Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tourism for Dummies

It’s a good thing I have very little to do with tourists, because I’m way too undiplomatic, impatient and untactful to deal with them. Serve with a smile is definitely not my motto and I greatly admire all those tour guides who travel around with a herd of tourists for weeks on end without strangling one or two. At the same time I find them fascinating, tourists, especially if they travel in groups. As different as the people might be, as intelligently as the are individually and whatever the place they come from, there always seems to be the same psychological profile you can apply on each group. Completely politically incorrect and stereotypical, but here we go:
The Whiner: There’s always a big whiner in each group. The one that complains about the leg space in the bus; the food that is too spicy, too cold or too salty. Breakfast is either too early or too late and there’s always something wrong with the weather. The rest of the group initially listens and sympathetically nod their heads, but start to avoid the Whiner after a day or two.
The Know-It-All: The Know-It-All has worked hard to prepare for the trip: he or she knows all the facts, from the population of each country to its national gross product. The Know-It-All travels with a small library of guide books and often contradicts the tour guide when he says something a little different from the Lonely Planet. It is not uncommon for the Know-It-All to completely miss rare encounters and opportunities, because of course the Know-It-All has his head in the guide book when the quetzal bird flies. The Know-It-All is oftentimes disappointed that reality does not coincide with what the Guide Bible has to say.
The Know-It-Better: is not as prepared as the Know-It-All but tends to do the opposite of what the tour guide tells him to do. If the guide warns not to go to a specific area of town, you can be sure to find the Know-It-Better there. If the guide tells him to leave valuables at the hotel and not eat on the street, the Know-It-Better does exactly the opposite. It is no surprise the Know-It-Better is often the victim of robbery or food poisoning. That does occasionally shut him up.
Sue-You: Usually a middle-aged woman with a tendency to show that you can’t fool her and if you do, she’ll sue you. She daily threatens the guide (“If your company hears about you leaving us alone for five minutes!), the bus driver (“You better slow down, or else!”), the kids on the street (“I’ll tell your mother you’re here out on the street bothering innocent tourists!”), fellow travellers (“I have a right to have a room with a view too!”). Sue-You’s email address is immediately blocked by the rest of the group as soon as the trip is over and she is of course never invited to any reunion.
The Jolly Good Fellow: Everybody’s best friend, the Jolly Good Fellow is always in an annoyingly good mood, always ready to crack a joke and a big fan of practical jokes, especially of rather infantile ones such as fart cushions. Always in for a party and one last beer, his fellow travellers soon start feigning headaches when Jolly walks into the room.
Stingy: There’s always one person, man or woman, who counts and recounts every penny and constantly complains about the exchange rate. Stingy tips when the others are around, but has been seen to go back to tables to take away the tip again. When a bill needs to be paid for a group meal, she always tries to pay less than her share and justifies it that she drank “only half a glass of wine”.
Sorry: This man or woman attracts all the bad luck in the world but wouldn’t be able to live without it. Bad luck has become his meaning of life and he constantly apologizes for it and for everything else too, for that matter. Soft spoken with watery eyes, Sorry goes on for ever and ever. At first people around him do feel sorry for him, but soon they start avoiding his eyes and quickly after they try to avoid him all together.
The Leader of the Pack: Although guided by a professional, the Leader, often an energetic woman in her mid thirties, can do it all and just as well, if not better. The Leader regularly corrects the tour guide and it is known to have happened that the tour guide arrived at breakfast to find his group already gone. The Leader does not really know it better, but her strong leadership skills assure her a steady group of followers who just, well, follow her wherever she goes.
The Rebel: The trip was definitely not the Rebel’s idea but he was obliged to accompany a parent or spouse. The Rebel would have preferred to stay home and watch soccer. The Rebel is not interested in nature, culture or anythingelse, but has a great gift for finding bars that sell cheap beers in every town they visit.
The Pervert: Otherwise know as Peeping Tom, this is a guy you really want to steer away from. The tour guide has a hard time keeping him away from cute indigenous little girls selling on the streets.
Single: Undoubtly a woman, Single came on this trip with just one goal: to score. Unfortunately, most of the fellow travellers are married and worse, travelling with their spouses, which makes the chance of an affair during the trip almost nil. Single is thus obliged to find pleasure elsewhere, but a good number of waiters, bus drivers and local guides are usually willing to satisfy her.

And that’s why I don’t travel in groups…

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