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Photo: spammo91

Jonesing for a look into the souls of the Matador team? Here are some of our most guilty travel pleasures.

Everyone has a guilty pleasure. Maybe you sing along to Kelly Clarkson when no one’s looking, watch Golden Girls reruns, or spend afternoons on the couch reading celebrity gossip magazines. The point is, you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help it.

But sometimes it feels good to just air it out. Tell the world proudly, without a hint of shame, “Yes, I wear women’s panties and I don’t care what you think!”

Guilty pleasures are about something more than meets the eye. They can act as a window into the internal self; who we are beyond our cool guy (or gal) exterior. These pleasures are what make us real, flawed, human, and just plain fun to hang out with.

Yes, I wear women’s panties and I don’t care what you think!

After all, who wants to be around Mr. Boring/Perfect all the time? Give us the guy who somehow tracked down the Facts of Life and You Can’t Do That On Television DVDs any day. Or the chick who secretly prefers a bacon double cheeseburger and a beer after a long hike.

Just for kicks, we’ve compiled a list of our travel guilty pleasures. So, here you go. Take a deep look into our souls…and offer up your own guilty pleasures in the comments.

Come on, we know you want to get it off your chest!

The Matador team shares their guilty pleasures

Carlo (@vagab0nderz): Mine’s a literal guilty pleasure. In China I could not get used to the blatant staring. I tried to ignore it, but eventually gave up and started to snap. I turned to striking up one way conversations with the starers, speaking in loud English of course. “Hey. How’s it going? Like what you see? Anything else I can do for you?” That sort of stuff. For me it was a pleasure in that I wasn’t holding the feeling inside anymore, but letting it go. The guilt was from me being a bit rude. But they never understood anyway. Or did they?

Photo: 摩根

Christine (@livingholistic): When I was vegan, demanding we go through hell and high water to find me meat-free, dairy-free, honey-free, food (definitely my pleasure and not anyone else’s who was traveling with me!). Nowadays, it’s probably drinking coffee and eating whatever the hell I want and saying, “I’m on vacation, damnit!” (even if it’s more like four months of travel).

David (@dahveed_miller): I love getting my hair cut in local places when I’m traveling / living abroad. A couple standouts: Punta Abreojos in Mexico. A woman there gave me a haircut, then without me mentioning a shave she whipped out the razor. Ok. That’s cool. When she was done I looked in the mirror and she’d fully styled me out with the haircut, shave, and a tight little mustache. I left it for a day.

Eva (@evaholland): Cheesy souvenirs. I am powerless before their tacky, silly, Made-in-China charms. However, I’ve recently limited myself to semi-useful items like fridge magnets, mugs and notebooks. That helps to reduce the clutter and post-trip regrets, a little.

Hal (@halamen): I’m gonna steal one from Teresa. Though I usually try to keep the accommodation costs down, sometimes I splurge for a room with cable TV to catch up on all that quality programming I’ve missed.

Another, allowing myself to think I’m better than the backpacker passing through town for a couple days, just ’cause I’m staying for a month. In fact, I’m experiencing this one as I type and can say it generates a lot more guilt than pleasure.

Photo: dawvon

Ian (@ianmack): Busting out the guidebook. Of course, I often ask other backpackers/locals for the hidden hole-in-the-wall gems… but when I’m stumbling off an 8 hour bus/boat/plane ride, the guidebook recommendations are gospel.

Jen: Any restaurant, anywhere, that serves bottomless sodas. I admit it, I’m an addict, but I bristle when I have to pay for more than one hit.

Juliane (@JulianeH): The boys. What can I say, I’m a bit of a dog. I love checking out each country’s eye candy.

Julie (@collazoprojects): Because I’m blonde, lots of locals in the countries I frequent (Latin America, mostly) think I don’t speak Spanish fluently. I’ll let them chatter on for a few and then edge in on the conversation and totally get off on their surprise that I speak Spanish. I’m addicted to the way the dynamic suddenly changes and I’m brought into the fold. I’m also really addicted to digging into a place and staying a while and becoming as local as a gringa can become.

