Police officers in Rome enforcing a rule against sitting on the Trevi Fountain, where tourists have gotten into brawls over selfies and received fines of up to 500 euros for illegally bathing.Credit…Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
Last month, a video went viral showing a man etching his name (and that of his girlfriend) into the wall of the Colosseum in Rome. We’ve all seen them: bad travelers. The internet is cyclically gripped by stories like these.
In recent years, New Zealand was captivated by the unruly antics of a British family who reportedly stole a Christmas tree from a gas station, among other mischief, on their vacation. A couple of Czech influencers got in hot water after making a crude joke involving a sacred fountain at a temple in Bali. And an airline passenger in South Korea opened the plane’s emergency door minutes before landing, hoping for a speedy exit.
When a tourist’s misbehavior is serious, as it is in these examples, the outrage that follows may be justified. But perhaps our strong reactions also reveal our own fears of being “that tourist” when navigating an unfamiliar environment.
There are innumerable ways to breach good traveler etiquette. Maybe you haven’t immortalized your name on a World Heritage site or committed a crime, but have you ever sneaked past the velvet rope to take a better picture? Taken a rock from a place you weren’t supposed to? Been unable to resist doing the precise thing a sign instructed you not to do — and then accidentally broken something?