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How To Be A Bad Tourist

First of all, don’t be.

We’ve traveled a lot. Even before we embarked on our #vanlife adventure, we had traveled around the US and across the pond. When you travel, you see it all. The good, the bad, and the ugly. To be honest, we encounter more good tourists than bad, but the bad ones really stick out. So, we’re here to tell you, “Please, don’t be a bad tourist.”

We don’t want this to sound cynical, however, we just need to rant for a moment. At the end of the blog, you may agree or disagree or have something to add but we hope you can at least get a good laugh.

Before we begin, we should mention that we are tourists as well. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a tourist, that’s not what we are getting at. We too have taken silly photos and tried to replicate pictures we’ve seen scattered on Instagram. We have asked for directions, gotten lost and been misunderstood. Being a bad tourist is so much more than that. And so we begin…


“Pictures Permitted in the Cave” does not mean you should record the entirety of the tour with your camera flash on.

We can’t make this stuff up people. This particular cave was in southern Indiana, yes, even Hoosiers make bad tourists. (Probably from Kentucky.)

Here’s what we want to know.

1. Are you going to go home and rewatch your cave tour?

2. Are you aware that your bright flash is affecting everyone else on the tour, including the guide?

Don’t be a bad tourist, turn off your flash in a cave.

Picture I took in a cave and will soon delete because it's terrible.


Who needs personal space, right?

We’ve mentioned it before, but camping is permitted and free in any National Forests (as long as there aren't signs that say otherwise).

If we get to a popular area in the National Forest late in the day, it’s likely we will see campers already set up along the roads. It’s common courtesy (at least we thought) to move on and find our own space. Because personal space.

On this particular night, we found an incredible and secluded area up in the mountains overlooking the Tetons. We had spent the day exploring and hiking so it was no surprise we were in the van and asleep by 9PM.

Please see illustration of our camp site:

To our surprise, we were awoken around 1AM to the sounds of voices and light flickering on the walls of the van. We peered out the window to see what was going on. A couple had maneuvered around our van and parked less than 20 feet away, started a huge fire 10 feet from our van (during a burn ban), and were talking and laughing loudly. We promise, we did not take the last camping spot available.

UGH, personal space people. Don’t be a bad tourist.

Here’s the photo we snapped in the morning. Proof.


This is similar to #2. The last place you want to find yourself is in an area where a large bus has just let off a hundred selfie-stick-crazed tourists. It’s not a good place to be.

The words “excuse me” can go a long way. It seems like people rather push and shove (literally shove) you out of the way to get the perfect photo.

Here’s a thought. Why don’t you just ask us to take a photo for you? It’s likely to be better than the thousands of selfies you have taken. The world doesn’t need more duck face.

Don’t be a bad tourist. Put your selfie stick away and please don’t shove.


If you visit another country, please don’t give them another reason to hate Americans. Respect the country’s cultural norms. Be polite. Be aware. DON’T get too drunk.

This particular story is brought to you by Erin’s sister. Her grad school program took her and a group of her classmates to China for three weeks. They worked as a team on projects during the day and explored different cities at night.

One night they were enjoying some drinks at a bar when one of the individuals from the group started arguing with a local. It became heated and the American boy preceded to remove his shirt in the bar and tried to fight the other person, this isn’t Roadhouse.

Maybe we can blame it on being young and dumb. Maybe we can’t. We have to draw the line when you’re acting inappropriately on someone else’s turf.

Don’t be a bad tourist. Be culturally aware.


Fact: The job of a tour guide is to give tours. It's likely they have given tours for awhile and know all sorts of information. They could basically give the tour in their sleep. For the love of god, please do not interrupt them. If you keep listening and paying attention, your question might get answered anyway. Be patient and don’t interrupt your guide every few minutes.

Please let them do their job. If they are a good tour guide, they will ask if you have any unanswered questions at the end.

In addition, don’t be a know it all. If you would rather give the tour then go get a job giving tours. It’s not your job, don’t act like it is.

Don’t be a bad tourist. Listen to your guide.


Why must you leave your trash for everyone else to find? Is it really that hard to pick up after yourself?

Also, when the signs say “No Fires Allowed”, “Burn Ban”, and “Fire Danger: Extreme” please do not start a fire. A fire can get out of hand in seconds in a dry forest.

Some of you may think this is common sense, that’s good. You win at life.

Don’t be a bad tourist. Read the signs.


Ok, so this doesn't just apply to tourists, but we're in the mood to complain, so why not? We all like to talk and walk next to our friends and family. It's nice to not feel like you're part of some dystopian future walking silently in single file without a single emotion.

However, when you and your entire extended family are strolling along the nature trail ten abreast it's a nice gesture to scootch over. Even if it's just a tad, that way the folks walking the opposite direction can pass by without getting a shoulder check.

Or a bicycle can pass you.

In conclusion, travel is a privilege. The world isn’t at your disposal because you have the time and money needed to travel. Respect, cultural sensitivity, and awareness can go a long way.

P.S. Don’t even get us started on international travel and airplane etiquette.

P.S.S. If you haven't subscribed yet, please do!

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