Where is the Darker Side of Travel?

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I had one of the most interesting letters I have every received on the Amateur Traveler today:

I have listened to the Amateur Traveler podcast for several years. After replaying another 40 or so episodes this week something has caught my attention. You don’t ever have people on that are unhappy or critical of their trip. At most you sneak a quick question about what was so bad, and as usual the guest takes the hint to down play ANY real unhappyness they encountered.

I began thinking how much this resembles a cult. How people are coerced into putting up the facade of utter bliss when traveling. It never occurred to me how censored your show is and why would it be considering you are the one who edits, picks the questions and the guests. Was all of this not to offend the sponsors and limit income… I wonder.

None of your show is real Chris. It’s make believe with the politically correct dictating every word and downplaying every problem. This is not travel, this is some state sponsored, spoon fed reeducation camp for what you apparantly think are feeble minds.

I challenge you to bring attention to the darker side of travel. Have some real guests who will actually disagree with you. Guests that won’t regurgitate the notion of every moment being little magical sunshine bursts. How they can’t wait to scurry back into the arms of another country or destination. This in short, is just plain nonsense.

I challenge you to some truth in advertising Perhaps stamping, “Your results may vary” on every show and every web page should suffice. Most people save several years worth of money to experience travel to another country. Even waiting a lifetime in most cases. How you can lead these unknowing people and their hard earned money into the cult of utopia is just wrong. Very, very wrong… Try adding some balance

Dramatic for effect. Amateur Traveler enthusiast and still a fan.

Some thoughts occur to me after reading this letter:

  1. That is mostly true with one big exception being an episode called Mis-adventure Travel in Siberia about travel gone horribly wrong. Although we have had guests say not to see the penguins in Melbourne because they are loud and smelly, not to go up in the Gateway Arch because it is boring, not to go to Disneyland, etc. These are the sort of comments that bring the most complaints. I did not agree with any of these comments but did not edit them out.
  2. The tag line for this show was from the beginning “travel for the love of it”. Amateur is derived from the same word as is Amore, which means love. The original definition was someone who does things out of love. I love travel. I try and find someone who loves a particular destination. To be honest even though they love it I sometimes listen to them and cancel any planned trip to that destination. Some places we talk about are not for me.
  3. I am generally an optimist and am so laid back that I am usually one Diet Coke away from unconsciousness. Things do go wrong in travel, but I am not the sort of person who comes back from travel with a list of complaints about the number of things that went wrong. I honestly think that travel goes better for me and that the universe, and the travel universe in particular, likes me because of this attitude.
  4. If you want a podcast about travel from the point of view of how bad it can be, listen to Mark Peacock’s Travel Commons. Mark is a friend and fellow podcaster but I describe his show as the anti-Amateur Traveler. His show deals with trials with airlines, TSA, hotels, etc.

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