We all know what it’s like when you’ve been on the road for a while.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid hearing the same old questions time and time again.
Never have I been into a hostel or campsite and been able to dodge the inevitable – “so where are you from?” or “where have you been?” queries that make me want to cringe.
And, worst of all, I always find myself asking them too!
It’s like being on autopilot; these boring questions just spill forth without me realising.
And suddenly I find myself trapped in the same old conversation I’m more than likely to forget as soon as it’s over!
Keen to stop spouting these non-thinking ice breakers to every traveller I meet therefore, I actually realised this goal was harder to achieve that I thought.
Desperately trying to avoid asking the same old usual questions every traveller hates, I was stuck with, well, nothing; I had no alternatives lines of enquiry up my sleeve!
So, that’s when I put my thinking cap and sorted experimenting with some different options.
And, I’m pleased to report, ladies and gents, that the results have been very well received.
So here are 8 questions every traveller hates and some handy alternatives to ask instead.
Hopefully they help you into a few more meaningful and engaged discussions that you might actually remember, find interesting and led to some great travel memories!
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The 8 Questions Every Traveller Hates Hearing…
#1 Where are you from?
Ok, it’s the classic and we’re all guilty of asking it!
The truth is many of us are from many different places.
We have many different homes and fluid histories that often mean we identify closely to more than just one place in this world.
If you’re were born in one place, schooled in another, relocated as family, went to university, moved to a city to work, became an ex-pat, travelled a lot, fell in love abroad, worked or lived anywhere else, chances are the “where do you come from” question isn’t straightforward.
It’s also confusing and boring to explain and it can be confusing and boring to listen to as well.
#2 Where have you been?
This question similarly gets lumped in with the first question, often in a continuous thread of conversation that doesn’t actually allow enough time for the first one to be answered.
Every traveller hates being asked where they’ve been because the list can be long and it’s tedious having to recite it to someone whose ultimately going to forget anyway.
I mean, would you ask someone to name all the jobs you’ve had or all the people you’ve dated? No!
So why are you asking me to name all the places I’ve been?
On top of that, are we talking about countries here? Regions? Cities? Suburbs? Streets?
Where do we draw the line?
The only thing worse than the confusingly non-specific “where have you been” question, is the competitive “where have you been” question.
This is the one that gets asked in order for someone to judge whether one person has travelled to more places than them. Therefore apparently making the one with the higher number somehow better.
In this vein, the “where have you been” question moves from confusingly boring to absolutely abhorrent.
#3 So, where haven’t you been?
What, are you crazy?
You want me to list everywhere I haven’t been?
Ok, let’s start by continent: Antartica, Asia (unless you count airport transits)
Countries: Algeria, Angola, Andorra, Argentina, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrian, Bolivia, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bosnia, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Brazil, Belarus, Bhutan, Botswana, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, China, Croatia, Cuba, Chile, Cambodia, Denmark, Dominica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Estonia, Equatorial Guinea, Finland, Fiji …
… Can I stop now?
The only thing that this question tells me is that the person asking it really has no idea how big the world is, how many amazing things there are to see and how long you can spend doing just that!
#4 How long are you travelling for?
Ok, do you want the long or the short version?
Long version is I travelled a lot with my family as a child and when I left school at 18 I backpacked for 1 year in Europe and Africa, then I went to university, but travelled in the holidays, then took another year off after graduation and travelled for a year in Africa and New Zealand, then undertook my masters, then travelled again after that graduation in Central America, then lived and worked in London, but left and started travelling again in Latin America, ended up staying there for 2 years, then came home for a year but travelled Europe, then went travelling to Australia, then met a man, fell in love and applied for residency there, then drove around Australia for 8 months in a Landrover.
Does that answer your question?
That’s what I thought. Then don’t ask me!
Alternatively, the short version is I might be travelling a week, I might be travelling a year, I don’t know. I’m just seeing how life pans out.
That’s what I thought. Then don’t ask me!
Sometimes, if you’re perhaps travelling during your holidays from work or study, people can use this “how long are you travelling for” question as a sort of put down.
Somehow implying your short period of travel time is worth less than theirs.
“Ohhhh, you’re only travelling for 2 weeks?”
