I strained my calf a while ago. Scintillating, I know, but there’s a point here.
A friend I hadn’t seen in a while noticed me limping when I went to visit her, and she asked me how I hurt my leg.
“Oh,” I said, “I was on this cruise ship off the coast of Spain, and I decided I’d run some laps, you know, to stay in shape or whatever. So I’m just looking out at the view of Barcelona, and I get all excited and start running too fast and, bam, my calf just seizes up.”
She looked at me like I’d just told her I hurt it playing whiffle ball. After a longer-than-normal pause she said, expressionless:
“You could have just said ‘I hurt it running.’”
And this was when I realized that I had become a place dropper. Like its equally insufferable cousin, the name dropper, a place dropper will interject some far-off locale into a story that has nothing to do with the place, in hopes that whoever is listening will think said dropper is cool and worldly. Or, hopefully, ask them more questions so they can talk a liiiiittle bit more about themselves and their experience.
And it’s poor, poor travel manners.
As travel becomes more common, learning not to place drop is an essential social skill. And it’s a skill a lot of people lack without even realizing.
Take my friend who recently told me he’d been discussing with his mom — while in Bali — what to get his dad for Christmas.
Was it a line of aromatic oils and a new outlook on mindfulness? No? Still a tie? Ok, then. So Bali was about as important to the story as the brand of toothpaste he used that morning.
But, of course, my follow up question wasn’t supposed to be about Christmas presents at all. It was supposed to open a floodgate of info about his trip to Bali, which I had about as much interest in hearing as I did in his thoughts on radial tires.
He, of course, had no way of knowing this. Because the flood of fake support people get on social media makes us believe any time we talk about somewhere trendy, everyone’s ears will perk up.
But here’s the thing, self-proclaimed world traveller (because you spell it with two “l”s now): It’s neat that you’re a globetrotter and collect passport stamps like stamps on your coffee rewards card. But like a lot of enviable achievements, most people who aren’t able to do it generally don’t want to hear about it. And dropping “in Maui” at the end of a story about going out to buy hemorrhoid cream makes you look about as tasteful as the guy who feels the need to mention he went home with the waitress when recommending a good Martini bar.
Some might say, “Hey, Matt, chill out. People like hearing my stories of international exploration!”
No, actually, they don’t. The fact is, much like most people never wanted to see your vacation photos when you got home in the days before social media, they have no interest in your envy-inducing tale of overwater bungalows in the Maldives. Unless they specifically ask. It’s in the same family as how much money you make, how well your kids are doing in school, or your keto diet. People may listen politely and ask questions when they run out of small talk, but generally, it’s a lot of one-sided bragging. And that’s why God invented Instagram.
You might also say, “But remembering where I was is how I remember a good story!’
Fair enough, so here’s a simple rule:
If your location is integral to the point of a story, then place name away. But if the story would be the same anywhere, and you mention it anyway, you’re place dropping, and you’re the worst.
Take the person who recently felt the need to tell me about an enlightening conversation they had with a former Marine about US foreign policy… at a beach bar in Australia. Knowing Marines, I’d guess said Devil Dog would have spouted the same bar-fueled rant in Sandusky, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; or really anywhere he found someone who would sit still for 90 minutes.
Now, had you had the same conversation in, say, Okinawa, Japan, where thousands of Marines are stationed and have a unique viewpoint on US relations there, naming where you were might have some relevance.
Otherwise, cool on you, bro. You went to Australia.
Like people who attended Ivy League schools and don’t perpetually mention their alma mater (Looking at you, Duke. HARD), people who travel don’t need to mention that hilarious time they got a parking ticket… in Paris. Place dropping is both tasteless and tacky, and as I learned when visiting my friend — in a place I don’t need to mention — sometimes it’s best to just say, “I hurt it running.”