6 Things Every Traveler Should Know

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan, China

For something a little different, here are six random factoids that every serious traveler should know about their chosen hobby/profession:

Know Your Defunct Deities

Although many backpackers are more inclined toward Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, ritual madness, and ecstasy, Hermes represents us travelers before his father Zeus. Good for travel bloggers, Hermes is also the deity for wit, literature, and poetry. Hermes is the father of Pan — everyone’s favorite hooved guy with a labyrinth and violent-but-excellent Spanish movie.

If you lean more to the Roman side, Mercury is the god of travel and poetry — along with trickery and thieves. So the next time that tuk-tuk driver rips you off, remember that you two have something in common before you blow your top.

Known Your Patron Saint

St. Christopher is the patron saint of travel. The church walls in England contain more paintings of him than any other saint. Conveniently, Saint Christopher also covers sailors, surfers, and mountaineers.

If you’re itching for a pilgrimage, the skull of your patron saint is supposedly contained in a gold-plated shrine in Rab, Croatia.

Origin of the Word ‘Travel’

This is what you do, so you may as well know where the word came from.

The word travel is thought to have originated from the old Anglo-French word travail, which means to work, toil, and exert. Anyone who has had a long day on the road knows that travel is rarely the Samantha Brown version of skipping between gelato stands while wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Real travel can be dirty, messy business.

The word travail has connections to the Roman word tripullare, which was a three-sectioned whipping thing used to not so subtly encourage unmotivated laborers. Our ancestors considered travel to be synonymous with torment and torture. They must have been flying United Airlines.

Trail in India

Trail in Mcleod Ganj, India

Traveler or Tourist

The debate about the difference between traveler or tourist has been raging for a long time. Bored? Try calling someone at the hostel who wears dreadlocks and fisherman’s pants a tourist and see what happens. Backpackers consider themselves as ‘travelers’ because ‘tourists’ are people who wear fanny packs on their expensive guided tours.

The United Nations set the definition of ‘tourist’ in 1945 as someone traveling abroad for at least 24 hours and less than six months. So, unless your trip extends beyond half a year, sorry, you’re technically a tourist.

The United Kingdom was the first to promote leisure travel during the Industrial Revolution, and the first travel agency is recognized as Cox and Kings, formed in 1758.

Know Your Friendly Expats

Yes, this includes those older sexpats that start the day sat in clusters, beers and packs of Marlboro Reds on the table by 9 a.m.

Many people don’t like the word expatriate; it sounds like someone who is no longer patriotic to their home country. While that may or may not be the case, the origin of the word expatriate comes from Latin ex (out of) and patria (country or fatherland). So, technically, an expat is just someone who is out of their home country for an extended amount of time.

That means that by the strictest linguistic definition, if you stay away over six months, you are no longer a tourist and are now an expat. Go get a beer.

Captain Cook and Couchsurfing

Imagine: You’ve been on a boat with nothing but dirty swashbucklers and bad food for months on end. You arrive in Hawaii, are treated like European rock stars, and grass-wearing, brown-skinned beauties make all your dreams come true.

Needless to say, Captain Cook had a difficult time convincing his men to leave their new fresh-fruit-feeding girlfriends to get back on a boat bound for what could be months of seafaring hell. In fact, some stayed behind and were never heard from again.

After being gone from Hawaii for only a month, the mast on the HMS Resolution conveniently broke; high fives were slapped all around because the men knew where they would be returning. Only this time, the expedition was met with less than enthusiasm on the beach in Hawaii — leaving behind a wake of pregnancies and disease will do that. Captain Cook was eventually hit over the head and stabbed repeatedly on his way down.

The travel lesson here? Be a good guest the first time. And remember what Benjamin Franklin said: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

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7 Responses to “6 Things Every Traveler Should Know”



  1. Hilarious travel trivia and linguistics!

  2. Hey, I wear a fanny pack when traveling proudly. And I’d like to consider myself a proud TRAVELER and not a tourist. Being a traveler and not a tourist is all in the spirit, not in the garb.

    ‘Travel’ is a state of mind. That’s one thing you learn when traveling.

  3. Agree…travel is certainly a state of mind. Don’t remember you with a fanny pack on in Bangkok. 🙂

  4. Greg – I clicked straight away on that first photo there as I thought I recognised it. We both did the exact same hike in Yunnan Province, China. Totally immense landscapes!!

  5. Heh the line: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” made me chuckle!

    I have put many people up over the years and this rings slightly true!

  6. A most excellent twist on travel advice!!!

  7. Traveler or Tourist… glad you mentioned this part. Sure we’re all actually tourists but backpackers / vagabonds are simply a higher form of tourists.

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