In a world of travel itinerary shamers, be shameless

It’s time to address itinerary shaming. It creeps into conversations and social media groups. It can instantly dampen the excitement of an upcoming trip and sow doubts in the minds of those eagerly planning their trips.

Young with long, dark hair and wearing a colorfully printed dress, sits on the end of a wooden walkway overlooking a wooded area with water in the distance. Her arms are thrown up in joy.

Imagine this: A traveler, perhaps someone who’s just beginning to dip their toes into international travel, tentatively posts their meticulously planned itinerary in a Facebook group. They share their dream of hopping from London to Paris, then Amsterdam, Rome, Vienna, and more. It’s an ambitious plan for a trip of only two weeks or so, but their heart is set on it…and they are so excited to share their plans. Plus, look at how many countries they’ll get to see in just one trip!

But then the itinerary shamers swoop in. These self-appointed travel experts waste no time telling this new traveler that their plan is ludicrous, that they’re attempting to cram too much into too little time, and that they’ll see nothing but the insides of trains and planes. They’ll miss the “real” experiences, the shamers say, and they’ll return home with nothing but a blur of half-formed memories. Sure, they’ll be able to say they “did” eight countries in 15 days, but that’s about it. They won’t have experienced those countries.

Meh. Maybe Facebook Group Travel Expert Extraordinaire is right, but ultra-negative feedback is not helpful, and it can also be deeply discouraging. Travel is an intensely personal experience, and what works for one person may not work for another.

And what is the new traveler to do? Change the plans they were so happy about just moments before? If they’re anything like I was before my first international trip, they just might. And then they might spend the next several years wishing they had just done what they wanted to in the first place.

There’s no single “right” way to travel. Some prefer to visit a single city for several days, exploring every nook and cranny. Others find joy in the whirlwind of seeing as many places as possible. Part of the beauty of travel comes from how many different experiences are possible. Travel appeals to each individual in various ways and for many reasons.

When we start as travelers we have no idea what we’re doing. Everything is a first: first flight, first missed connection, first passport, first international trip. The more we travel the more experience we gain, and the more opportunities we have to make what some might call “mistakes.”

Mistakes are an important part of the travel experience. I have made countless so-called errors while on the road. Each misstep has taught me something new, something valuable, mostly about what I’m capable of and what I can handle.

Perhaps not realizing I needed reservations to visit that attraction led to my discovering that I can make good decisions on the fly. Perhaps a canceled flight helped me exercise my rusty problem-solving skills and allowed me to face all my worst travel anxieties head-on.

Mistakes? Mishaps? I prefer to call them learning opportunities. They are the moments that often lead to the stories that we share for years to come while also sharpening our travel skills.

For those new to travel, there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with facing and overcoming challenges on the road. When a flight is canceled or a booking is made in error, and you find a way to make things work or simply roll with the punches, you’re not just solving a problem; you’re growing as a traveler and as a person. These are the moments that build confidence and resilience, the moments that transform you from a tourist into a true traveler.

So, let’s put an end to itinerary shaming. Let’s embrace the idea that there are as many travel styles as travelers. Encourage each other to explore the world in whatever way feels right. Whether you’re a “country counter,” someone who seeks to check off a list of countries quickly, or a slow traveler who immerses themselves in a single place, your trip is for you alone.

There is no wrong way to experience the world, as long as you respect the places and people you visit.

To those who have been on the receiving end of itinerary shaming, I say this: Be shameless in your itinerary planning. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Travel is about discovery. So go ahead, plan that trip. Take that trip. And do it however you want.

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