Considerate Travel: Children on Planes and Snoring in Hostels

July 19, 2014

The Buses of the Sky

I was spending a few days with friends in Vancouver last year when Iron Man 3 came out. Although I’m not the biggest fan of the films, I considered it entertaining enough for an evening out, as long as we sandwiched it between dinner and drinks. Unfortunately, it was opening night downtown, meaning everyone was getting off work, buying tickets, and cramming themselves into the theater.

Still, I’ve dealt with worse. We managed to get a few seats relatively centered, and settled in for two hours.

No sooner had the movie started, two seven-year-olds sitting to my right begin incessantly picking apart every scene, every action, every fricking moment Robert Downey Jr. did something they considered noteworthy. Rather than take you in a blow-by-blow count of everything I was feeling every time their annoying screeching voices cut the silence from my ears, I’ll tell you what happened after the show. Of course, we still got the gist of the film, but one of my friends commented on the kids, saying: “I have NO idea how you put up with that. I was ready to smack one of them.”

The truth is, the thought crossed my mind, along with murder, physically throwing them into the screen, and going back in time to ensure they had never been born to disrupt my movie. Such is the affect of unwanted enthusiasm on an adult’s time. What stopped me wasn’t patience per se, or even having been in a similar situation. Nor did I hold the parents accountable for their children’s behavior. I simply imagined what it was like for them, two 2nd graders, seeing a film they no doubt had wanted to see for months, and enjoying it together. That’s all. Although I was still very annoyed that they couldn’t exercise a little restraint, I didn’t make it about me.

A story recently came out on regarding goody bags parents might consider giving to those on flights on long bus trips to preemptively apologize for their noisy babies that prompted me to throw my take on some common forms of stress when it comes time to travel. I choose the topic of this blog to be considerate travel, as opposed to “stressful travel” or “what can one do when faced with such inconsiderate behavior” for a very good reason, which I’ll come to later on.

The fact remains, unless you’re a multi-millionaire with a private car service, jet, island, and catering staff, some aspects of travel always have the potential to cause stress. Even if things are going according to schedule, small ticks like getting the proper diet in an airport might cause one’s inhibitions to lower just enough to freak out at a 5-minute delay. It’s not as simple as being a slow traveler, or going somewhere without a fixed destination or timetable; at some point or another, you’ll always be facing lines, inconveniences, and generally just ridiculously incompetent or lazy people in the service industry.

And so, at the risk of alienating 50% of my readers, I offer my take on:

Child-free Travel

You’re on a plane. A baby is crying. You feel your trip is already ruined, plain and simple. You stand up and yell for a flight attendant to reseat you. No one helps. Your anger is building. I wonder if I can break open a window and jump to sweet silent freedom?

Unfortunately to many of my travel friends, I have to side with parents on this one. In confined spaces like planes, trains, and automobiles, you’re not guaranteed a child-free environment anymore than you’re guaranteed a douchebag-free environment (and, in my humble opinion, you’re likely to encounter more of them than babies on the road).

It’s one thing to tell parents to keep their kids in line, but if you’re an attractive woman sitting on a plane and some idiot hits on you, does that mean all players should be banned from flights? If there’s an elderly lady to your left who just won’t shut up about her sixteen grandkids, should we create an age ceiling for fliers?

No? So why parents? Just an easy target for travel rage, I suppose. I’m not thrilled or even remotely happy when I hear a baby balling on a transpacific flight, and I would be willing to pay extra to avoid this inconvenience, but that’s a far cry from telling someone with a two-year-old the following, based on comments in the article linked above:

1. Drug your kids for the duration of the flight
2. Get them to shut up; you’re their parents, therefore you should be able to control every aspect of their behavior
3. If you don’t discipline them, I’ll have to smack them around
4. Pay more for a flight when you know not many people will be on board, so as to inconvenience as few people as possible

The corollary of this, however, is though we shouldn’t expect children to immediately adhere to adult standards of behavior and control our actions appropriately, and though we can’t assume there won’t be annoying people in our way, there is certain behavior I feel is completely inappropriate. Not that we can ever ban certain characters from planes, boats, or buses, but to restrict certain controllable actions for the betterment of everyone on board? I’m all for that.

Noise on Public Transportation

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I miss living in Korea. There are certain infuriating aspects of life abroad, especially one in Asia, but riding public transportation is not one of them in my book.

In Austin, when I was riding CapMetro to get home, a couple started a full on brawl with cursing and punches. I stepped off. The driver did nothing but say a few discouraging words.

In San Francisco, a woman was shushed on Golden Gate Transit for practically shouting into her cell phone on a full bus. When she did finally learn to show some consideration, she acted like everyone was overly sensitive.

It’s a common story all over the US: people blasting music with their windows down, not using earphones in close quarters on buses and trains, and acting as though they have the right to do so by virtue of having purchased that magic ticket. To this, I say: children may have the excuse of not knowing any better, but any human being who subjects another to his or her will is no better than a sociopath. You know other people can hear your noise, and you simply don’t care because you are the center of the universe.

As a solution, I’m thinking of just buying a lot of cheap earphones and handing them over to every person who talks on their speaker phone or plays Pandora, i.e. “Oh, you must have forgotten your earphones and decided instead to force your music upon everyone around you! Luckily, I have an extra pair on the condition you decide to stop being such a git.” (ok, maybe less British and more cordial, but you get the idea)

Snoring in Hostels

There are more horror hostel stories on record than I have time to lay out for you here. Needless to say, not everyone wants to remember there are other people in a hostel dorm if it doesn’t suit their purposes. I once had a guy (hereafter referred to as “The Idiot”) set his alarm for 6 AM on a Sunday in a 10-person dorm, hit the snooze, lock it in his bag in the locker then step outside for a shower. Of course, after a few minutes the alarm came back on and woke everyone in the dorm. The Idiot, completely unaware that he had ruined everyone’s morning, came back into the room and was shocked to discovered the door to his locker had been ripped open, his belongings strewn about in search of the phone, and his phone placed on his bed as a reminder. All courtesy of yours truly.

The point is, even when there are people like The Idiot out in the world, and even though our behavior should be modified according to the common good, our reactions and behavior to these mishaps are still the ultimate determining factors. That having been said, if you know you are going to be a noisy, oblivious brute, you give up certain rights by being in public. If you snore, I believe you relinquish your right to a hostel dorm, just as you would by acting like The Idiot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to OAT

Created by Webfish.

Need Advice on Living Abroad?

Thinking of teaching English in Japan? Volunteering in Thailand? Backpacking around New Zealand? If you're looking for some insider tips on the places to go and the people to meet, check out my consulting services. If you just have a few questions, no worries: email me.