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Meeting Travelers in Hotel Etiquette

Hotel Etiquette for Meeting Travelers: Talk to everybody SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- I have rented out a good room in a good hotel in the south of Mexico. I have been here for a couple of months, further developing Vagabond Journey and chasing the goal of turning this project into a full time [...]

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Hotel Etiquette for Meeting Travelers: Talk to everybody

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- I have rented out a good room in a good hotel in the south of Mexico. I have been here for a couple of months, further developing Vagabond Journey and chasing the goal of turning this project into a full time living. I am comfortable in this hotel, I treat it like my home. Sometimes I become annoyed at the presence of other guests when they clog the kitchen or take over my working area or do drugs out on the balcony — the notion of home often brings out an inherent defensive reaction.

I am a traveler: I do not visit hotels, I live in hotels.

Though I have met many travelers here, when I am working I go into a hermit cave. I don’t come out again until my daily work is completed.

There was this backpacker who stayed in the hotel for a few days. We did not speak one word to each other, we would not greet each other as we passed, we would use the kitchen in turn, he would cook shrimp three times a day. We treated each other with cold indifference.

Mexican vegetables

I record the words of others, I take what other people say as a crowbar into sealed chests of new knowledge, new topics to write about. Having conversation with strangers is a part of my job. For some reason I did not want to talk to this guy, I did not even feel the urge to grunt in his direction. My wife referred to him as a douche.

He left the hotel this morning, but before doing so he greeted me in the kitchen:

“Do you speak English?” he asked.

I confirmed that I did, in fact, speak English.

“I am leaving today, and I am wondering if you would like this bag of vegetables?”

He pointed to a giant shopping bag full of fresh veggies that were sitting on a counter top. He was giving me a lot of food.

Bag of Mexican vegetables offered by traveler in hotel

Of course, I accepted; of course, I felt like an ass.

I started a conversation and realized that I had missed an opportunity to hear a traveler tale or two, to find out about where someone came from, to make a friend.


When in hotels, talk to everyone as a rule — this is good travel etiquette, this is the true joy of traveling. In point, I can never know when I am on the cusps of making a friend, I will never know when someone identifiable only as a douche is going to turn upon me, smile, and give me a big bag of vegetables — an offering of friendship.

Travel tips are often born out of travel mistakes.


Filed under: Culture and Society, Travel Tips, Traveler Culture

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3705 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

7 comments… add one

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  • mercury November 13, 2010, 4:23 pm

    Reminds me of mr darcy in pride and prejudice. everyone thought he was proud and egotistical. turns out he was just shy. we blunder whenever we judge to quickly.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 14, 2010, 12:51 pm

      Right on, it is funny how humans have this natural capacity to judge people — perhaps this is a defensive mechanism that keeps us safe — that often backfires.

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  • vagabondette November 15, 2010, 1:12 pm

    🙂 I see a lot of myself in this one. I too get territorial about my hostel. I was making dinner last night and was beyond annoyed when a big, loud group of others also wanted to make their dinner. It was inconvenient but it’s a price you pay for sharing space. 🙂

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 15, 2010, 2:45 pm

      Yes, travelers live in the hotels they stay in, these places are our homes — and we tend to want to keep them livable. Difficult sometimes when living with other people who are just stomping through haha.

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  • Dave from The Longest Way Home November 16, 2010, 11:15 am

    are you sure that wasnt me ha ha. Same here, the alpha male effect i think. But yes, saying hello is good. So is saying “ass (%@” when someone does not say hello back!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 16, 2010, 1:54 pm

      Haha, it could have been you!

      It is interesting to view the dichotomy between private and public when traveling. When hotels and hostels become your home it is difficult — near impossible — to keep the two separated. I don’t always want to feel compelled to have to talk to people each time I want to walk somewhere in my own abode, but, at the same time, speaking and being friendly are the terms of the engagement.

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  • Jori Taina May 15, 2013, 5:47 am

    This is indeed so true (the getting to know people).. A while back we went to Egypt and thanks to my nature of talking to almost anybody I meet got saved twice on that trip.. 1st time was on the first day when we arrived – didn’t have enough cash and the banks were closed -.- and we were hungry as h*ll.. From the younger couple I got a short time loan so we could get something to eat before the banks opened *omnomnom*

    The 2nd time was when were leaving Egypt and we were at the airport. Had some cash left and thought we’d do some last minute shopping (pay the rest with card). Unfortunately there was some sort of connection problem so the cashier couldn’t process our cards – and neither did the ATM’s work *oh c’mon! first time I’ve heard of such* We really wanted the stuff but were short like 50$ or so.. There was this really nice older couple that I met several times during the trip (ex-mil couple).. Went up to them and asked if he could help us out in a pinch. I would repay the moment we’d get back to our country where the ATM’s are just right outside the terminal – he thought about my suggestion for a while and his wife nodded her approval > *cheers*

    When we landed back home – ran to get my luggage and straight to the ATM. Few minutes later the couple came trough the doors, gave them the cash and thanked them once more. The trip got an happy ending.

    So keep in mind – getting in touch with people on your trips might just put the food on your table > So don’t be a d*ck (if possible). Never know who might end up helping you.

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