“How to Be an Obnoxious Traveler,” by Evan Denno

May 15th, 2013 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Obnoxious Travelers recognize that comments spoken in English, however loudly, are incomprehensible to residents of countries other than America, England, and possibly Canada. If foreigners held a command of English, they obviously wouldn’t be wasting time with some other gibberish. Secure in this knowledge, Obnoxious Travelers feel completely at ease with expressing close-minded and misinformed criticisms of both foreign cultures and specific foreign individuals within earshot.

Comments targeting general cleanliness, the personal hygiene of locals and assumed diarrhea inducing qualities of available cuisine are especially valuable to Obnoxious Travelers as conversation starters that can be used in almost any situation or location. These observations require almost no thought at all; a welcome relief to those who find new experiences tiring. Any remaining lulls in conversation can be filled with unfavorable comparisons to the way things are back home, which is without question or any other form of reflection, the best way.

It is equally well known to Obnoxious Travelers that foreign people invariably speak English perfectly fine, and will come around with the proper encouragement. Anyone denying an ability to communicate in English is probably just being a pain, so be persistent. If necessary, speaking loudly and slowly will usually clear up any confusion. In some instances it may be necessary to compromise with a particularly stubborn non-English speaker by employing pidgin English, something similar in many ways to the best means of communication with a child or someone with a debilitating mental impairment.

Whenever encountering fellow travelers, a good way for Obnoxious Travelers to assert superiority is to dominate conversations with tales of personal exploits, no matter how tedious or obviously exaggerated. It’s important not to leave out any details and to backtrack to review possible errors, even if they are inconsequential minutia with no bearing to the point of the story (if, and this is optional, the Obnoxious Traveler chooses to tell a story involving a point). Was it a ham sandwich served on the airplane? Maybe not. Maybe it was turkey. Be absolutely sure to get these things straight.

On occasion, inconsiderate new acquaintances may try to break into this monologue with their own stories. Boring. Nobody, least of all an Obnoxious Traveler, wants to hear them lamely sputtering about a special experience or unique perspective. In this situation, the Obnoxious Traveler should accept some of the responsibility for letting the problem arise, by pausing or not speaking loudly enough, and owes it to the audience to take swift corrective action by shutting down the second speaker.

One reliable tactic to accomplish this is to immediately top every statement the other speaker makes. This strategy involves a lot of lying. Whatever the other person’s experience is, an Obnoxious Traveler doesn’t hesitate to break in with a far more impressive story. Suppose the other person climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a prosthetic leg: well, big deal; the Obnoxious Traveler has climbed K-2 naked in a blizzard. There, topped it. Do not allow time for questions before launching into a patronizing yet factually shaky explanation as to how K-2 is actually taller than Everest.

The rules for attire are never more flexible for Obnoxious Travelers than while traveling. Clothes that would be on the borderline of acceptability at the nearest Wal-Mart back home can be packed for travel with confidence that the odds of running into someone an Obnoxious Traveler actually knows are quite low. Certain cathedrals and sundry holy places occasionally post signs encouraging a stricter dress code. Ignore them. The ne’er-do-wells who put up such signs have no idea that Obnoxious Travelers are on vacation and can’t be bothered to conceal whichever body parts feel like hanging out.

Above all else, Obnoxious Travelers must be certain to learn nothing. Armed with the confidence of hailing from a land where things are better in all ways than in the charmingly wrongheaded cultures of other nations, an Obnoxious Traveler goes home exactly the same person he or she was on arrival. Tanned, rested, and laden with souvenirs, but otherwise indistinguishable. Anything else would be a sign of weakness, an admission of not being right from the beginning. If inquisitive friends pry for post-travel insights, just tell them “Well, checked that one off the list.”


Defenestration-Evan DennoEvan Denno co-authored his wife’s memoir about her experiences as a Tibetan refugee, A Hundred Thousand White Stones, and has previously published work with Punchnel’s. He lives in Maine with his wife and two daughters. Most days, he plots escape to India. His favorite subject is recess. Even as an adult. You can send encouragement or hurl insults Evan’s way by leaving comments at 100kwhitestones.wordpress.com.

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