Reading the travel section of the Sunday paper is one of my favourite little pleasures. It’s relaxing and inspiring and the perfect amount of fuel for my wanderlust fire.
Not last week though.
Last Sunday I came across a brief interview with a high-profile Australian fashion designer, where she was asked for her best travel tips, experiences and recommendations. And, frankly, it pissed me off.
Having travelled a bit during my 32 years, I understand we all have different ideas on what makes a good holiday (camping, resort, tropics or adventure?), how best to travel (car, bus, plane or boat?) and what constitutes a necessity (hair straightener, running water, French champagne or a comfortable hammock?)
We’re all different, I get that. But in this interview, the respondent gave an answer that irked me beyond a mere difference of opinions. In fact, it made me despair.
She was asked: “What’s your best tip for getting the most out of a holiday?”
Immediately I could think of a hundred ways to answer:
- Be open to new experiences
- Stay in the one place for a while and live like locals
- Pack your sense of humour, sunglasses and a good book
- Eat local foods
- Avoid souvenir shops
- Get off the tourist trail occasionally
- Stay in locally owned/operated accommodation
- Turn off your phone
- Put the camera down
But her response? (Paraphrased, as the paper got recycled and I can’t find the interview online):
“Act like a first-class person. Walk in to the hotel and make them believe that you are, in fact, worthy of special treatment. Even if the accommodation you are given is perfectly acceptable, act a little disappointed. Suggest that the room you saw online was a little bigger, or had a balcony, or enjoyed a better view. More often than not you will be upgraded or moved to a better room.”
This entitled point of view is one of the things I believe to be wrong with the world.
This person is privileged enough to be travelling to far-off, beautiful places, but that is not enough. She has decided that, as a “first-class person” (what does that even mean?!) she deserves more. The hotel room is not enough. She deserves a bigger one. The plane seat is not enough. She deserves a first-class one. The experience of travel or relaxation or pampering or adventure is not enough. She deserves BETTER. Merely because she is there and she is important, dammit.
I don’t have an issue with asking politely for a change – particularly if it’s warranted. But pretending that what you’re offered is not good enough (even if it’s perfectly amazing) simply to see if you can get better? Yeah, I have a problem with that.
So let’s say this person is granted their Special Snowflake Status and upgraded to the Presidential Suite (nothing less than the best, naturally)… what then? Suddenly they believe they really are a First Class Person. After that, they want more. They want better. They believe that simply because an upgrade was granted this time, they’re entitled to the same treatment always and forever.
Suddenly, things that used to be perfectly acceptable become less-than. And the merry-go-round of better and more and new and shiny spins ever faster. Perhaps the experiences stop mattering as much as the status. Because really, when you’re looking for more or better or nicer or shinier, how can you really appreciate anything at all? You’re obsessed with bettering your situation. And for what? The status of saying you did?
Gee. Sounds like fun.
Now let’s say this person is not granted their Special Snowflake Status and cannot be accommodated in the Presidential Suite (on account of the President in situ). The mere fact that they believe themselves worthy of special treatment means they will likely be offended at the rejection. So now, not only do they not get the First Class Person treatment, but they are also dissatisfied with the original accommodation. Nothing is good enough now, because they’ve been jilted.
How is this relaxing? How is this getting the most out of your travel experiences?
And what’s more, how is this attitude of entitlement allowing any of us to experience the most of life? The most of what is happening right in front of us?
If we’re constantly comparing lives with others, how can we feel content with our own?
If we’re relentlessly pursuing more, better, shinier, newer, how can we be grateful for what we do have?
If we make the mistake of believing our needs are more important than those of others, how can we live with compassion and generosity and equality?
If we believe we should be treated as First Class People, how can we explain to our children that we are no better than someone else?
The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.
Be grateful. Enjoy what you have. Soak up the experiences. And if you see someone else swanning about, believing the universe owes them a room with a bigger bathroom and newer sheets? Let them have at it. A worldview of entitlement is its own reward.
Instead, allow your world to become an altogether more beautiful, generous, rewarding place by simply being grateful, present and conscious. I believe that to be its own reward too.