Oversharing Travel & Food

Traveling Violation

Welcome to Mea Culpa Airlines. I’m your pilot, Dave.

I’ve always prided myself on being non-directive when giving travel advice. When someone tells me they’re heading somewhere I’ve been, I never tell them they must do something or go somewhere.

Going to New York? You gotta go to Margaritaville in Times Square!

Instead, I’ll ask if they would like some recommendations. If they say yes, I’ll discuss things the Complimentary Spouse and I have enjoyed and suggest things they might want to do. And I’ll provide an explanation.

  • Going to London? Britt and I really enjoy walking around Shoreditch to see the incredible street art. We find something new every time we’re there. And then we pop over to Brick Lane Beigel Bake for the world’s best salt beef (aka corned beef) sandwiches.
  • Going to Berlin? You might want to check out the Ritter Sport store on Französische Straße since you love chocolate. You can get varieties they don’t see in the U.S. — and even make your own!
  • Going to Barcelona? I think you’d enjoy going to Josep Tarradellas Barcelona – El Prat Airport. That’s where you catch a flight to Madrid, a superior city in every way that matters.

Isn’t that a great approach to giving travel advice? It’s not about me. I’m not ordering people around. I’m sharing information others can consider as they think about what will make their trip meaningful and memorable.

Hold your applause. It turns out that, with some types of travel advice, I’m not nearly as helpful as I thought.

Me too, Bender. Me too.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Now Beginning Our Descent Into Jerkdom

“Wait a second, Dave,” I hear you saying. “Is this one of those way-too-long blog posts in which you drill down into one little flaw and blow everything out of proportion?”

Yes. Fasten your seatbelts. We’re about to hit some turbulence.

A few days ago, as I was trading text messages with someone heading to Europe, I realized how bossy, judgmental, and dismissive I can get about one part of the travel experience: the travel itself.

Sure, I’ll give you thoughtful suggestions and considerate advice for things to do, see, and eat when you actually reach your destination. But sometimes, I’m a fucking asshole aggressively helpful when I talk about how to prepare for your trip, get to your destination, and behave when you’re there.

Here are some examples of things I caught myself saying:

  • I’d never do that.
  • No. one does that.
  • Are you kidding?
  • You can’t wear that in Europe.
  • It’s foolish to bring that much cash with you.
  • It’s even more foolish to exchange the money at a U.S. bank.
  • That’s way too much money to spend on a guided tour.
  • That’s a waste of time.

The other person didn’t call me out explicitly on this bullshit, but he dropped enough hints in his replies for me to realize what I was doing.

Marge Simpson says "I'm not sure your advice was all that helpful."
Yeah, Marge gets it.

Federal Law Prohibits Tampering With, Disabling, or Destroying BS Detectors

According to the Twelve Steps in most recovery programs, I’m supposed to make a list of everyone I’ve wronged by my behavior and make amends. Fortunately, I have a blog, so I’m going to apologize to everyone at once — otherwise, I’d probably have to reach out to anyone I know who has ever been on an airplane. Whew. What a timesaver.

I’m sorry, everyone. I pledge to dial down the intensity and snobbiness for this type of travel advice in the future.

(This is the part when you say, “Oh, Dave, you’re blowing this out of proportion! Even when your advice is couched the wrong way, we know that your goal is to help ensure we love travel as much as you do! How could we not forgive you when you mean well and you’re so handsome?”)

Wow, that was a very nice and unprompted response, everyone. Thank you for being so magnanimous.

I apologized to the person I had berated about his travel plans and said he should do what would make him feel comfortable, prepared, and happy, even if it’s not what I would do.

He said thanks and then added that I was judging myself way too harshly. (I can trust that he’s telling the truth about that last part. He’s an honorable guy and the most judgmental person I know. He’s known for having opinions on everything. It seems like he’s always in the middle of a major dispute. No surprise, then, that he spends so much time in court.)

Dave’s Four Pro Tips for Travel

I still want to help people get the most out of travel, so I’ll continue offering recommendations about these kinds of issues when they’re asked for. But I’ll frame my advice as general guidelines, not commands —  just like all my other travel advice.

In fact, I’ve already prepared some:

Don’t just see a place. Experience it: Explore. Sit. Relax. Watch the people. Soak it all in — not just the sights and sounds, which you can capture with your camera, but the mood, tone, character, pace, and feeling of a place.

Lower the barriers between you and the locals: Search out opportunities to interact with locals and do the things they do. It helps to dress so you don’t stand out too much. You’ll probably still get pegged as a tourist, but not as quickly as the folks wearing Kansas City Chiefs caps, cargo shorts, and Crocs.

Be flexible. Call audibles. Don’t feel like you are stuck with a rigid agenda or need to complete a checklist for your vacation to be a success. No one’s keeping score — you don’t lose points if you skip that thing everyone else at home talks about and decide instead to check out something that piqued your curiosity after you arrived.

Don’t worry too much: I don’t want to minimize the risk of bad things happening — but if you spend too much time preparing for what might go wrong, it’s hard to get into the proper mindset for when things go right. It’s impossible to plan for every contingency, but it is possible to find a solution when one of those contingencies arises. Even in a developing country, you’ll find a way to get more cash if you need it, contact home if you can’t use your phone, get more medicine if you run out, learn the score of last night’s hockey game, and even buy new clothes because the government confiscated your Barcelona T-shirts for being in bad taste. Worst case scenario? Contact an embassy or consulate. No matter what has happened to you, they’ve helped hundreds of other Americans with the same predicament — or worse.

Please permit me to double-click on this last point. Britt and I have dealt with plenty of stuff on trips: emergency room visits, lost wallets and credit cards, flight delays, decrepit hotels, near-death experiences on the road (as pedestrians, drivers, and passengers), missing luggage, not finding anyone who speaks English or Spanish, and so much more — and we’ve always made it home. In fact, these curveballs have provided some of our best travel stories. Anyone can tell you what it’s like to visit Westminster Abbey, but only Britt and I can tell you what it’s like to be wooed by prostitutes in Havana or jump out of a taxi in Istanbul.

This Blog Post Is Taking Forever. Are We There Yet?

Let me offer a final thought:

No matter where you’re headed, I hope your next trip is enjoyable, meaningful, and memorable. If you think I can help make that happen, I’d be delighted to provide advice, suggestions, and recommendations. Wanderlust is contagious. Let me be your Patient Zero.

If you think I’m being unhelpful, overbearing, or inconsiderate, just tell me to go to hell. I’ll take it as an invitation for more travel. If I can survive the insufferability of Barcelona and return home safely, going to hell and back will feel like a walk in the park.