This time last summer, I received a new bike for my birthday. With it being the first birthday in years that I actually received something I wanted off my birthday list, to say I was excited would be an understatement. I couldn’t wait to take my new whip out for a ride on the bike path near my house. Well after posting selfies of my first ride on Facebook (because if it isn’t on Facebook, it didn’t happen, right?), a friend invited and added me to a biking interest group. Now when it comes to biking, I’m a total rookie. I do it strictly for leisure as a relaxing outdoor activity. I don’t own a $5,000 Trek bike. I have a simple mountain bike and helmet, both of which serve their purpose just fine. As a part of the rules for new members, I posted one of the selfie collages I took on my first ride. I received some warm welcomes and best wishes on my newfound hobby. And I also received some unexpected criticism and put downs. The position of my helmet wasn’t right, my choice in shades wasn’t right, and my Bluetooth headset…you guessed it, wasn’t right SMH! After a few thanks your and putting some people on complete ignore, the “bike Nazis” eventually worked their way down to my new whip. My $200 bike wasn’t good enough. I needed a four figure road bike. Seeing how they completely sucked the joy out of what was supposed to be an enjoyable leisure activity, I didn’t post much after that. Instead of jumping ship, I decided to go into lurk mode. I mean, maybe I caught them on a bad day? Maybe it was a full moon? Some people are more in their egos on some days than others, especially on a payday. So, I thought to myself, I’ll give them a chance. After all, I really did have in interest in learning more about biking and maybe getting some pointers. But to my dismay, I made the same observations when other new members posted their introductions. The same criticism, put downs, and suggestion for an expensive they had no intention in putting a down payment on. Then every post in between seemed to be a bragging competition over who had the best bike, biked the most miles, and took the best selfies. After the repetitive bragging fests, I left the group.
While this particular scenario is about my biking experience, I’ve also seen this behavior in the travel world. In fact, you can find it in almost every group. It seems like people have this drive to be “all knowing” and want their experience to trump everyone else’s experience. Travel has become a commonplace activity for people to upstage one another on how many passport stamps they have collected in comparison to someone else. It has become a playground to belittle other people’s travel experiences. Why do we shame people who are new to our experiences? I mean, a new interest is just that, it’s NEW. As a new traveler, I won’t have as much “hands on” knowledge about the world as someone who has traveled to all seven continents and I certainly won’t have as many passport stamps. The only thing we will share in common is an activity we both want to learn more about (me as the “new” traveler) and grow in (you as the “experienced” traveler). We all have to start somewhere.
People travel for many different reasons. You have those that want to be the Beyoncé of the travel game. And you have those that are more than content being the Ashanti of travel….and both are perfectly OKAY. Everyone that decides to take up golf doesn’t aspire to become the next Tiger Woods. Everyone that decides to take up tennis doesn’t aspire to compete in Wimbledon next year. Every new foodie isn’t trying to become the next Rachel Ray. And every new traveler isn’t trying to become the next “it” travel blogger with thousands of Instagram followers. Some people do things strictly for leisure and personal enjoyment. Nothing more, nothing less. If you love to travel only to the Caribbean once a year, that’s fine. And if traveling all seven continents every year is an absolutely must for you, that’s okay too. But don’t crap on next person’s experience or lack thereof. While “only going to Cancun or Puerto Rico” may not seem like a big deal to me or another experienced traveler, it can mean the world to someone who has never stepped outside of our borders…or even their city. And that experience that we look down on can be the gateway to open them up to even greater experiences.
How can we attract people to travel (or any other activity), if we’re always putting them down? The world needs more encouragers and less critics. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make you shine brighter. It makes you look like an idiot.
And I’m done.