Josh (@joshywashington): My guilty travel pleasure is wistfully watching some local beauty round the corner and out of sight wondering what it would be like to be with her, or be her…

Photo: telethon

Kate: Being mistaken for native by English speaking tourists. I might let them haltingly stutter for a bit longer than necessary in a foreign tongue before I reveal my dastardly English speaking ways.

Lola: Patches. Not just any ol’ country patch, but really cool, simple ones with nice edges that I can easily sew onto a fleece jacket or top. After sewing on the first 3, the rest have joined (and keep joining) the “pile”. Apparently I don’t have enough fleece tops.

Michelle (@StrayNotes): Mine’s kind of like Julie’s, but kind of the opposite, too! I whip out the Portuguese when I don’t want someone to know I speak English. Here in Korea, it’s not unusual to sit next to someone on the subway that wants to practice their English with you. (And usually, they need a lot of practice!) I don’t want to be rude, but teaching English six hours a day is enough for me! So “não falo Inglês” has come in handy a few times.

Nick (@pharaonick): If a taxi driver catches my eye whilst I’m trying to cross the road, I’ll let him screech to a halt, as if I need the ride. I’ll then saunter up to him and ask where it is he needs directions to. Naughty, but you take your small victories where you can!

Ross (@rossborden): McDonald’s. Besides the occasional Egg McMuffin at 6 AM on the way to a Tahoe day trip, I literally don’t ever eat at McD’s in the US, but when traveling this is not always the case. Sometimes when you’re in a train station, or it’s late and nothing else is open, or you’re simply starving and don’t feel like taking a gamble on some little hole in the wall across the street, McDonalds provides predictable regularity that I crave.

And more often than not, between tearing into my Quarter Pounder with cheese and stuffing handfuls of golden fries into my mouth, I strike up a conversation with some cute locals. I went to a McDonald’s in Stockholm at 2 AM and it was like a discotec in there. Right at in the center of the nightlife district, this place was three stories tall and packed with young people straight out of the bars. We ended up chilling in there for 20 minutes after we’d finished eating, shooting the shit with a bunch of college students.

Sarah: Doing nothing at all. Spending entire days reading or camping out in a nowhere city, and giving a pass to all the traveler-themed things I should be doing (seeing orangutans, visiting temples, doing something “cultural,” etc.)

Teresa: I love staying in hotels. Even cheesy chain hotels. I love the tiny shampoo, the white towels, watching horrible American TV on cable. And when they give you one of those teeny coffee makers? Aaaahhh.

Photo: chidorian

Tim (@TCPatterson): I can’t stop myself from pulling the odd prank while on the road. In Japan I would sometimes go fishing with a fly-rod in parks and shopping malls. A ¥1,000 note makes great bait, and I would catch everyone from old ladies to salary men. No hooks of course, just tape, though once my line got tangled in the spokes of a man’s bicycle.

In Boulder, Colorado, I switch it up and go hippie fishing instead, replacing the money with a joint rolled with oregano. One time a bum chased that joint 3 blocks down Pearl Street. The best spot for hippie fishing in Boulder is the back steps of the Downer.

Tom Gates (@waywardlife): Pizza. I’ve been collecting my Worst Pizza pictures over the past six months, during my trip. No matter how bad I know it’s going to be I still can’t resist ordering it when I’ve overdosed on local cuisine. So far Chile takes the lead with this beauty. Note that the cheese is not melted and that the ham (cold) is about an inch thick. And yes, those are cherries on top.

Don’t be shy, tell us your dirty little secret below!

With special reporting by Carlo Alcos.



About The Author

BNT Editors

This post was written by the BNT editors.

  • Hal

    Hmm…now we’ve done it. It’s out there for all the world to see.

  • rita moreno

    Well… I am Portuguese and usually like to ask for stuff and answer people in my language instead of English whenever i’m bored or angry. So, Michelle, I know what you mean :)

  • Stevo

    Great guilty pleasures, all of them. Tim’s fishing is one I may have to try.

