Talking about Traveling with People Who Don’t Travel: How do you deal with inappropriate comments?

I had a conversation last week with someone, that left me…well, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I’m totally fine if people have no interest in my travels–I get it, it’s not for everyone.  And honestly, I really try to not talk about my trips unless specifically asked.  I’m more than happy to answer questions, but I don’t just spew information like a volcano.

But what about people who ask about where you are going next, or where you have been, and then crap all over it? Now that, that gets to me.  I mean, what’s the point?  I’m going to continue traveling, so you telling me that everyone in that part of the world is rude or chauvinistic (or uneducated or whatever) really doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, it makes me want to try to prove you wrong even more than before.

In the past five years, I’ve had some experiences with people, including in the workplace, that have left me in stunned silence. Sure, sometimes it’s just a “I can’t believe you want to go there, what a waste of money” or a “You’re too young to understand the world so you don’t know what you’re seeing.” Those are annoying, but manageable comments.  I let those roll off my back (with some obvious grumbling/cursing).

But there has also been way, way worse. Disparaging comments about developing countries and how the people there must not like to work? Check. Judgment on how my traveling to Egypt shows I don’t support the United States or the soldiers? Check.  Telling me I’m wasting my time flying 14 hours because the place is dirty and disgusting and they don’t eat normal food? Check.

My typical responses:

I’m sorry you feel that way.
-That’s an offensive statement.
-I/We are very excited to see a new place and culture.
-That’s simply not the case.
-I try not to stereotype or generalize about people/places before I visit.
-It’s important to me/us to have new experiences.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: I don’t want to validate their feelings/beliefs by sitting silently, yet I also don’t want to argue with them as I don’t feel as if I will ever change or impact their perceptions of “the world”. Debating with most of these people is totallyfreakingpointless.  I’m too young, too sheltered, too “unworldly” to understand what they are talking about (rolling eyes here).

Maybe I’m being too sensitive (likely), maybe they are completely out of bounds (also likely), and maybe I don’t let things go quickly enough (proven). And I’ve honestly tried to avoid these people and these conversations as much as possible–I’d much rather associate with people who like to travel (or at least can feign a polite interest). But in the real world, that’s just not always possible.

Have you had people say something inappropriate/offensive about the places you are going or have been?  What do you do/how do you respond?

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