Why Competitive Travelling Is The New World Sport

Why Competitive Travelling Is The New World Sport

The following conversation is a thinly exaggerated account of an actual conversation I heard, loudly expressed, on the TransSiberian train last November.

Traveller 1: So we just came from [Cool Place of The Moment #7] and we’re headed for [Place So Cool It’s Not Even A Hashtag Yet]. Where are you guys travelling to?

Traveller 2: Well, we started in [Ridiculously Remote Place Which Nobody Ever Enjoyed Themselves In Ever] 17 months ago, and we’re making our way to [Lonely Planet’s #1 Destination As Announced Last Week] by Christmas. On foot.

Traveller 1: [chastened] Wow, that’s such a cool way to travel, on foot. [more smugly] You’re gonna love [Lonely Planet’s #1 Destination As Announced Last Week]. I was there last year and it was such an incredible spot. There was hardly anyone there back then. I hope it’s not too busy these days after the Lonely Planet thing.

Traveller 2: [visibly annoyed] Yeah. We actually booked this trip for last year but couldn’t go because of a death in the family.

Traveller 1: I’m sure it’s still amazing, even though it’s so popular and commercialised now. If you can, you should see the underground sky caverns. The locals will bring you if you get in with the right people. [laughs] We had the most amazing experience there, I remember… they brought us to this bar afterwards that only locals go to. Wasn’t a soul in the place who spoke English, and we were drinking this stuff which looked like rice milk but we found out afterwards was actually hallucinogenic fermented yaks’ saliva, never tasted by Westerners before. It was unreal.

Traveller 2: Oh, was that Blurgh Water?

Traveller 1: Em, yeah, I think it sounded something like…

Traveller 2: Yeah, you gotta watch that stuff! We learned how to make it with the nomads on the volcanic plains in [Ridiculously Remote Place Which Nobody Ever Enjoyed Themselves In Ever]. Luckily our guide had warned us about it, but it’s strong shit if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Traveller 1: [incandescent with rage but managing to turn it into thinly-disguised derision] You guys always take guided tours, then?

Traveller 2: We always use local guides. We like to learn as much as possible about wherever we are.

Traveller 1: Sure, it makes it so easy to have a guide, but sometimes it’s so much better getting your own feel for the place, you know?

Traveller 2: [flicking open Swiss Army Knife] I guess. So, you were saying that you hardly ever check in with your family and they don’t know where exactly you are right now?


Why Competitive Travelling Is The New World Sport

You might think that young people – or Millennials, as anyone with an age-related grudge seems to call them – have a rare old time of it nowadays, travelling while they’re still young enough to wake up with no trousers and be proud of it. You hear lots of mutterings from older folk saying things like ‘I was paying a mortgage at that age’ or ‘in my day Machu Picchu was when young Matthew with the lisp sneezed’, but that’s only because they’re jealous.

And as we all know, there is no higher benchmark of winning at travel, than other people’s jealousy.

Travel is not a joke, or a privilege, or even a joy. IT’S A WAR, PEOPLE. Instagram is the battleground, and free hotel rooms – a.k.a. “social influence” the spoils. But if you’re even thinking about not taking it seriously, think again.

We live in a time where the internet has meant that almost anything can be called work, and travel has become a job. It’s the job of today’s internet-conscious traveller to go places few people ever go, to take pictures few people can ever take, and tell the rest of the world that they’re doing it.

But here’s a question: has travel itself changed? Nowadays, is travel about going somewhere – or is it about being seen to go somewhere?

Has social media turned everything into a competition?

If so, I think there should be a Travelympics.

I even have a list of core events for this vital and necessary tournament. In time, there will be other more peripheral events – the Travelympian equivalents of synchronised swimming and beach volleyball – but let’s not run before we can walk.

I propose that the following 5 events should be staged this year in order to find out, once and for all, who’s REALLY winning at travel these days.

Why Competitive Travelling Is The New World Sport



  1. The Selfie That Looks Least Staged Relay

Competitors will take turns lining up at a beauty spot whereupon they will have three and a half hours to take the perfect selfie. The picture which looks most spontaneous will be declared the winner.

  1. The Most Authentic Experience 400 Metres

Participants are guided into the ring by experienced travel guides who line up 400 metres away. Participants then shoot the travel guides and pretend they stumbled upon the ring on their own. The winner is the shooter whose guide whimpers the least.

  1. The Life Changing Anecdote Individual Medley

Competitors orate a single anecdote about a travel experience which changed their lives. The person who shouts loudest is the winner.

  1. The Ad Which Is Not An Ad Flyweight

Participants submit one travel photograph which conceals 17 pieces of sponsored content. The winning photograph will be the one which generates the most Likes from a judging panel of people who have never been on a plane.

