A Wholly Judgmental Guide to All the Travellers You’ll Meet in South America
South America is the current backpacker darling destination and, therefore, the stomping ground of innumerable travel clichés and traveller stereotypes. From those who went in hard on their Lonely Planet guides before leaving to the elderly Europeans giving the world one last spin before shuffling off this mortal coil, if you’re reading this and thinking ‘hmm, I don’t recognise that type of traveller!’, it’s because they’re you. Sorry you had to find out like this. Don’t be too disheartened though, because, at the end of the day, we all fit one (or two or five) of these stereotypes at one point or another; so, as usual, please take this post with a pinch of salt and don’t leave me (too many) angry comments below.
ALL THE TRAVELLERS YOU’LL MEET IN SOUTH AMERICA
THE WALKING BOOT FANATIC
I get it. I get it. Walking boots can be an important addition to the rucksack of any traveller in South America, but The Walking Boot Fanatic is the type of traveller who only brought their trusty boots (that they bought three days before their flight) and now see removing them as practically a crime. So, there they’ll be, strolling through cities in hiking boots, because everyone knows that Quito is far more all-terrain than London…right?
THE ALL KHAKI ERRYTHING
They went all out when it came to buying dry-fast clothes and zip-kneed trousers for their South American adventure and, as a result, they now look like a walking khaki salesperson. As with The Walking Boot Fanatic, the question remains: what did they think was so different about Latin American destinations to their home city that required the purchase of a whole new wardrobe?
THE TRUST FUND TRAVELLER
They stay in hotels and eat at restaurants while simultaneously spouting off about how much travel has changed them and how hard it was to quit their job (at their dad’s company) to make the trip. No one likes The Trust Fund Traveller except their fellow Trust Fund Travellers.
THE CAMERA WIELDERS
The travellers whose mummy and daddy bought them a swanky camera before their trip and now they carry it everywhere, nonchalantly swung over a shoulder, while actually having very little idea of how to use it. There is often a crossover between The Camera Wielder and The Trust Fund Traveller.
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The difference between The Photographer and The Camera Wielder is that the former actually knows what aperture means. Often, you’ll find The Photographer snapping uncomfortable pictures of local children or scrambling up rocks for the best angle.
THE GOLDEN OLDIES
The Golden Oldies are the Baby Boomers who couldn’t do their travelling as youths because they were too busy popping out kids and fucking up the housing market. Now, they can be found in Ecuador, buying crafts from shops instead of markets and chatting loudly with other Golden Oldies.
Curious fact: the husband always wears zip-kneed pants combined with socks and hiking sandals, while the wife will without fail have a statement scarf and quarter length jeans.
They do nothing on their own, which is why they don’t even qualify for their own individual category of traveller. One is usually super chill, and the other wildly annoying.
THE DREADLOCKED WHITE GIRL (OR GUY)
I judge you. We all judge you. They normally come accompanied by a guitar in an ‘ethnic’ print case, plus a flowy skirt, several piercings and some questionable tattoos.
THE GUITAR PLAYER
Speaking of which, we have The Guitar Player. They may or may not also be The Dreadlocked White Girl (or Guy), but they are sometimes The Trust Fund Traveller, who felt that they needed to forge a personality for themselves before heading to South America. They can sometimes be seen busking for money to keep them in the privileged lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to, while refusing to give change to homeless people.
As opposed to The University Guitar Player, the travelling guitar player won’t have Wonderwall in their repertoire, but they will play in hostel common areas at all hours, much to the annoyance of their fellow guests.
Just fuck you, OK? Fuck you, if you are the self-confessed snorer who books beds in hostel dorms. Pay for a private and spare the rest of us from a sleepless night, you inconsiderate git.
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No trip to South America is complete without running into an Argentine traveller or four-hundred, and you’ll usually find them working in a hostel in some tiny town in the back arse of nowhere. Or selling cheap handmade jewellery from a velvet blanket in the city centre. However, there is no traveller who knows budget travel better than The Argentine, so always strike up conversation.
THE BRIT ABROAD
British people abroad are the worst, with our piercingly recognisable accents and obnoxious insistence on turning every conversation back to our home country. If two Brits Abroad meet, rumour has it that neither can end the conversation until they’ve figured out their mutual friend from home. (“Like, omg, you went to school with my cousin’s hairdresser’s sister-in-law. What a small world?!”) We are wild.
THE ONE WHO CAME DRESSED FOR THE BEACH
Wordy, yes. Common, sadly also yes. These are the guys and gals parading around very temperate destinations in vests and board shorts, or strappy tops and denim hotpants. Full marks if they’re wearing flip flops too, because everyone knows they keep your feet super clean when wandering round a city.
Seriously, wear jeans once in a while. It’s not a crime.
THE AGING HIPPIES
Also known as ‘The Too Old For Tie-Dyes’, aging hippies have longer than average hair and possibly a Yin Yang tattoo from before it was cool. They know where to get the good weed.
THE GYM BUNNIES
These are not girls (or guys) that obsessively attend the gym while travelling. Rather, they’re the travellers who refuse to wear anything other than lycra for the duration of their trip. Female Gym Bunnies come in various shades of Adidas leggings, sports bras and brightly coloured puffa coats, while male Gym Bunnies are typically found in just too tight joggers and slightly obnoxious sweaters. Bonus points if they have a sleeve tattoo to match.
THE TRY HARDS
They wear nothing but local attire (think heavily embroidered shirts, mainly) the entire time they’re in a given country, regardless of whether it matches their hiking sandals or flatters them in any way, shape or form.
They actively seek out hostels with book exchanges and pass most days reading on a park bench.
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THE ‘HELP, MY RUCKSACK IS GLUED TO MY BACK!’ TRAVELLERS
They are the people who don’t realise that pockets exist, instead carrying their day hiking pack at all times. Even in a city. Even when all they need to bring is their wallet and maybe a tampon or two. They don’t seem to realise that they can leave stuff at home?
Their rucksack is bigger than them and they’re probably return home laden with souvenirs and a severe case of scoliosis.
They brought one t-shirt and three pairs of boxers and wonder why no-one wants to sit next them. Hint: they smell.
THE LONELY PLANET LOYALISTS
They’ve come with a plan and my god are they going to stick to it. Name any place listed in a Lonely Planet guide and they’ve been there. Twice.
THE PREMATURELY MIDDLE AGED
This one usually refers to a 20-something traveller, making her way across the continent with only her rucksack for company. She read that everything you take travelling ought to be lightweight, crease-resistant and dry-fast, so she has inadvertently packed the wardrobe of a 40-year-old woman; think layerable loose knits, linen pants and clogs all in suitably muted tones for mix and match purposes.
THE CREEPY OLD MAN
I’m sorry, but it’s always a man. Usually North American. Usually white. Always super weird. Always likes to tell you longwinded tales you neither asked for nor enjoy hearing about. Can typically be found berating locals in marketplaces with broken Spanish and a faded promotional t-shirt from some long gone political campaign.
THE NON-SPANISH SPEAKERS
And finally, my most pet peeve South America traveller. The non-Spanish speaker. I’m not talking about those who give it a go and fuck up wildly, I’m talking about those who can’t even be arsed to try. Spanish is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, so there’s really no excuse.
(Bonus points if they live in a Spanish speaking country and still can’t form a sentence.)
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What do you think? Are these traveller stereotypes spot on or am I just a judgmental lil bitch? Did I miss any off? Tell me in the comments!