This sort of passive aggression is perhaps even worse.
#5 How do you afford to travel so much?
The reason every traveller hates this question is because implicitly it implies – “are you a trust fund kid?”
This is both highly disrespectful and highly impertinent if, like the vast majority of us, you’re not a trust fund kid, but just someone with a dream who has tirelessly slogged hard at jobs they hate for long hours to scrimp and save every penny they can to go and explore the world.
The answer, my friend, is that I’ve worked hard and resisted the urge to join the consuming masses by buying everything in sight, in order to save that money to travel instead.
#6 So, What do you do?
Ha Ha Ha.
In a sick way, I sort of await this question with a mix of glee and despair.
And whatever the answer I give or however it is received, there’s no end to the way this question makes me feel sh*t.
And I know it does for plenty of other travellers too, which is why it’s on this hate list.
The answer is I’ve prioritised travel over a career, so I do whatever I can to make money to support myself and continuous wanderings.
If you want to now what I’ve done, here’s the list:
Admin assistant, Visitor services assistant, PA, Community theatre practitioner, English teacher, Gallery manager, Secretary, Blogger, Barista, Arts Fundraiser, Waitress, Guest house manager, Farmer, Bar lady, Restaurant manager, Hotel receptionist, Art centre manager and Theatre officer.
#7 When are you going to get a real job?
Oh come on, seriously, when did this question not get someone’s back up?!
Either you have a “real” job and you’re travelling during time off, in which case you hate being judged.
Or you don’t care about a having a “real” job and hate having the presumptuous use of the term thrown on you.
Or worst still, you think the whole concept of a “real” job is an absolute fallacy – after all isn’t a “real” job anything that actually pays you money – and immediately launch into an aggressive argument about the definition of the term and the constrictive, counter-productive pressure of societal norms.
#8 Don’t you miss home?
Every traveller hates this question, because which ever side of the fence you sit on, the answer isn’t great.
Either yes, I miss home, I’m feeling a bit home sick, I’d quite like a cry and a hug with mum … can you stop reminding me of that now.
Or no, I don’t really miss home because either I don’t really have a home anymore (cue feeling a bit rough / confused) or I’m starting to wonder if I’m cold-hearted and emotionally redundant because everyone keep asking me this and I’m not sure what I’m meant to be feeling about home (cue existential crisis)
And Some Handy Alternative Questions…
So now that we’ve got the negative question bit out of the way, here are some alternative lines of enquiry I’ve putting to fellow travellers lately to change things up a bit.
It’s been so refreshing to start mixing up conversations in this way and it’s been amazing to see how people have responded to them.
So, if you also dislike being asked or asking any of those 8 predictable questions above, why not give a few of these a shot instead.
- What’s the number 1 place you’d like to visit?
- What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done to fund your travels?
- Are there any countries you’d like to move to?
- What’s the best thing travel has taught you?
- Do you think the desire to travel is learnt or inherited?
- What’s the top city you’ve visited?
- What’s the travel moment your most proud of?
- Why do you think travel is important?
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it folks, the 8 questions every traveller hates hearing … and some handy alternatives!
What are the travel questions you dislike?
And what do you ask your fellow nomads instead?
22 thoughts on “8 Questions Every Traveller Hates Hearing (and some handy alternatives!)”
I know exactly what you’re talking about! All those questions you mentioned above get me so annoyed that I can’t even be bothered to answer them sometimes. I hate small talk and worse when people ask you these questions just so they can compare and judge.
Spot on Winny, I couldn’t agree more 🙂
I disagree with your conclusion that everyone hates those questions. I don’t. It feels limiting and separating to judge people by the quality of their questions.
If we want to expand ourselves by interacting with others then those 8 questions are a good starting point. The goal is to experience some commonality with others and maybe get some ideas that would help our own journey.
Thanks for your comments John. I agree with the idea that not every traveller hates these questions – the divisive title was meant to be a bit tongue in cheek, rather than factual. That said, thank you for pointing out that these questions can have their uses and advantages and that a good starting point to experience commonality is one of those.
Well said 😊
So many questions! Yes, it slightly varies but they mean mostly the same. People’s curiosity can get overwhelming sometimes!