  • Metalchick

    I loved this post! Guilty pleasures are great little decadent surprises for everyone to enjoy. Because I tend to travel for work and only get fast-paced weekend escapes, my guilty pleasure tends to be taking a day off from work during the weekday, finding a park, and reading a juicy romance or fiction novel. One of my best days ever was sitting in Hyde Park in Sydney reading the new Harry Potter while watching the old men play chess and kids run past. I loved that day!

  • Sarah Menkedick

    Brilliant, Carlo! I thought of one that’s far worse than the one above:

    Shopping malls. I actually find shopping malls kind of anthropologically fascinating in other countries whereas I despise them in the U.S. But for some reason they can be so bizarre in other places (China, for example) and I can get a sort of thrill out of ‘em. Guilty, I know.

    And I’m right there with Tom as far as the pizza goes.

  • Carlo Alcos

    The first pizza we had in Melbourne was actually a lot like that pizza Tom talks about…except there were no cherries. Mind you, it is not indicative of the pizzas (and other food) you can get here. We’ve found amazing pizza places, and some of them cheap too.

    Sarah, I was just in a mall the other day and remembered how much I hate them, they give me the willies. But I’ll admit I haven’t paid much attention to malls in foreign countries (if I’ve been in one that is), so will have to keep that in mind next time I’m on the road!

  • Turner Wright

    I gambled to fund my New Zealand travels; just go to the Skycity Casino in Auckland and you’ll see what I mean. Perfect pair bets on blackjack are my speciality – how could I turn down 25:1 odds?

  • luke nye

    McDonald s i would agree, i eat there too much overseas, very seldom in America though. It seems to taste better in other countries. That and cheap burgers and kababs in London, they are so good, I really want one now.

  • JoAnna

    Thanks for letting us get to know our Matador gurus just a bit better. I’m surprised that hotels are such a soft spot!

    My guilty pleasure is sort of like Julie’s and Michelle’s, but I find myself doing it at home sometimes too. When the “need” arises to talk about someone within listening range, my husband and I switch to Swahili. Sometimes we just have a word or two about the guy with the fanny pack wrapped about his waist and something has to be said.

    This works just about everywhere we’ve traveled.

  • Kate

    Ahhhhh ha ha ha! Also, I wear women’s panties. Heh heh.

  • Ren

    Hee, McDonald’s became a bit of a guilty pleasure once I hit Macau and Hong Kong. It didn’t help that there was a McDonald’s right at Senado Square in Macau, which started the craving for McDonald’s french fries… The smell would permeate the air as I was admiring the old Portuguese architecture. And the various dipping sauces for the McNuggets in Hong Kong were great!

    Another guilty pleasure for me was collecting souvenir shirts… Most of them were cheesy and made me just another traveler/tourist, but I didn’t care. Also, I started collecting keychains as well.

  • Mike

    I was going to say eating lots of sweets, but nothing gives me more guilt and more pleasure than purse snatching.

  • Dan

    My hometown has nothing in the way of Ice Cream places like Swensens, Haagen Daz and Ben & Jerrys so I like to indulge a bit when they are available. It’s a nice escape from the heat of Thailand, Cambodia or wherever I may be.

  • Michelle

    Rita- LOL, having a second language can really come in handy!

    JoAnna- My husband and I have a bad habit of talking about the people around us in English. When we see foreigners, we switch to Portuguese too. I’m worried about when we move to New York- we’re going to get busted!

  • Natalie

    Watching youtube videos and not leaving the apartment for a whole day. Sometimes I don’t want to answer the question, where am I from

  • Atraveler

    These are so funny! I usually like to make funny faces at people when I’m abroad. It is funny how people react back. Some keep staring, others laugh and some just get mad.
    But its perfect if you want to make a dull day fun. You could even try it at home. It doesn’t have to be when traveling.

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  • Audrey

    McDonald’s for hot fudge sundaes. From Guatemala to Malaysia, the cost is about $1 everywhere and the ice cream is consistently creamy, comforting and delicious. The hot fudge sauce is just the perfect, gooey compliment.

    I also greet people and smile at people with really stern faces just to throw them off.

