“So what’d you think of the Grand Canyon?”-me
“Eh…it’s average. Just a big hole in the ground if you ask me.”-responder
The reasonable part of my mind controls my motor functions while the rest of my brain fantasizes: It starts with a Pele-style bicycle dropkick knocking the responder to his or her knees…followed by an open hand slap across the face, “Your FACE is average!”
Then I pick the responder up Hulk style and throw him or her off the rim of the Canyon…”Tell me it’s average when you get to the bottom!” I clean my hands and hop back on the coach and in a cheery voice I ask, “OK, who wants to go see Yosemite?”
Few clients would drive me to my limits faster than the under-impressed and underwhelmed.
Finishing some of the best ribs in America: “Eh…it’s average, I’ve had better at home”
Just touched down after a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque: “Eh…it’s average, a little too early to wake-up”
The list goes on and on. And I wish I was exaggerating. It was the toughest part of my job, dealing with people like this. They were a cancer belonging to one of two families:
1. Acute Hipsteroma Toocoolforschoolieosis: we’ll call it AHT for short.
2. Non-Confidence Inferioritis: we’ll call it NCI for short
Classic AHT symptoms:
You are a cool person. You’re a really cool person. So cool that getting excited about something is definitely uncool. You wear clothes that you think are supercool (nevermind your style is already a few seasons behind the curve). You listen to music that I’m not allowed to know about (even though the album was released here 10 months ago). And history just isn’t that important. You also believe that anything on the beaten track is immediately uncool.
Exhibit A: this Huffington Post article that stoked my fury last night: 5 Travel Letdowns And How to Avoid Them
If you are let down by the Mona Lisa, Stonehenge, Times Square, the Sistine Chapel or the Blarney Stone you shouldn’t be traveling. And you sure as hell shouldn’t be writing about travel. Yes, I get it…those places are always mobbed, and sometimes overpriced. But if you’re underwhelmed it means that your doing something wrong…you’re missing a piece to your travel puzzle. Maybe it’s a good guide, maybe it’s background research, maybe it’s the weather.
I definitely understand that different folks have different strokes, but to greet some of the masterpieces of human civilization with an underwhelmed shrug is maddening. There are brilliant stories and mysteries and tales that go with these places…find the stories and insert yourself in that grand narrative instead of thinking yourself so much better than the scores of people who have been inspired in these spots.
Sometimes they are touristy and crowded…guess what? The best things in life attract people. It’s simple fact of life. And just because you’re waiting in line it doesn’t mean your sentenced to a life of wrestling with unfold-able maps that just won’t fit into your fanny pack.
Classic NCI symptoms:
The attitude is predicated on a psychological deficiency. There’s a need to defend one’s homeland, and by admitting that things abroad may actually be BETTER than they are at home is somehow a shot against your self-esteem. You are not less of a person because America is badass. Just they same way I’m not less of a person because Victoria Falls is stunning, or the Louvre is inspiring, or the food in Italy is mindblowing. Those experiences all make me a better person for having lived them with an open mind.
But when it comes to America specifically, I find that a lot of people traveling here do so to chip away at the image of a super-power. Therefore, if they’re not impressed by our greatest moments, places and people (even if they secretly are) they can justify their internalized image of America not being that great after all. I couldn’t think of a worse reason to travel.
The trouble with these cancers is that they are contagious. I’ve had one negative client metastasize and spread to half a coach. It’s easy to look to fellow travelers from your home country for cues on how to react to travel…and that’s just as bad as being an original carrier of the disease. It’s also easy to pick up without realizing it. So the simple test is this: Are you having trouble being satisfied with your travel experience? If so than you may have one of these cancers.
The best way to beat it: enjoy every experience for what it is. Don’t compare anything to something at home, unless it’s to add to the experience. If you don’t like something…instead of being disgusted try to figure out why everyone else is raving, and maybe…just maybe your palate will expand. If you’re frustrated by crowds and lines and oddly expensive tickets, just take a second and realize that you’re probably somewhere special, somewhere that people hold precious and dear. Focus on the uniqueness instead of the act of going to said spots. If your guide sucks, you have the power to take the initiative and discover places on your own. And above all, don’t wallow in your misfortune…because you ARE fortunate. A wide swath of this world can only dream of traveling. You are privileged…don’t squander that privilege bitching, whining and moaning…and generally being underwhelmed and under-impressed.
Don’t be a terrible tourist.