I flew back from Glasgow to Pittsburgh last evening; I want to bitch for a moment about people bitching about…everything. Americans seem to complain a lot about non-essential matters. I know that these are a limited selection of people I’m observing and, no doubt, I’ve witlessly overheard the same things in other languages around the world—but I’m continually nonplussed with the reactions American travellers have concerning the places they visit. It’s as if everything is not America, then it’s all wrong; excuse me, the point of travel is to go someplace that is not like your home—that’s the point!
I overheard (or was trapped near) several bitching sessions yesterday. Whilst waiting for my connecting flight in Philadelphia, I sat across a middle-aged couple on their way back from holiday (in the Caribbean, I believe; there was mention of islands and they were both browned to a crisp). The woman spoke loudly into her mobile explaining all the woes of the journey; the man sat stone-faced staring off into the distance. She went on about how it rained, things were too expensive, the food was different, there were people speaking languages she didn’t understand, the beach was filled with skinny people (they were both grossly overweight), they should have gone on a cruse instead, there was nothing to do at the resort but sit around, there weren’t enough places to shop, it was hot, on and on and on! Madam, I have a solution for you: Stay At Home! Do Not Leave the Country! If you honestly cannot gain anything from even this limited cross-cultural experience, just don’t attempt it; you are re-enforcing the Ugly American stereotype and we don’t need that at the moment. (The best part was after she hung up, she turned to her husband and said that the person she was speaking with didn’t even ask how the trip was…she just had to tell it all without prompting. Did you consider that this other person might not have wanted to hear your whining?)
There is so much we can learn whilst travelling; yes, it is different and yes there are often difficulties and trials on the journey. Go, see the world and realise you are not the centre of it; realise that the difficulties you face as a traveller are nothing compared to the everyday matters faced by many of the people you are visiting. But, if you are going to have a mental hernia if there is no ketchup on the table or if you feel you must be rude to the locals as a matter of course, don’t go. Stay on your sofa. Watch television. Get fatter. Your carbon footprint for travel is too high in this case.
Okay, I now have that out of my system…onward.