  • Melí

    I once crossed the border from Honduras to Guatemala just for McDonalds. The nearest one in Honduras was bout an hour and a half away. Guatemala, 30 minutes.

  • joshywashington

    When I was bumming around Italy, after a few months I would sell my soul for a greasy Big Mac!

  • Claudio

    @Ross, here in Buenos Aires MickeyD’s are thumping as late as 6am as well, it’s a literal disco! We’ve taken to calling it McBoliche (boliche means discotheque in Buenos Aires slang). My friend went so far as to play dumb with our cabbie and asked him to take him to McBoliche so that he could “Comer una hamburguesa y bailar con chicas.” The cabbie just stared at him.

  • Nick Rowlands

    Fantastic post and comments. Judging by the reactions, it almost should have been called McConfessions from the road.

    I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s, though I eat it occasionally. I think their greatest contribution to humanity is as a highly visible, easy to find public toilet. Nothing like a good McSh@t ….

    • Christine Garvin

      He he.

      Yep, that’s about the only reason I’ve stepped into a Mickey D’s in the past few years…

  • Eva

    Funny how so many people are mentioning McD’s! I’ve hardly ever eaten it on the road (on the way home after a late night out is another story…) mostly because I don’t seem to see that many McDonald’s locations. Somehow, I always seem to wind up fulfilling those fast food cravings at far-flung Burger King outlets!

  • DHarbecke

    What is this, the Disney Channel? Great googly moogly, I was expecting something a little racier… thanks for (indirectly) making me feel like a felon… ;D

    • Carlo

      Funny Daniel…you’re raising some questions, what with your previous comments on the ethically dubious ways to save money article. When are we going to read about yours? :)

      • DHarbecke

        Keep watching the headlines! Until then, there’s some lighter reading at the post office.

        Pesky wanted posters… they never get my good side! :)

  • Tim Patterson

    Another guilty pleasure:

    Walking past Japanese tourists while muttering “Oh crap, I just shat my pants!” in Japanese.

  • ginny

    My guilty pleasure is people watching, you know watching while a family screams at each other at the top of their lungs about the curling iron that exploded, or the camera batteries that vanished on the plane. It reminds me what I want my trips to be about…pleasure, and there is no pleasure in blaming your kids for crushing your only pair of Ray Bans while playing a friendly round of “Im not touching you.” I also have a habit of not writing a journal but jotting down funny quotes that I hear or drawing my rendition of the local graffiti.

  • Steven Roll

    My guilty pleasure is watching Friends or Sienfeld reruns at the hotel. Especially if I’m somewhere in Latin America and the shows have Spanish subtitles. I hardly ever watch TV at home, so it’s definitely a guilty pleasure.

  • Maureen Maloney

    My guilty pleasures are long, hot showers. Especially if the hostel has good water pressure, I will steam up the entire bathroom. At home I feel guilty for using all that water and energy, but while traveling I tell myself I make up for it with all the days I don’t shower.

  • Tabatha

    Okay, my guilty pleasure is not very nice. When getting off trains in India, the Indians don’t politely step aside and let people off; they try and crowd on which blocks alighting passengers. I’ve taken more than a few out with my heavy rucksack and I’m sorry to say, I enjoyed it every time. I’m generally a non-violent pacifist, but on a hot day, faced with a massive group of Indians crowding onto a train that I have mere seconds to get off before it leaves, something in me snaps.

    There you go, DHarbecke, I hope you feel less like a felon. . .

  • Eman

    I hate to admit this, but one of my favorite pastimes when traveling is flipping on the TV in my hotel room.

    On my first day in Peru, I caught an episode of The Office. Or should I say, La Oficina. Next to hiking the Sacred Trail to Macchu Picchu, it was the highlight of my trip.

  • Kt

    PG guilty pleasure? Fortune cookies. I know the fortune is created to pertain to the masses, but it always makes me feel better.

    The pleasure I really do feel guilty about? Being nice to a stranger at the bar just to get a free drink…

  • Beth

    My guilty pleasure is taking “McPhotos”. I do try to be original and take artsie looking photographs, but I can’t resist taking those cliche shots too!

