A cliché is an opinion or phrase that is overused or lacks originality (google told me), that being said, I will go further and say there are a few different subtypes of clichés. I will only be discussing one relevant type here: The Travel Cliché.
I am qualified to make these definitions, because clichés are near and dear to my heart. I love them almost as much as I hate them. I find them an equally funny and frustrating part of life, they are my own personal yin yang.
But in this age of technology, TC are no longer confined to the limits human voice box. Facebook and photography have given birth to all new types, as well as morphed existing clichés into new and terrible forms.
Be it the "I'm at the beach, here's a picture of my legs", or "Hey here's a statue, and here's me interacting with the statue", the world is ripe with clichés for the picking.
So without further ado, my 9 most hated/loved TC.
Disclosure: I am guilty of most of these
1) Scenery photos with your back facing the camera
Todd: “hey, Jim, can you take my picture with this cool mountain in the background?”
Jim: “Yea for sure man! 1, 2, …--“
Todd: “WAIT! Wait a sec.” (Todd turns around) “What are you waiting for?! Take the picture!”
Jim: “But, Todd, you’re not looking at the camera.”
Todd “I know! That’s the point! Now everyone who sees this picture, will be like ‘wow, that was so beautiful, Todd couldn’t even stop looking at it long enough to take the picture’”
Jim: “Whoaaa, Todd, you are so wise.”
Todd certainly knew what he was doing.
If you want everyone to know how at peace with the universe you are, there’s no better way to do it than with a photo of you admiring something. For style points, contort yourself into some sort of yoga pose where the sun silhouettes your body. I mean, how else are you going to truly capture the grandeur and majesty of any spectacle?
2) The Country ____ has a way better system for ____
Traveling is a fantastic way to learn, maybe the best way to learn about different parts of the world and how they function. This is one of the reasons I love doing it.
But as with all new information, it broadens perspective. This new perspective can show you how amazing, or how backward your hometown really is. Have you ever had a friend come back from France go on about how much better their food is? How they can’t find anything fresh since they’ve come home? Well, this is because France REALLY cares about this type of thing, so relatively speaking, everywhere else just sucks.
3) Searching for that 'authentic' experience, be a local!
This is one of my favourites. I’m certainly guilty of it, and boy do I cringe when I hear it.
I went on a favela (large slum) tour when I was in Brazil, through a company who's slogan was “Don’t Be a Gringo, Be a Local!”. You know what Rio de Janeiro locals do NOT do? Go on tours of their slums. It actually sounds like I was deliberately trying to be a gringo in this case.
With burgeoning tourism markets coming from developing countries, a terrific business idea was hatched. Convince tourists that they won’t be tourists at all, but in fact they will be like one of the locals, key word is “convince”. The reality is most tourists don’t want a local experience, because it would be either:
A) Boring or B) unsafe
But most importantly, it’s unsustainable from the tour operators point of view.
So what are company’s left to do, but to fake it? And that’s fine, it still leads to amazing memories and experiences. SO what if that Indigenous tribe is paid to take you hunting and feed you, does that mean that the time spent is any less enjoyable? I would argue no. However, that doesn’t give you exemption to drone on about how one-of-a-kind your experience was.
4) writing a travel blog
It was only a matter of time...
Little Joey Johnson is going away to Europe, but not before telling all his friends and family that he will be writing a really cool and unique blog! The blog will include tips on where all the best croissants in Paris are located, and pictures of Joey holding up the leaning tower of Pisa. Around 60% of the way through Joey’s trip, he will comment on how travel has broadened his horizons and opened his eyes to the beauty and awe that the world beholds.
5) Overvaluing your "worldliness"
One of the worst TCs, is when you’re on the receiving end of a conversation from someone who is particularly “well-traveled”, and they feel it is their god given duty to undermine all of your experiences, because they haven’t included travel. It’s as if regardless of details, travel trumps education, career development, or starting a family. If you’ve done anything else with your time and money, it’s been time and money ill spent in their eyes
I don’t know where this sense of superiority came from for many travelers, but I don’t like it. You don’t need to hop on a plane to Warsaw, and eat tuna straight from the can while sitting on a park bench to gain perspective, there’s millions of ways to gain perspective and many of them don’t include traveling.
6) Perpetual "one-upping"
7) Southeast Asia tattoo
8) Spending a few days some where makes you an expert
Lindy and I were recently in a bar in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. We met one of those types who loves to vocalize his discontent for home (Sydney) in favour of Europe, he said he’s lived all over Europe. Unprovoked, he begins to list the places he’s lived. He mentioned Edinburgh as one of them, a city Lindy and I really liked, so we asked how long he lived there for:
9) That Traveler's Romance
Now I haven't had the pleasure of any romantic endeavours whilst travelling, but I certainly know many people who have. The flame burns as intense as it is breif, but for a lucky few, the hurdle is jumped and the romance blossoms into a relationship spanning international borders. I figured who better to write on the flowery subject, than someone who's gone the distance, my good friend Bailey McGinn. Take it away, Bailey...
"OMG, how did you guys MEET?!"
I went to dance, so I shot a look his way that said “shucks, you were cute but I’ve got a dance competition to win”. Somehow, while his clinger went to pee, we exchanged numbers. Classy stuff, eh?. I returned to the dance floor (where I was born) and he left for the night.
Part two: Cliché
If you must know, we went to the hippest of cocktail lounges on our first date. A bearded man made me drinks based on my favourite tastes (vengeance and blood, it turns out). Later we took our half drank (drunk? drunken?) bottle of wine and hit the road, because in France that’s allowed – amen!
Dating a French man has its challenges, but so does dating any other human. Mostly it’s annoying because he doesn’t get my Bill and Ted references.
So what did we learn? All in all, clichés make for really great first dates but you have to be pretty committed to the person, or at least to French wine, if you’re going to stick around. Lucky for me I’ve got both going for me!
Thanks, Bailey. What a lovely note to end on.
Now, some of you might be saying, “jeez Mike, lighten up!” but the reality is many of these TCs exist because they work.
These “life event” clichés all have one thing in common; something meaningful has happened to the person who is talking. Whether it’s the best pizza they’ve ever had, a fantastic night sleeping under the stars in the desert, or the night they got engaged, these people obviously feel passionate enough to share their story with you. These are all very special times in someone's life.
So next time you find yourself about to hear someone complain about how you can’t get a good lager outside of Munich, humour them at least a bit, they probably enjoy reliving the experience.
But then after the 6th time you’ve heard the story, politely tell them “dude, enough already”