“Hey kids,” I asked my children on the train one morning as we crossed from Austria into Germany, “You’ve been to 26 countries now. What have you noticed people do that makes them most annoying traveler in a train / bus / plane?”
All four of them looked up from their sketchbooks. “Oh! This is going to be fun!” they said, smiling to each other.
For the past three months, we’ve been criss-crossing Europe with a family of six in a pandemic recovering world. Now three years into a traveling education spanning from Africa to South America, to 46 of the US states, then to Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East, our 5, 8, 10, and 11 year old girls are on country to learn through experiences in 50 countries – a journey that will take about five years of their lives.
One of the oh-so-important soft skills they learn through travel is global citizenship.
Now, what might come to mind when I say this term global citizenship are things like conservation and diplomacy.
But let’s add to that some other lessons about human behavior. These are things we are responsible for teaching our kids as they learn to share space with other humans on our beloved planet as thoughtful global citizens.
I lend my writing space today to my well-traveled kids’ who have had some fun putting their ideas into this blog.
We call this person “the M.A.T.” which is short for the Most Annoying Traveler.
We can spot the M.A.T. in about 60 seconds of stepping onto any mode of transportation or into a new social setting.
Most of the time, the “M.A.T.” is the person who:
- is standing too close
- is talking too loudly
- has horrible B.O.
- is making unreasonable noises,
- is spreading germs to everyone around them.
With these five things in mind, let’s explore how NOT to be that person.
#1. Have Some Spatial Reasoning
Every country and culture has unwritten rules about personal space and how people feel about being close to each other.
When you throw away all your awareness of this and stand as close to people as possible, it’s likely that they will be super uncomfortable (and might even feel unsafe.)
If you – as an adult – are so brazen as to reach out and touch a child who you don’t know by stroking our hair or squeezing our cheeks, our parents will seethe and we (the kids) will retreat. Worse, we might have to kick you where you don’t want to be kicked.
Furthermore, it would guarantee you a place in the Most Annoying Traveler list. Seriously, first prize.
Newsflash: It’s not an award you want.
#2. Tone Down Your Volume & Annunciation
Lady, we know you aren’t from here, and thank you for coming and supporting this country’s tourism effort, but when you try to communicate to someone who doesn’t speak your language, speaking SUPER loud and EXTRA annunciated isn’t going to help get your point across.
Sure, the person doesn’t speak your language, but it doesn’t make them stupid!
You speaking loudly and over-annunciating just makes YOU look foolish. Plus, it’s patronizing to the person you are speaking to because it makes it look like you think they are stupid.
Don’t be that person. Just don’t.
Instead, speak just a little slower than you normally would and in softer tones too.
Shouting doesn’t help people understand a foreign language, and if you think it does – sorry, but you’re the fool.
#3. Don’t Make Others Suffer from Your Bad Hygiene
Seriously, bro. Deodorant. It’s cheap and effective. You can smell yourself, right?
No one wants to smell your body odor on the bus. If you don’t mind living in your stink at home, okay. But if you’re traveling on public transportation or walking about a city in a sea of other humans, it’s time to think of others.
After all, we are sharing the planet, and ideally, we’d like to be smelling the flowers at the flower stand or the chocolate wafting out of the candy store, not your overripe sweat.
Get yourself to the store (pretty please!?) and handle your situation.
The world – especially the kids – will thank you for your efforts.
#4. Stop Making So Many Weird Noises
“There are two kinds of people in the world – those who understand how to eat politely, and those who don’t.” – Janelle Schroy (our mom)
Sadly, your mom might have missed the mark when it came to your education. Of all the things we should learn as kids, eating politely should be one of the top priorities.
Slurping, smacking, burping, chewing with open your mouth open, and popping your gum are not noises the world should have to endure. It’s revolting and highly agitating to your fellow travelers.
When in a public setting, you have a responsibility to your fellow humans to show some restraint, limit yourself to smaller bites, and SLOW down when you’re eating. It’s not rocket science.
We all just want to sit peacefully on the train without the soundtrack of our journey being the rhythm of your chips bag crackling or your gum popping or your soup being slurred.
You are an adult. You can handle that, right? Yes. We are confident that you can.
#5. Re-Visit What You Know About Germs
When you’re on a plane, and you have a cold, you’ve got to cover your mouth up and responsibly handle your own germs.
Wash your hands, suck on throat drops, take cough medicine.
If there is anything we kids have learned from the pandemic, it’s that when we are sick in shared space, our germs go everywhere. So now three years into Covid-19, the world no longer tolerates selfish people when it comes to germs.
Get that mask back out, friend, because we don’t need your cough to be our new traveling companion. Care enough about others to keep your germs to yourself.
We are flying from the country of France to the island of Cyprus today, and we’re hoping none of us are the M.A.T. on our plane ride. Thanks to this list, hopefully you aren’t either.