the time, even if you enjoy it at home, does get old when traveling.

    Unfortunately in some places, Ecuador and Peru come to mind, we found it’s not even worth the effort to try and shop for groceries. We saved no more money than eating out and trying to find items to put together some resemblance of a meal was just not worth all the trekking from tiny market to tiny store. Hope you like canned tuna.

  4. Well you used an example that played to those with the inherent strength in that situation — the physically bigger gender.

    I’d think the question of who succeeds depends on how you are defining power in relation to the situation. And also what the perceived end result is.

    Take your idea of a riot. I would assume the powerful(the gov’t) usually wins by regaining order through the use of institutional power. During the riot, though, the less powerful win be inflicting more chaos into the situation. They are willing to inflict such chaos because they have a lesser degree of investment in the order (and therefore protection) of the riot’s locale of.

    And then there are sit-ins, and Rosa Parks, and Olympic Torch protesters, and….

    If the OT protesters had followed the accepted order of the situation — “we accept your right to protest, but please do it in the way we have defined(no-violence, no attention-seeking acts like climbing the GGB) — then there really would not have been a protest.

    I’m sensing this is going the way of the Pope — agreeing to disagree?

  5. actually, I think you are using a local/imminent definition of control — control in a given situation (i.e. airplane disaster), whereas I am talking about a larger sense of societal control. I say this because, if you think about it, anyone who has access to an airplane has a certain amount of control(related to power). They have control of their ability to gain such access. Now, who has control if/when the plane goes down — that’s a different issue of control/power.

  6. I’m with you on the lining up thing. In my travels through Europe I think that Italians are by far the most averse to lining up. I was about ready to kill someone in the Naples airport (where they had a line, but most people just ignored it and got in wherever they wanted to) and trying to get on a ski lift at Zermatt (on the Italian border) was a true test of my patience. I’m not good at bargaining either, but Boris is so I always leave that to him and usually have to walk away because it makes me uncomfortable (it must be the Russian in him).

  7. Hey folks-
    about the bargaining. I’m surprised!
    Bargaining, when done right, is about entering into a relationship with the seller so that you both finish you feel like everyone got a good deal. You’re not ‘cheating’ the seller, chances are you’ll still give him a much better price than someone else, you’re making him feel like he won the sale! If (s)he doesn’t feel like she had to fight for the sale a bit, it is much more of the ‘rich’ economy taking advantage of the ‘poor’. Even if you pay less for an item, they’ll feel better if you haggle.

    Besides, it can be fun- and a great way to meet people.

  8. But I don’t think I was ever talking about societal control. I’m talking about basic, everyday situations–lining up to place an order at a restaurant, lining up to buy a bus ticket, lining up to go to communion, etc. These are all instances in which the actors have control pretty much regardless of their social situation. If you want the wafer first, get there early and get in the first pew. If you want a sandwich, get to the restaurant pre- or post-rush or stand in line and wait your turn. In these situations, order does promote fairness to a fair extent. Those who invested the most in the situation get the rewards. Everyone has to wait in line. No one is allowed to jump ahead of someone else because of status, color, citizenship, etc.

    Breaking the rules, aka getting out of line, aka disrupting order, as a means of social change is an entirely different issue, and even then the range of examples is far and wide. There is surely a difference between sit-ins and peaceful marches (at least until the police get involved) and the riot or mob rule.

    Anyhow, I think you’re right about the haggling thing. I want structure and a set of expectations!

  9. Laura…I totally do the walking away thing too. It really makes me uncomfortable. It so goes against my entire nature. I understand the logistics of it and the idea of it and the fact that it’s necessary and expected, but I still hate it.

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