Been 'Travelling'? Stop Telling Me About It. You're Boring.

The only thing more annoying than pillocks heading off on a Gap Year are the inevitable stories of eating snake heart in Hanoi and connecting with 'something primal'. Look, I just don't want to bloody hear it, ok?
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The only thing more annoying than pillocks heading off on a Gap Year are the inevitable stories of eating snake heart in Hanoi and connecting with 'something primal'. Look, I just don't want to bloody hear it, ok?

Gap Year sums up the space between their ears

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There's nothing that makes my heart sink more than someone starting a sentence with: “When I was travelling in...”

What follows will inevitably be a long and rambling monologue about backpacking, hitchhiking or bungee jumping. It’s usually followed by an earnest explanation for embarking on said trip involving the need to escape the rat race and a desire to find oneself. Then, finally, comes the justification of how beneficial the process was: how it opened their mind, made them more tolerant, more rounded, helped them discover who they are.

I’ve usually dozed off by the time they reach the obligatory stories about parties on Bondi Beach, prostitutes in Bangkok and dog dinners in Hanoi. Let’s be honest: there are lots of good reasons to go travelling, but the people who tend to do it give the whole endeavour a bad name. Most of them are school or university-leavers who only do it because of peer pressure, because they can’t get a job or because they’re in emotional tatters after being dumped.

They set off from Gatwick or Heathrow with their rucksacks and Rough Guides and fresh inoculations, convinced they’re breaking new ground, only to spend the next few months exclusively in the company of similar people from the Home Counties.

All the genuine reasons to spend time abroad – a desire to immerse yourself in a new culture, see amazing sights, help those less fortunate than yourself, learn a new language – get overlooked as they tread a clichéd path, ticking off the countries, sights and locals as if they’re playing a giant game of join the dots.

It’s as if a “gap year” before or after University has become obligatory (the term is, of course, a misnomer because university is itself a gap from real life).It doesn’t give people a new perspective, like travel should. All it gives them is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of dull stories to bore people with at dinner parties.

You know the sort: they’ll rattle on about having “caught the travel bug” before launching into yet another anodyne anecdote about a broken lock on a youth hostel door in Bali, a lost wallet in Peru or a badly bruised toe in Kuala Lumpur.

They’ll show you the tattoo they got in Johannesburg (sorry, Jo-Ho), the picture on their phone of them with a greasy goatee in Tanzania or that item of jewellery they bartered for in Papua New Guinea.

But too many approach it without any imagination. Too many are blissfully unaware that you don’t necessarily need to jet off to Mongolia to find out about the human condition: you do it by learning to listen and watch the people around you.

Ultimately, travel’s like being drunk. However great it makes you feel at the time, no one wants to listen to you bang on about it afterwards.

To compound the situation, having “done the whole travelling thing”, these so-called gappies assume an air of superiority. Instead of coming home and counting their Berkshire or Buckinghamshire blessings, they’ll be more dissatisfied than ever. They’ll be doubly condescending, as well, about how the poverty they saw really brought, like, material things into perspective, and how, like, they’ve changed so much – the homelessness was on a completely different scale over there, it really, like, did their head in. And then they’ll show you footage of said slum children on their handheld HD video recorder, a present for finishing their A levels.

Does a spell abroad make them any more likely to secure gainful employment? Hardly.

We’re facing the spectre of a double-dip recession, for Christ’s sake, we need people with skills and motivation, not a generation fit for nothing more than singing karaoke in Hong Kong, winning a food fight in the Alps or getting stoned watching the sun come up/go down (delete as appropriate) on some African beach.

Forget their minds, the only part of these people’s bodies a trip abroad opens is their bowels. And it’s not just the Dehli belly incident they’ll recount in detail, you’ll also be told about how they became host to a three-foot worm and had a fish swim up their penis.

To be fair, they probably weren't to know when they bought the tickets and sunglasses that it was such a predictable path that they were setting off on.

It was the same with their parents, drawn a generation ago by the apparent mystique of inter-railing. Young men, then, were lured abroad by dreams of the Orient Express, azure seas, olive-skinned locals and the prospect of intellectual conversation (not to mention a hand job) with a European woman whose eye they’d caught in a charmingly unspoilt spot before leaning over gallantly to light her Gitanes.

The reality was rather different. Inter-railing typically involved miserably long journeys across Eastern Europe with no sleep and a raging hangover from some filthy local spirit, splinters in your arse from the wooden seats, wedged next to an old hag in a headscarf smelling of cabbage who’d offer you a slice of her raw parsnip.

Travel has its benefits. Course it does. It can be good for the soul, it can be uplifting, it can help you grow as a person. And the weather can't be any shitter than it is in Britain.

But too many approach it without any imagination. Too many are blissfully unaware that you don’t necessarily need to jet off to Mongolia to find out about the human condition: you do it by learning to listen and watch the people around you.

The sometimes unpalatable, but inescapable, truth is that the couple you’re sitting behind on a bus in your hometown are probably every bit as interesting as a couple on a Greyhound bus in America.

And we shouldn’t, of course, forget the fact that if you do feel compelled to travel, there’s always the possibility that you’ll get robbed, shot, kidnapped, bombed or end up doing a 20-stretch in a filthy third-world jail on some trumped-up (or perhaps not-so-trumped-up) drugs charge.

Now that’s one story I might enjoy listening to.

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