  1. The Great Wall Of China Sprint

Competitors are sent to the Great Wall of China and instructed to take a photograph which does not contain anyone taking a selfie in it. The winner will be anyone who manages to do this. It is not anticipated that there will be regular winners in this category, so an ancillary prize will be awarded to anyone who actually looks at the Great Wall itself.


Whew! I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted even thinking about the thrills and spills of this tournament! I think we can agree it’s something we can all look forward to.

Please deliver your suggestions for additional events in brown envelopes with a cash bribe, and I’ll consider staging it in your home town. I am nothing if not a sporting professional.

Why Competitive Travelling Is The New World Sport

  49 comments for “Why Competitive Travelling Is The New World Sport

  1. January 21, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Absolutely brilliant. I believe I’ve heard that very same dialogue a number of times here in Athens. Only it was even more competitive than your description.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. January 21, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Makes one glad to be too old for all these hilarious shenanigans!

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2018 at 11:04 am

      But you’re never too old for competitive travel! 5 minutes on Instagram will prove that. Or else you could just buy a campervan…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. January 21, 2018 at 11:34 am

    I hope you breezed up to them and said cheerfully: “Of course all of the locals, guides and travel industry reps think you’re a bunch of smug over-privileged wankers, but don’t let that spoil your little holiday. Anyone want a pickled onion flavour Monster Munch?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      Good grief, no. I was too busy transcribing their conversations, and picturing their faces when they eventually read this blog, which of COURSE was bound to happen, because social influencer, etc.

      Plus I never share my Monster Munch. The very thought of it. You cad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 22, 2018 at 9:20 am

        Ah, but the beauty of it is that they would never stoop to our level and allow such a snack to pass their lips. Sun-baked dung beetles dipped in fermented anteater spit, absolutely up their street. A bag of bacon flavoured Frazzles is another world to them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 22, 2018 at 8:54 pm

          I’m still not offering them any. Greedy grasping things that they are. You never know with these people. If they even suspected that the Monster Munch Marketing Department were on Instagram, I wouldn’t see my pickled MSG dust for, em, dust.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. January 21, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    My entry for the single life-changing anecdote individual medley: the year we took a week off, pulled down the shades, bought enough for breakfast and a snack at night a week ahead, unplugged the phone, put the cell phone in a metal pot so we couldn’t be reached, and enjoyed: the stillness, the quiet, a walk in the country each day, a quick lunch out, the luxury of a good bed and sleeping as long as we wanted, free water upon arrival back home, a healthy breakfast “buffet” of things we wished instead of grease and blood sausage, reading old friends among our books, and watching old films, just spending time together talking, no interruption from vacuums and maid service….

    Liked by 2 people

    • January 21, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      Lovely! Been there myself. In my own house, of course.

      Liked by 2 people

    • January 21, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      I like it, but it’ll never score in the social influencer stakes, I’m afraid. If you’re content to be content, however, then be it on your own head. That’s all I’m saying.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. January 21, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    I spent some time trying to figure out what words of praise would be high enough for this column. And I think my first thought is probably the right choice.
    This is your funniest post yet, Tara. Start to finish strong. Brava.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      I nearly blushed for a second upon reading that, Will, but then I remembered that I was an insufferable egotist, so then it was all okay. I’m not an impolite egotist, though, so I will say thank you. Thank you. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  6. January 21, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    This was truly a great post. You’re right about the competition for influence and free travel–I personally desire this so much right now, but am struggling to find it. If you know anyone who would sponsor a cycling tour for me, send them my way.
    That aside, I love your idea for Travelers Olympics. I work with ESL teachers, most of whom took the job so that they could travel. Once we start consuming alcohol, the stories and bragging starts. It’s funny, though, that a lot of the bragging focus on difficult things–who has eaten the strangest thing? Who has slept in the worst place?
    Like I said. I loved this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      Well, I do get regular requests from people to write free content or host their content on my blog, so I’ll definitely send those helpful people your way, Anthony. All I require in return is the promise that they will never come back here.

      There does seem to be a kind of endurance test-element to travel bragging. It’s as though if you don’t have difficulties, you can’t claim an ‘experience’. I don’t subscribe to that myself. I’m too fond of the Three S’s (sugar, sitting down, and sleeping).

