Lifestyle & Culture

Digital Nomad Beth Hoke: My refresher course on how not to be an a**hole while traveling

Don't be this guy

(Editor’s note: Beth Hoke is a Digital Nomad who travels a lot as she zips in and out of the Schengen Zone. Beth has some gentle guidance for those of us traveling during Christmas and the New Year.)

Despite some of the recent feel-good stories about traveling – the first class passenger who offered to swap seats with an 88-year old woman flying in economy and the kind man who patiently chatted and played games with the unaccompanied child with special needs sitting next to him – there are plenty of other examples of people being downright awful in the air.

I’d like to think we live in a civil society and people know how to behave themselves even in stressful situations such as traveling for the holidays. But as a serial traveler who’s witnessed all kinds of crappy behavior on the road, I’m beginning to doubt it.

I hope that you’ll respond with your own feel-good travel stories in the comments below and convince me that the good outweighs the bad. Or share some of your horror stories so I know I’m not just a cranky curmudgeon when it comes to travel.

In the meantime, here’s my refresher course on nine ways to avoid being seen as an a••hole while traveling in case you’re one of the people who needs it:

Sit in the seat assigned to you

Until the plane is in the air and the seatbelt sign has been turned off, sit in the seat that’s been assigned to you. When you arbitrarily decide to switch seats, it causes all kinds of problems.

Maybe I paid for that window seat because I have a child who wants to experience the joy of seeing the takeoff and landing for the first time. Maybe I have a pet carrier that needs to fit under the seat in front of me and space under the aisle seat is a little narrower than the others. Maybe I just don’t want to sit in the center seat. I get it. Neither do you. But whether you ended up in a seat you don’t like based on random allocation or your lack of willingness to pay extra to choose a seat you do like, that is not everyone else’s problem.

Your unwillingness to just accept that sometimes life is unfair slows down the boarding process for everyone. It aggravates the passenger whose seat you decided to sit in. It causes problems for the flight attendant who now has to mediate a situation before the flight even takes off.

Just. Don’t. Do. It.

By the way, the same principle applies to buses and trains, too.

Save your phone conversation until later

Public transportation is not the place for private conversations. No one needs to hear you fight with your spouse, argue over whose team is going to win the championship, or lament not going home with that cute guy you met in the bar last night.

If you need to call home quickly to make sure someone is coming to pick you up at the train station, cool.

But isn’t that what texting is for?

Use your inside voice

No one minds if you chat quietly with the people around you. It’s when you laugh loudly, yell out the window, or use your booming boardroom voice to brag about the deal you just closed that we get annoyed.

Use your headphones

I like Netflix as much as the next person, but I don’t need to hear your shows while I’m trying to watch mine. Headphones are cheap. Buy a pair and use them.

Wear deodorant

Do everyone around you a favor and use deodorant. No one wants to be crammed on the subway next to someone who smells like they haven’t bathed in days.

Wait your turn

You’re not more important than everyone else waiting in line. We all have places to be and things to do.

Let people off before you get on

The Germans are particularly good at this. People who are getting off the train/bus/subway/tram have the right of way. The same is true for elevators. See “Wait your turn.”

Don’t ‘manspread’

Manspreading is the practice of sitting with your knees spread wide apart, thereby taking up more space than that which is allotted to you. Keep your knees (and all other body parts) out of my space.

Don’t let your kid kick the seat in front of them

Self-explanatory. For the fourth year in a row, a 2018 Expedia survey listed seat-kickers as the worst passengers to encounter during a flight. I haven’t seen the 2019 survey, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find this at, or near, the top of the list again.

Look. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture. If you read this list and recognize your own bad behavior, there’s still time to change before you head home for the holidays.

If you’re not one of the offenders, feel free to casually leave a printed copy on the seat next to you. You’ll be doing us all a favor.


About the author:

Beth Hoke rejoined the expat life after spending her childhood in Europe and the United States, then settling in Chicagoland to raise two daughters.

Now an empty nester, she is roaming Europe, armed with a TEFL certificate and an online position teaching English.

Beth has been traveling around Europe for three years. She’s filed posts for Dispatches Europe from at least seven countries including France, Italy, Germany, Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, and Portugal.

Read all of Beth’s Digital Nomad and travel posts here.

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