10 Things to Avoid While Traveling as an American: Numbers 3 and 4

Over the course of the next few posts, I will be providing a few pointers for American travelers in my '10 Things to Avoid While Traveling as an American' series. This list has been developed after years of observations and many more years of personal failures to realize the faults in many American travelers. Many of these may also apply to travelers from other countries, but as an American, I only feel entitled to criticize myself and my own kind. If you take offense to any of the points in this series, it is likely that you are one of the people I'm talking about, and you should reconsider your traveling habits. If you agree with my pointers and laugh, then congratulations, you are a savvy traveler!

Number 3: Noise Pollution

First, let me set the stage: You're standing in solitude on a mountain in the Alps, taking in the view, cooling off from the breeze, and embracing the silence of the altitude. Then suddenly with no time to prepare, a swarm of voices rolls off one of the high snowy peaks and shatters your box of solitude. This disturbance in a natural area is called noise pollution, but it is not only created by automobile traffic or airplanes, but also by people traveling in large groups....particularly, for some reason, Americans on their Euro-trip.  

The Euro-Trip is a common American adventure undertaken in the aftermath of some graduation or during a Spring Break, where a pack of friends travel together to multiple countries as quickly as possible, partying hard and lacking the cultural sensitivity to respect the serenity of more natural areas. This kind of situation has happened to me countless times now, and perhaps it’s only a largely disturbing problem only to me, but in general, I think it is important to address the noise pollution created by large groups of American girls or guys and actually how this pollution can negatively impact everyone around them. 

When hiking and traveling in places where I think no one will find me, where I am very obviously trying to get off the beaten track, I don’t like to be disturbed by packs of other people. Recently, a particular group of very clearly-marked American sorority girls invaded my solitude by taking jumping pictures directly in front of my picnic area overlooking the Austrian Alps. They barely even noticed that my boyfriend and I were sitting in front of them trying to enjoy a picnic and the view in front of us--that they were now blocking. To my extreme displeasure, they made no effort to keep their voices down in the presence of other people, and no exaggeration, they talked so loudly that their voices literally echoed off of the Alpine peaks. Though more common in touristic places in cities, these groups of traveling American groups can cause a serious disturbance in the serenity of a natural park or non-urban area. I’m all about friends and group trips, but you have to draw a line with noise levels in natural areas where some people are trying to escape the chaos of the world. If people are moving away from you or giving you strange looks, it is probably because you are disturbing them or making their experience uncomfortable. So please, Euro-trippers, consider everyone around you, keep your voices down, and listen to the sounds of nature. Look around you, enjoy the solitude and the silence. 

Here I am taking in the beauty of the Alps, with not a sound around. And loving it.

Number 4: Lost in Transportation

Have you ever hopped on a train, then second guessing yourself hopped off at the next stop, taking the train on the opposite side of the platform, only to realize that in fact you took the right train at the start, or, most tragically and perhaps commonly, you’re on the wrong train all together? I like to call this lost in transportation. As Americans, we are not necessarily the most savvy public transport navigators. That does not necessarily apply to city dwellers, but many country bumpkins (don’t worry, I can say that, because I am one) find public transportation to represent some matrix-like world where we’re transported by men in uniforms (with lots of keys) in fast-moving yellow boxes; which also now sounds like the postal service. Yes, the metro system of a city is like DHL for people. More often than not, I find wholesome American families standing puzzled on a platform trying to decide which train to take. They find themselves suddenly and almost unexpectedly lost in transportation. Simple solution? Before you go, have a map on hand to see where you're headed. That way, even if you are completely lost, you can still helplessly stab at your station on your tiny metro map when seeking guidance from an innocent bystander. Even if you don’t speak the language, just saying the station’s name is sometimes helpful because they’ll maybe know what you’re trying to say. Unless you’re in Berlin and you try to say something like ‘Schlesisches Tor’ and then they just take pity on you and take you there personally so you never have to try saying it again. Thank you, kind Berlin-folk.

Popular Posts