First, a confession: I don’t like Barcelona.
I know. Everyone else loves it. Like, really loves it. The place is so beloved, locals are literally begging tourists to stay home.
But for me, it’s on my no-thanks don’t-ever-plan-to-return list. It’s too big. Too impersonal. Too persnickety. Too hot most of the year. Too dog-unfriendly. And when locals are marching in the streets telling tourists to stay home, I’m happy to oblige. As another friend put it, “Barcelona can have itself.”
Which is funny, because other nomads I know and admire adore Barcelona. They rave about beaches and churros and city energy and mild weather. It’s their place.
But it’s not mine.
* * * * *
Conversely, I love Paris.
Even though I normally don’t love cities.
Paris, for me, is something special. The food culture. The architecture. The gorgeous language. The sprawling parks. I love dressing up every day. I love tea time in the city. I love girls nights out with my good friend who lives there. I love restaurants with multi-course lunch menus that involve fluffy soufflés and deconstructed classics.
But that’s funny, too. Because one of my good blogger friends hates Paris. She’s tried it over and over again and just doesn’t see the appeal. The food is too fancy for her. The people are rude to her. She feels judged for not wanting to dress up. And she feels mobbed by tourists everywhere she goes.
The city doesn’t sing to her.
And she won’t be going back.
* * * * *
Then there’s Sarajevo.
I’ve been watching another travel writer rave about how much she loves it there. She went expecting to stay a few days and ended up staying for months. She is charmed by the little old town and the hilly surroundings. It feels so livable to her.
It’s her place.
For me, that very same city was depressing and difficult to navigate. No one seemed to know the bus schedules or whether the dog was allowed. Buildings outside the core were derelict gray concrete. Inside the core, tourists crowded the few tiny cute streets. Was the old town charming? Sure. But would I spend more than a few days there? Probably not.
* * * * *
You know what I’m tired of?
I’m tired of people getting offended that I don’t love all the same places they love.
This past winter, in Mexico, I contracted two parasites in a row. And, as you do, I went onto Facebook to make a sort of joke of it, saying:
“Seriously, Mexico? Two parasites in a single month?
You are definitely not my favorite country right now.”
And while most of the comments were “oh, bummer” or “try eating lots of garlic” or “I feel your pain,” one person was highly offended that I would dare to express anything but exuberant affection for his adopted country.
His rude and unnecessarily defensive comments left me thinking again about this tendency people have to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with their assessment of a place.
Because it’s happened to me over and over again.
Sometimes it’s mild. An uncomfortable look or a silence. A comment I don’t know how to respond to.
And sometimes it’s more aggressive. Like when I told my story of being severely harassed in Colombia and people went out of their way to call me a liar or tell me I was exaggerating. To gaslight me. To shame me into not telling you the truth.
And that’s the thing, guys.
I hear everyone saying they want bloggers and Instagrammers and writers to tell the truth. I hear them saying they want our real stories. I hear them saying they want to hear the ups and the downs of travel.
But this is why nobody talks about this shit.
Because if you do tell your story, even kindly, even jokingly, even without saying anything bad about the destination, there are a bunch of defensive people all queued up to call you names and write you hate mail and dismiss your real life experiences because they aren’t their own.
So, let’s all just knock it off.
We don’t all like the same places.
We don’t all have good experiences in the same places.
Someone else’s experience is not a commentary on yours.
Someone else’s preference doesn’t negate yours.
It’s okay to love different places. It’s okay if my constitution doesn’t like the Riviera and yours does. It’s okay if you think my favorite tiny town in Switzerland is boring. It’s okay if I want to go back to Paris and my friend Ali doesn’t.
My place isn’t always going to be your place.
Your place isn’t always going to be mine.
And that’s solidly and wonderfully okay. In fact, it’s what makes us interesting. Some of us like Beyonce and some like Deb Talan and some like Nickelback. Some people love to write. Some hate it. Some people come to Mexico and never want to leave; others get back-to-back parasites and get hassled by the police.
It’s not a contest.
Someone else’s preference doesn’t make your place any less wonderful.
We don’t all need to love or want the same kinds of travels.
So stop getting all defensive when other people tell their stories or share their disappointments. It’s not about you.