Right on the money Reshma! Sometimes it’s just a bit much!
Oh yeah I totally hate it when people try and be competitive on how many places they’ve been or how long they’ve been travelling. Like come on. Surely our community if any understands that everyone’s just doing their own thing and it’s not about “winning”.
Absolutely Lauren, I could not agree more! Mostly I just laugh around the people who try to compete over that stuff!
Hahaha, I know all about boring questions. Made a whole page on it on my website. Check the FAQ!
People get pissed off though, if I refer them to that page…Sometimes I feel as if they think I owe them my story, as if their curiosity entitles them to my free time. But, having said that, you should never forget that the person asking asks that question to you for the very first time. On top of that, our stories can be an inspiration for some people, who need just a bit more courage to make a change in their lives. So be kind, and just answer them again, and again, and again. We are here to be of service, remember?
That is such a great perspective Leontien, especially as I’m sure we all remember a time someone has been generous to us with their conversation, patience and spirit. It’s important we feed that back into the loop 🙂
Leontien, I like your perspective. When you, Steph, told us your answer to the question “How long are you travelling for?” I got really inspired and wanted to know much more about it. I am really interested in your story. Though some people asking those questions arent interested that much so I guess you have to figure out what answer you should give – additionally to the fact not hurting people.
I agree for your conclusion that everyone hates those questions. Thanks for sharing 🙂
He he, that’s great to hear your agree 🙂
Yeah, these questions can get annoying or boring. However, I highly dislike when people ask me questions this way: Don’t you miss home? Don’t you want a house and family one day? Aren’t you getting tired of traveling the whole time?
I always hate to answer these questions because I feel like I would hurt someone by saying things like “Hell no, I still love it and I haven’t been traveling enough that I could get tired yet. Ask me in a few years again.” Because truth is people who ask this way don’t travel and work remotely so they don’t quite understand.
Thanks for joining the discussion Nate. Very valid points you make here and I found it really interesting that you didn’t want your answers to hurt people. Hadn’t thought of that angle, so thank you fo sharing 🙂
“Don’t you miss home?” I hate that one too, for all the reasons you listed. Home is many places now and just because I don’t think the place I grew up is the best place on the planet anymore doesn’t mean I don’t care about the people I left there. I have to be very careful about how I phrase my answer to that one because I’ve made people I care about cry when I’ve said I NEVER want to live there again. My standard response now is, “Miss the people, don’t miss living there.”
That is a great response, very well put and nicely phrased! Yes sometimes these questions can be tough and it’s hard not to be too direct and hurt people’s feelings if you feel bored of answering them!
just found your blog. Love it and also the idea, how you spend your time travelling. Some of those questions I really hate: like the assuming that i earn much money or a trust fund kid which I am not. Quite the reverse: I earn my money all my self hard working. The other questions, which arent that judgemental are annoying but still some kind of a small talk starter. When you are get going I like thos big talk questions (big fan of big talk rather than just count out all countries I’ve been to) are gorgeous. Did you ever thought about whether it is inherited to travel or be that suburb type who never ever left the country for a vacation. I could never ever imagine being that person and I am surprised everytime I meet a person who doesnt like travelling. So, there are some interesting questions and i think I will use them in my next travel talk. Thank you for that. Greetings from Berlin
Hi Vicy, so lovely to read your comments and hear from a fellow travel fan. Sometimes small talk is needed, but yes I like those bigger, juicy questions a lot more too! Maybe it comes with the long-term travel character! And yes, those people who don’t like travel surprise me too, but I guess we’re all different and that’s what makes the world go round right! Happy wandering 🙂
Must admit I have been guilty of asking the first two. However I like to say I am genuinely interested in where people have been, what they thought of it etc. Sometimes a simple question like where are you from can break the ice get a conversation started.
However if people find it that offensive I shall try some of the alternatives suggested on here by Steph.
If someone wants to ask me where I am from etc I will not be offended or annoyed
Hi Alfie, I’m totally guilty of asking all these questions! I don’t think people are offended by these questions per say, I guess it was a more tongue-in-cheek piece that addressed the way we pretty much all break the ice with our fellow travellers 🙂