With my business, I rarely do individual trips. But for the occasional, preferred client I will. Recently, I was working on a European FIT for a client with a … how shall I say this delicately…rambunctious child. Now on our group trips we can usually keep the crowd under control when we escort them, and other parents are keeping a watchful eye. But solo travel is another beast and I felt it best to make a point of it to my client. Make sure you keep an eye on junior. First, losing him would be horrible; but secondly, you never want to be painted as “that” tourist. It gave me pause to think and share the stories I had heard over the years about tourists behaving badly—and I smiled. Here are some of my favorites!
- In 2008, a Finnish man, Marko Kulju, decided to take an earlobe home as a souvenir from one of the Easter Island’s Moai statues. (Source)
- It was only a 600-year old statue. It was only the pinkie. Yes, an American tourist was trying to compare hand sizes at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence. (Source)
- Also in Italy, the two Brazilians that were caught scaling a gate to get inside the Colosseum after hours. One suffered a broken hip. (Source)
- Cringeworthy, but I can see it happening to nearly anyone with a kid. A 12-year old Taiwanese child, tripped and ended up punching a fist-sized hole in a painting valued at $1.5 million. (Source)
- Make sure you tie your shoes. Nick Flynn didn’t. He tripped on the staircase of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge England. Unfortunately, his pride was not the only thing damaged as he toppled down the steps. There were those three Qing Dynasty vases that came along with his for the ride. (Source)
- Selfie gone wrong. A 24-year old was trying for the perfect selfie. No doubt he had to Instagram it! The subject—a 126-year old statue of Portuguese king Dom Sebastiao outside a Lisbon train station. But unfortunately for him, the perfect selfie included climbing up to the statue, and toppling it. (Source)
- And some misbehaving tourists can have deadly consequences. A pair of tourists in Yellowstone National Park were concerned that a baby bison was cold. They picked it up and took it to a ranger station in their SUV. In the end, the bison was rejected by the herd and needed to be euthanized. (Source)
Granted, not all of these were done by the “ugly American,” but it is a good reminder that all travelers need to travel with respect. Accidents will happen, but when traveling, it is best to do what you can to prevent them. For my client, it was a humorous look at the trouble some other kids got into while abroad and a suggestion to make sure she keeps tabs on junior—said with a wink and a nod. She understood.
I left her with a quote from my own Cub Scout Leader book–
“Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time.”
Good advice for us all!