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 21, 2018 at 5:02 pm

        I certainly don’t want those people….along with the people who “follow” and then dump me shortly thereafter.
        I agree that travel should not be a bunch of endurance tests. I would take a great view, a great meal, and something joyful anytime.
        I wish you continued success and a break from internet trolls.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. January 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Siân Glírdan and commented:
    Jan the Hawke re-blogging as SIan the Bard… I prefer travelling in fantasy realms, the itineraries are a lot more flexible, it’s a lot cheaper and the scenery is hoopier as it’s self-generated! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  8. January 21, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    I think there’s already a reality show like this, although I like your challenges better. I think you have something worth marketing here, Tata. And I’m certain the contestants will work for free. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2018 at 10:17 pm

      I don’t mind as long as I make money out of it, Diana. I think we all know the extent of my philanthropic inclinations 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. January 21, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Bahahaha. This is brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. January 21, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Loving this idea – Participants submit one travel photograph which conceals 17 pieces of sponsored content 😉 Anyone failing should enter the Hunger Games.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2018 at 10:21 pm

      Or we could just bring the Hunger Games ethos into play, and put the contestants in mortal peril? I’m torn. I like both ideas 😛


  11. January 21, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    Can we create a holiday firm that specialises places to go to avoid any of the above tournaments?

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2018 at 11:22 pm

      That’s an excellent idea, Hilary. But there’ll have to be a strict vetting process, or else we’ll have to start shooting the customers. That can be your job, if you like.


      • January 22, 2018 at 8:03 pm

        Yay! I’m fully qualified too, I always win the teddy bear at the fairground pot-shot stalls.

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 22, 2018 at 8:57 pm

          That’s it! Just think of them as giant, loud, annoying teddy bears. Which you shoot instead of win. Something like that. I may need to work on my motivational speeches.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. January 22, 2018 at 9:28 am

    I’ve had an idea for one of the competitions and I think you’ll agree that it makes for a fine spectator sport – there could be lucrative TV rights up for grabs too.
    Essentially you let a few ordinary bods listen in to the competitors between events and the one who is thrown the furthest wins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 22, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      I like it. But we may have to introduce industrial-scale slingshots. I’m not taking any chances, and the great telly-viewing public must be entertained.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. January 22, 2018 at 10:20 am

    Most brilliant idea, the Wall of China selfie category made me laugh the most. And spot on with the ‘free hotel rooms’ war. (eye-roll/sigh) You’d possibly need to tally up and submit your total social media following in order to qualify for these Travelympics in the first place. Here’s another suggestion: the person who manages to always model for their own instagram pics will be awarded bonus points for being able to take selfies without even touching the camera.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 22, 2018 at 9:01 pm

      Excellent. If you throw in heckling judges during the process, Liberty, I’ll allow it. I think there should be at least some element of shouting at the contestants. Adds to the tension beautifully.


  14. January 22, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I don’t like to travel, and it took me a long time to publicly admit this, since it is akin to admitting I don’t like sushi. I would like to see an Olympic event called the ‘Stay Put’ competition. Everyone would stage a photo making others positively drool with envy at the beauty and peace. And the photo would be taken in their own back yard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 22, 2018 at 9:05 pm

      Ooh, I can see the potential of this idea straight away. Just think about the cohort of contestants who will hire in professionals to dress and stage their back yards for the photo shoots. It’ll be a boon for the landscaping industry, for starters. Then we can claim credit for the economic turnaround, blame Instagram for the rise in shrub prices, and go to a lovely hotel in the tropics until it all dies down. Perfect!

      Actually, one part of that seems a little flawed. I’ll be back to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. January 22, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    I would fall in the first round, mostly because I don’t post many pictures of my travels until I am safely back at home unless of course, I am sampling the local brew and decide that nothing would make my poor friends stuck at work happier than seeing me enjoy free time. They live for these photos, I am sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 22, 2018 at 9:10 pm

      That video’s so good! I love it when you’re laughing and want to maim someone at the same time. Story of my life, Allie. Anyhoo, your friends should consider themselves lucky that you’ll take time out from your fabulosity to rub their noses in it. That’s what mine constantly say.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 22, 2018 at 9:25 pm

        Now that you mention it, I need to do a better job of working fabulosity into my profile. People do need to know how lucky they are.

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 22, 2018 at 9:29 pm

          It’s exhausting, having to do people’s thinking for them, really. But I suppose the payoff is there.

          Liked by 1 person

  16. January 23, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    You had me at Travelympics. I think you need to write something about cruise ships. For people of a certain age (old), they hold a very strange attraction. They do vast ecological damage, belching out kerosene fumes and causing any attractive place near the sea to be overrun with slow moving, slightly bemused tightwads who won’t even have a coffee because it’s free on the ship. The local economy gets very little from their presence and once the place goes out of fashion (or in the case of Venice, sinks into the sea), they will be off to wreck somewhere else.
    Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 23, 2018 at 5:37 pm

      Conor… are you suggesting I actually GO on a cruise ship (in order to write about it?!) Because I won’t. I had one overnight cruise in Vietnam which will last me a lifetime. Cured me of wanting to cruise forever. I share your deeply felt principles on the subject. Even the mere mention of an organised entertainment now brings me out in a rash. Let us never speak of this again.

      Happy New Year to you too, by the way. Hope you’re doing strange and amazing new things for 2018, some of which even include cooking.


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