  • jami

    Lying on the beach. It’s a terrible waste of time when there’s so much culture to enjoy in a distant land. But I love it, and if it weren’t for my husband, it’d be all I’d do on every vacation.

  • Kirsten

    I’m a vegetarian so McDonalds doesn’t really do it for me, but I’ve been known to walk miles to get to an Indian restaurant. Other than a little variation in spiciness it’s pretty much the same everywhere, and the Indian staff always speak English.

    My other guilty pleasure? Trying to make babies/toddlers laugh when their parents aren’t looking. In Japan, my ability to shush cranky kids seemed nearly magical. They were so surprised to see a foreigner making funny faces at them that they forgot to be upset.

    • Carlo

      Cute, but hardly guilty! :)

      I’m more the opposite with kids…I’ll make mean faces at them. Once on the tram while I was carrying a BBQ home I just bought, a kid asked his mom “what’s that?” I quietly said it’s for cooking little kids like you…mwah ha ha ha….now THAT’s a guilty pleasure!

      (DISCLAIMER: I have never, and would never consider, cooking and eating little children)

  • mariajessica

    Juliane’s is classic! I think it’s safe to say that that’s kind of mine too :)

  • Stephanie

    Haha Tim,
    I just graduated from CU and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you fishing before! AAAAND I pretty much peed my pants when I read that.

    My guilty pleasure? Staying up all night planning what I’m going to do the next day, and then shamelessly sleeping all day. I feel like I’m defying my own internal pressure to get out and see everything I can. I’ll just use whatever I missed as an excuse to go back ;)

  • Wendy

    Carlo, I do the same in Germany when the staring gets too much. Or sometimes just blow a kiss-that usually gets them looking elsewhere!
    And McDonalds,,,,,had never eaten it beofre I left America, but somehow it is comfort food when you’re away! I also like fridge magnets, small enough not to be a bother, but still a tangible cheesy memory of a trip. I have the best decorated fridge in town!

  • Stacey

    My guilty pleasure, I’ve discovered since beginning my 10 month South American trip three months ago, is having my laundry done, and I’m not talking about drop-off or even pick-up/delivery laundry service either. While I am staying in hostels ocassionally, mostly I am couchsurfing and have had the incredibly fortunate experience of staying with people who have regular housekeeping services. After instructing me that during my stay what’s theirs is mine (the likes of such generosity from strangers I’d never seen before!), they tell me when their nana is coming and ask if I have clothes to wash.
    Perhaps other long-term travelers agree with me that it’s a great pleasure having clean clothes, fresh choices of what to wear from our limited warddrobes. Of course, on that note, I’m thrilled even when I stay with CS hosts and they have a washing machine but no nana.

  • Gwen Van Jules

    When I’m driving long distances, I love listening to the trashiest flipping’ radio station I can find. Like, teenager club pop galore. It makes me feel happy and badass. I don’t care.

  • Edcheetham

    Telling absolute lies to other travellers, when you get sick of the same “where are you from” “what do you do at home?” etc. Yes I’m a fireman/run a dog shelter/semi-professional footballer.   Also walking past people in the street pretending to be on the phone and just as they are in earshot saying really weird things. 

  • Nadia | Gap Daemon

    Mine is local supermarkets. I love them!

    • Wandersoftheworld

      i agree with you! checking out the local brands for coke and chocolate

  • amsterdam

    Talking to the before mentioned staring people in my native language, which is Dutch. My comments aren’t very kind nor polite, but I always smile while saying things like “Stop staring at me that way, you look like  an absolute idiot.”

    I love the way they stop walking  in total surprise I noticed them and how they’re totally puzzled on what kind of noise came out of my mouth.  

  • Sam Egendorf


  • Jessica

    This article is great. I relate to this so much.  When I used to get homesick, especially when I was in Russia, I used to watch whole seasons of “The OC” or all the “Step It Up” movies. I know I should have been in the Hermitage soaking up worldly art… but sometimes you just need a little comfort television.

  • Bcdcompostela

    Local bookstores :)

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