The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Travel

As a child, I would eagerly wait for the summer vacations, not just because it meant longer evenings and more play or that I didn’t have to attend school or that I could eat mangoes all day along. It also meant travelling to a new city to stay with my parents in the cantonment (since both my parents were working and I wasn’t a regular Army kid). Thus, travel was always an elaborate affair for me. It meant days of packing, warm, moist-eyed hugs from my cousins and grandparents, settling in a new city and exploring the places in that part of the country, thick photo albums, making new friends and finally tearful goodbyes with loads of gifts, cards and goodies (so, it wasn’t that bad, you see).

But gradually over the years, with teenage eagerness creeping in, fuelled by the advent of social media, travelling meant more of a statement, or precisely a hashtag activism to me. Along with the varying purposes for travel, there was a wide spectrum of travellers out there, catering to our social media feed and millennials’ fear of missing out.

Most of us would have read or at least flipped in awe through the pages of Whitaker’s World of Facts for the sole purpose of gushing over the exotic locations and still have nostalgic, sepia memories of posing awkwardly before a Kodak camera on family trips. And as we evolved to have had instantly updated an Instagram story about our next inconsequential flight, I believe, for whatever systematic historical, political or astrological combination, we all have come across the quintessential, animating ‘pretentious traveller’. You could find them on your friend list, in a sleepy classroom when you’re trying hard to dodge the professor’s attention or even on your next trip.  This ‘Pretentious Travel Douchebag Syndrome’ (PTDS) is characterised by an unreasonable need to flex and constantly receive validation about their amazing trip by somehow bringing most conversations around to talking about it. Because travelling somewhere and having a great experience isn’t enough.

This aroused our curiosity to get behind the eyeballs of this peculiar race of travellers. While still gushing about their recent trips, they shared some confessions about being a pretentious traveller.  

1. Social media conjures up a charm like no other. Starting with countdowns, to infinite stories and live videos you can keep your friends at toes regarding your magical, soul awakening trip. In case, they mute your stories, you can bombard your timeline with throwback posts spanning over years, until you realise they’ve unfollowed you all together, only to start another throwback series. Moreover it’s imperative to use hashtags like #traveller_at_heart, #wanderlust, #adventure_seeker

2. Start a wretched travel blog or photography page. It would be the best medium to ragingly share your excruciatingly beautiful experiences for the umpteenth time and inspire and motivate the readers to visit the community park every morning for a jogging adventure.

3. Wanderlust, City dust: Coherently express as well as satiate your undying love and appetite for travel through bold ‘wanderlust, city dust’ posters on your room or maybe buy backpacks and badges with rhetorical travel quotes. Brownie points for mentioning it on your bio and listing travelling as a hobby on your resume.

4. Diligently infuse social anxiety amongst your peers by perpetually reminding them on how they missed out on that ‘litttt trip’. This not only escalates their FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but also deeply reinstates the travel enthusiast and opportunist you are by religiously adhering to YOLO (You Only Live Once).

5. Always offer free travel tips. So the next time you meet the poor guy who had a modest vacation in his hometown, hanging out with old friends in shady places, don’t hesitate to stroke your ego by bragging about the time you went bungee jumping in New Zealand or ventured into the bungee trampoline in Pondicherry with your toddler cousins. Make it count. Moreover, offer the victim some free tips here and there, about how he should visit the obscure waterfall or how to not get lost in the hotel lobby as old granny did.

6. Learn a few local terms and phrases to feel intellectual. Keep using these references so that you can relentlessly talk about your exotic trips. Offer your immensely invaluable insights on the global/ local political scenario that you gathered during your hair-raising visa interview or eavesdropped on your neighbouring uncle’s argument during the train journey.

7. Always be over-enthusiastic about trips. Pair it with a Nikon camera, dreamy sunglasses, chic cowboy hats and an outrageous floral attire to accentuate the vacation vibes. You could pretend to be in Met-Gala to subtly mask your wardrobe disasters and hashtag it as OOTD (Outfit Of The Day!). Boom! You could be a fashion blogger too.

8. Climate change, despite unpopular belief, is a real problem crippling the world and isn’t yet another Chinese hoax. Similarly, a major part of the world’s population lives either in third world countries or is fighting a horrific civil war. They lack basic amenities like fresh drinking water, proper food and medication. In India as well, there are a lot of communities living on the fringes of society and struggling. So, clicking selfies with the locals unwarily counts as ‘volunteering’. Moreover, though you could reduce your carbon footprint by opting for eco-tourism or without travelling all together across the continent to make a difference, don’t forget to mention about the one time your economic class ticket got upgraded to business class in Indigo airlines and that they served you really cheap and cold cabbage sandwiches and free sparkling mineral water.

Now, since you’ve reached the end of few unassuming confessions by the overbearing traveller community, you know how to identify an approaching travel snob and flee before they engage you in exaggerated claims of the wanderer cult and its fables. Most importantly you know how to be (or not to be) the ultimate traveller.

Happy tripping!

Anisha Biswal

An abundance of lazy habits, wretched impulsiveness and animating conversations. Fancy travelling, stories and other smaller things in life.

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