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.
Sometimes, how you perceive a place also comes down to who is showing it to you. I’m an expat currently living in Johannesburg, South Africa. Most South Africans HATE Joburg with a passion. And I love nothing more than to show these people MY city and see how my love for the place (and knowledge of the worthwhile places to visit) completely transforms their experience.
So true! What you see, how you explore, and who you’re with all matter a great deal.
THIS! I absolutelly love your article. I was bored as hell in the french riviera, wishing I could go back to Paris or go to Normandy or basically anywhere else. But every website I checked before going said I should alocate at least 4 days, minumum, for Provence and 4 more days for the Cote D’Azur. After that I decided: I’m checking out people’s experiences (what exactly they value in the given destination) and google images before deciding where to go.
In my case, if people love the wine and the fancy restaurants (most of all if it’s seafood), it’s a big indication it’s not for me.
Right now I’m packing for Spain, leaving in two weeks. Let’s see if my new method of planning pays off!
Great content! I just found out about your blog and I love it.
Yes! Exactly. This is why anytime people ask me for recommendations of places to go, I always ask what they like to do. Because I love tiny middle-of-nowhere mountain towns, but someone who doesn’t like to hike is probably going to find my favorite places boring. And I love fancy-pants fine dining experimental restaurants, but someone who wants comfort food isn’t going to respond to those recommendations.
You and I are definitely on the same page. When I look at travel recommendations, I always ask myself who’s doing the recommending and if our preferences are the same.
You nailed it! Not everyone loves the same place or city and that’s okay!!We have the right to our own perspectives and opinions as long as we are open to hearing others! Your article was well done! Thank you for writing it in an upbeat, informative and open manner!
Yep, Paris is not for me! Though really, neither is Barcelona. I mostly agree with you on Sarajevo, I thought it was charming and I wouldn’t mind going back, but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to, and I don’t think I could handle being there long term.
It’s totally fine, and preferable really, for people to have different opinions and like or dislike different places. And sometimes our opinions are formed on the basis of factors that have little to do with the actual place. I had an amazing time in Dubrovnik years ago. But I fear returning someday because what if it was all circumstantial? What if the city has changed so much in the past 9 years that I wouldn’t like it anymore?
Also, I have no idea who Deb Talan is. I am old and completely out of the pop culture loop.
Hahah, Deb Talan is definitely not modern. She’s my favorite folk singer and I wish she was still putting stuff out!
Well said Gigi! I love Paris. Didn’t care for London. And was “meh” over Edinburgh. But I loved York. I always hate it when someone says “you have to go to X place. You’ll love it!” And if you don’t love it, then there something wrong with you. We are all unique individuals with different tastes. As my mom always said, “The world would be a boring place if we were all the same.”
Great points. Our family tends to like the spots suggested to us by locals. So Chiang Mai not so much but Hua Hin loved it. And as stated it also depends on who you are with and for me, kid ages, ease of dog, internet, food and good health. We are in Andalusia for a couple of months and the beaches driving from Barcelona to here horrified me — awful places. Just now starting to enjoy our blanco village as we are hitting some off the main drag places:) Each to their own.
Right on. Hope you enjoy the village!
Yes! One of my best friends *loves* Barcelona and Belfast, and after going (partly on her recommendation) I found both were not at all to my taste. (I got violently mugged in Barcelona, which didn’t help.) We both love New York City, though.
When she loves a place, it has no real correlation to how I’ll feel about it and that’s okay =) I think it makes it easier if your significant other has similar taste in places though, especially if traveling together is a big part of your life!
Agreed! I think it’d be a tough thing to be with a partner whose tastes differed greatly, but for friends it just seems like no big deal. As long as there’s enough crossover to travel together if you want to.
Love, love, love this! You wrote what is inside my head when I talk to fellow travelers ?
That’s a great point!
I was thinking the same thing, and probably I figure that there are different people reading different blogs. Different ages, different experiences, different emotional skills, backgrounds, class, educational level.
In a similar way, a lot of Netflix shows try to please everyone, yet they end up pleasing nobody.
I still think that being genuine is important because it’s nearly impossible to please everyone . Otherwise we all sound and act the same, and it’s a impossible to connect. Having a voice won’t be liked by everyone yet it leaves that room for people to click with that particular voice because there’s value and something different/original/interesting about it.
Undeniably, it’s not the best time to be open and vulnerable online, yet one might argue that that’s why we value such voices because they are scarce.
I checked out Ali’s blog and both her “Real Talk” and her ” France” section but there’s nowhere where she clearly stated or wrote a post about disliking Paris. Honestly, this post (https://aliadventures.com/scenes-from-paris) doesn’t seem anything but like a good time.
I think the problem is creating false narratives or lying by omission. I understand that blogging is a business, yet some people do look up to bloggers so they could make a good decision. When reading that particular blog, one might think that it’s a bit deceptive and that they’d rather make mistakes because of their own lack of research than being intentionally misguided by someone.
This is nothing against you whatsoever, just to point out if you hadn’t written more about Ali’s true experiences, there would be no way in hell to figure out what her real experiences were. In fact, one would get a completely opposite idea. Because of the modern day media (Facebook, IG, and such) I think we all got a bit too comfortable with lying, at the end of the day I’m sorry but I don’t see how this moral or ethical.
Ola! Thanks for your comment. Do keep in mind that this post was written in 2018 and I can’t say if Ali’s opinion has changed in subsequent visits to Paris. :) She may simply have changed her mind on trips after we talked. (Though I concur with your overall point that there is a problem with bloggers misrepresenting places.)
The word “expatriate” (mentioning this because that is Ali’s description of her life in Germany) is originally meant for people based in London, say, working for PWC and being sent for one year to Dubai and Geneva and coming back to London. People who live a proper life elsewhere are immigrants because they learn the language, pay their taxes, and contribute to their society hoping to integrate. The world expat sounds a bit self-aggrandizing. It’s not a huge thing, just a bit icky, because it low-key makes immigration like a shameful, and not an honorable thing — which it is. It goes back to my idea than not every bloggers and reader are the same.