I am home. Buenos Aires. My apartment, my students, and JerryBrown the cat. Maxi (the dog) has gone AWOL and has not returned home to date. She is wandering the streets of Banfield, loving being off leash.
I have been traveling forever, but solo for maybe 25 years. I was doing it before it was a "trend" or "cool." I have always been known for being somewhat visionary. I traveled alone in the states, (but that doesn't count), then to Mexico, then to Europe. I remember when I decided to go to Paris alone. I had a fight with a boyfriend and ended our conversation with "Fine, I am going to Paris." I have no idea why I said that, but after I got off the phone, I decided to do it. Those were the days when "online" was America Online and maybe a few sites you could get to on Netscape. Web Portals were all the rage.
In 2 hours I had booked a flight, found a hotel, and signed up for French classes. In 7 weeks I was there. I remember walking through the 7th arrondissement thinking "Why didn't I do this before?" That was because before was full of "I have no one to go with, or no time, or no money." It is amazing what a fight with a boyfriend can bring. After Paris, the world became mine. I traveled to Europe, Asia, and Australia, not to mention most of South America and a little of Central America.
What I found is that I prefer to travel alone. It is much easier, especially at my age. I like to stay in hostels or Airbnb rooms. It is always nice to have local people give you their insight. Friends my age are mostly horrified by the thought of a hostel or staying in someone's house. That and the energy factor. I still seem to have tons of it.
I have noticed lots of changes in travelers since I started my globetrotting. It used to be that people would open up to a single woman traveler. I remember in Florence the owner of the restaurant sent his friend over to keep me company. The friend started to present himself as a suitable marriage partner. I learned his whole life story in a mess of English, Spanish, and Italian. When I stayed at a hostel in Valparaiso, I met 2 women from Belgium at breakfast. We ending up spending the day at Isla Negra. Neither of them spoke Spanish, but one woman spoke English. We had a great time. I have lots of stories like this. Where people took an interest and we hung out together or shared a meal.
Things have changed. There is now the "Ugly Traveler." This traveler can be from any country. Not one country in particular is singled out. They come in all shapes and sizes, ages, and speak different languages. On my last trip through Panama, I met people who would stay 8 hours or less in a city. They had a bucket list. Panama in 3 days so they could cross it off the list. I was in Panama a week. I could go back and spend another week, and still not see everything. These travelers brag about how many countries they have been to. I guess if that is how they want to travel, who am I to criticize?
The other attitude change I have experienced is people who are very rude. Unnecessarily rude. When I was in Panama, a young African American woman was giving a verbal tirade in English to a poor server at a smoothie kiosk. The woman was well dressed. She spoke no Spanish and the server spoke very little English. When I walked up, the woman was berating the server because she didn't want Panamanian money returned in her change. She was given 50 cents. Panama uses U.S. currency, but they do have their own change. The way this woman was going off on the poor girl you would have thought it was a million dollars. The server had no idea why the woman was so irate. I explained to her in Spanish, that the woman did not want tuolumnes, she wanted U.S. change. The girl opened her drawer to show she had no more change. The American woman then kept pushing the 50 cent piece going "I don't want your worthless money. I don't live here. I don't want it. It's worthless." I commented to her it was only 50 cents not 50 dollars. She turned on me, "I don't care I don't want it. I am only visiting." So I opened my purse and gave her 2 quarters. She snatched them up and did not even utter a thank you. I was appalled at how rude she was.
I wish that I could tell you that this was an isolated incident, but it was not. In my hostal I found the people in my age group to be extremely rude and unfriendly. It was rather shocking. A couple had heard me speak in Spanish to the reception desk. I noticed the woman eating this ice cream concoction. I moseyed over and said good evening, and then asked where she got her ice cream. Considering the barrio we were in was residential, except for the restaurant in front, I thought it was valid question, and also a way to have some conversation. An icebreaker.
The woman snapped at me "From him." and pointed at her husband. So, I asked Him.. "Where did you get the ice cream, it looks good." He snapped at me too "Not from around here, there is nothing here. Can't you tell? I had to go into town to get it. (Town by the way was a 7 minute walk, but he in conversation took a taxi, because he was afraid to walk there.) He asked me where I was from. I told him that I live in Argentina. His response? "Well that is weird, people in Argentina don't travel." (Excuse me, but that is a really stupid thing to say, I know lots of Argentines who travel) So I tell him, that yes, lots of people from Argentina travel. He says to me "I have never met any, I figure they just don't travel like Americans." The situation was getting more uncomfortable. He was so sarcastic I apologized.."Sorry I bothered you."
These two incidents were with Americans. I also Germans, Israeli, French, and Canadians behaving poorly. I just don't want to bore you with my scenarios. One friend on Facebook said it is "entitlement." That people believe they can act how they want or worse they feel they deserve special treatment. Whatever happened to knowing and accepting other cultures? Whatever happened to "You are a guest in this country?"
I think it goes deeper. My Malaysian friend who I ended up in the slum with had another twist. He feels people are unhappy and angry. Many people travel to forget their unhappiness. The anger still stays. How sad. That is why I am happy to travel alone. I only need to be responsible for me. Traveling makes me happy, regardless of who is around.