Self-hating tourists? Not exactly.

I often think of myself as a tourist who hates tourists, and I promote my company for “tourists who hate tourists.”

Recently I was talking with my partner about self-hating LGBT people. He started making fun of me: If self-hating gays are so mixed up, then why have you built your whole business around tourists who hate tourists? You’re just as bad as they are! You’re a self-hating tourist!

Julia Roberts sees herself in the mirror

You can hate tourists without hating what you see in the mirror.

Well, it’s not the same thing.

A self-hating gay man has a problem with LGBT people, as a rule. The only way to be okay with himself is to be the exception to the rule. So you’ll hear him say he’s not the typical gay man, express general disapproval of the LGBT community, and otherwise portray himself as that exception.

But when I call myself a tourist who hates tourists, it’s not that I see something intrinsically wrong with tourists.

Here’s the thing: I travel because I want to experience a foreign country. The best part is seeing the life and rhythm of a new place. I’m there to soak in all the sights and sounds. I’m there to taste the foods – whether that’s a fruit market, a fancy restaurant or street food. I’m there to notice the little cultural differences that show you you’re not in Kansas anymore.

If you’re after pure R&R, a beach resort may be the perfect choice for you. But if you want to experience your destination’s culture as authentically as possible, that doesn’t happen at the beach resort. It doesn’t happen on a huge tour bus or in a tourist trap. All those places are designed for tourists and cater to our supposed gringo tastes. That’s why the word touristy is “often used to suggest tawdriness or lack of authenticity.”

So when I say I hate tourists, it’s nothing personal. I’m perfectly happy when I’m surrounded by tourists at the airport, before it’s time to experience my destination. And I’m perfectly happy traveling with a small number of other tourists, where our presence doesn’t completely eclipse the local character. I just don’t want to spend my trip stuck in a great big touristy bubble. I’m there for something more!


About the Author:

Matt Smith owns and operates Detour Travel, where he leads small groups to his favorite spots in Latin America. As Matt loves to say, “If Detour's motto weren’t 'small group tours with a twist,' it would probably be 'Adventures in Latin America for tourists who hate tourists.' Or 'Queer eye for the unconventional traveler.' Or maybe 'Eating there is half the fun!' Hard to say.”

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