Whilst I love travelling with all my heart, I have this feeling that I call travellers guilt. It has three facets to it: annoying tourism, travel privilege and the language barrier.
It’s a well known fact that tourists ruin things. Yes, they bring in money for local economies, but they can also bring litter, noise and crowds that can end up wrecking the atmosphere of a place.
I hate the idea of being a tourist. I always try to be mindful of the locals wherever we go – keeping noise to a minimum and never leaving litter (being a litter bug is the worst). But I’m aware that I *am* still a tourist- toddling round popular tourist attractions with a camera in hand, looking incredibly British and becoming part of the flock.
The beauty of van life is that we don’t just go to the tourist destinations. We visit cute little villages, tucked away in hidden corners, and visit garages in rural areas when our van goes kaput. We go to industrial estates, small independent businesses, national parks. We see so much more of a country than a regular tourist would and sometimes we see people literally do a double take when they see that we are an English van in some of these places.
It’s here that the privilege side of traveller’s guilt really sets in for me because it hits me anew that most people will never go on journeys such as ours. I think it is important to always remember this privilege.
The Language Barrier
The final part of traveller’s guilt, which I find personally really embarrassing too, is that I have no confidence in speaking other languages. I did Spanish lessons at school when I was 11 til 14 years old, but scarily, that was over 10 years ago, and when we reached Spain, I faltered. I realised I had forgotten so much more than I’d initially thought and this made me lose a tonne of confidence in speaking it. It meant that when, in Spain, people tried to tell me a slightly more complicated sentence in Spanish, I balked and panicked, babbling “Lo siento, no hablo Español! Hablan usted Ingles?” (Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish! Do you speak English?). Then immediately feeling bad about it. I wish I’d kept up with my languages since finishing school.
Even when I attempt to speak more complicated Spanish (complicated for me anyway!), I realise how extremely British I sound! That English accent always shines through, annoyingly!
I have realised that this traveller’s guilt stays with me wherever I go. Have you experienced anything like this?