A note about whining

Complaining about things you don’t like is a natural symptom of the culture shock that comes with travel: we all do it from time to time. Even when you’re trying to keep a positive attitude amidst the rigors of new lands, it can be easy to fall into (dubiously therapeutic) bitching sessions with other travelers. The problem is that complaining can quickly snowball and — if you’re not careful — it can cheapen your experience and make you lose sight of the truer pleasures of travel. After all, isn’t travel itself a positive alternative to the dull complaints of home?

I’ve learned to implement this strategy on the road: Whenever I catch myself whining about something, I just go for a walk. Usually I can find something — a sight or a person or a moment — that’s more worthwhile than whatever I was griping about.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | June 20, 2003
Category: Vagabonding Advice

5 Responses to “A note about whining”

  1. Julie Ann Baker Says:

    That’s great advice for life itself! Just insert “life” where you say “travel.” Of course, the people who would benefit most from your advice probably won’t get it … oh, wait, am I complaining?!

  2. Valerie Says:

    You are so right, both of you (including commentor Julie). I have a friend from Chicago who compares everything (unfavorably) to Chicago. She likes to travel…but I don’t understand why she ever leaves her city!

  3. Sean Says:

    I hate todo a comment that is “me too” – but I totally agree with this one. Well put, Rolf and just a kick arse thought. Thanks for sharing…the way you write it just seems so damn clear to me after I read it.

  4. Ayun Says:

    Living with two small children, I’m immersed in the hackles-raising, buzz saw drone of frequent whining (and they’re fairly good humored, happy-with-their-lot specimens, Inky and Milo are.)

    Isn’t it interesting that some of the characters who really stick in your head years after a particular adventure are the whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiners.
    Hoo boy! That girl we ran into at least 6 times in cities all over Vietnam? The nightmare couple from Tanzania and Rwanda! Mercy!

    But in the interest of humility, I wonder who in the world caught me on an ill-tempered, exhausted, homesick and (here’s the rub) talkative day and remembers ME as the whiner! I’ve done my share, though I try to refrain from making generalizations about national character and intentions.

    less whine. More wine! Beer will do! Both!

  5. Rolf Says:

    Thanks everyone for the insight and feedback! I hadn’t considered the fact that whining is an art we perfect as children. When you think about it, travel-whining is probably a throwback to that childhood-whining. After all, I mention in Vagabonding (with support text from Bryson and Coelho) that travel takes you back to a kind of childhood. I guess whining fits into that childhood equation as well as the curiosity and discovery.

    I first became aware of my own propensity for adult whining back when I was still a teacher-expat in Korea. To hear my housemates and me gripe about the workaday hardships of living in a homogeneous culture, you’d have thought we were suffering under Apartheid. Since then, I always try to catch myself — i.e., head off on that walk — before I get carried away with pointless grousing.