Three Maligned Modern Tourists Defend Themselves

The adult Disney fanatic. The 47-year-old 'youth hosteler'. The private landlord who forces his kids to fly economy.

Here's one of the funniest facts about humans: every single one of us thinks we've figured it out. Other people and their opinions are simply not as good as ours. Travel is one of those things everyone thinks they do right and best.

We interviewed three people whose holiday habits seem precision-engineered to wind up people on Twitter and TikTok. The adult Disney fanatic who’s been on more than 70 Disney-themed holidays. A private landlord who flies first class while leaving his kids (and their nanny) to slum it in economy. And what about a 47-year-old who still stays in hostels?


Do these people deserve their pariah status? Or might we have something to learn from listening to their perspectives?

Here, we give them a chance to defend themselves.

The Property Magnate Who Ditches His Kids in Economy


Photo supplied by author

Samuel Leeds, a 32-year-old property investor from Buckinghamshire, travels in first class and leaves his six-year-old, five-year-old, and two-year-old in economy with their nanny. 

VICE: How did you and your wife come to this decision? 
Samuel Leeds: When we hired our nanny, I had a conversation with my wife saying we needed to explain to the nanny that part of their responsibility would be to sit with the kids on planes. Obviously we couldn’t take the kids first class because that would be inappropriate. To everybody else it seems shocking but to us it was just obvious. 

Why would it be inappropriate?
One reason is other passengers. A lot of people have saved up a long time to buy a first-class ticket – or they have a business meeting the next day and need to be fresh when they land. Also, as far as the kids are concerned, it doesn’t make any difference. To them, economy seats are huge. It also teaches them what the real world is about as opposed to having them in a bubble. 

You posted a TikTok about this and people were outraged – did you find the criticism valid?
A lot of people thought it was dangerous – on a plane they want to be sat with their kids protecting them – but that’s just ridiculous. People said holidays are about family and they’d rather be with their kids but I’m sure they wouldn’t, actually. If they were given the option to fly first class, they would. Some people said our kids wouldn’t look after us when we were old. Just nonsense, really. I didn’t lose any sleep. 


Do you think more people should do this?
Yeah. When you go on holiday with your kids and you arrive at a destination having slept well, you’re going to be able to give them a better holiday. A lot of people, when they travel, they’re moody and arguing. 

What about when the kids age?
Definitely as they get older, they’ll be able to fly first class – as long as they can afford to pay the bill. I grew up in a relatively poor working-class family. I think when you grow up rich and you have everything given to you on a plate, it ruins you. It robs you of any ambition to work hard and make your own money. I’d like to think that in 20-30 years, my kids will look back and thank me. 

– – – 

The Adult Disney Tourist


Photo supplied by author

Julie Mendez is a 39-year-old interior design student from North Carolina. She’s also a veteran of more than 70 Disney vacations – including cruises, theme parks, and resorts. Holidays elsewhere often disappoint her. 

VICE: You first went to Disney World aged nine – why keep going back?
Julie Mendez:
I think the main thing is that there is enough familiar to keep us feeling nostalgic but there’s enough new that it doesn’t feel like the same trip over and over again. 

You’ve been on a few non-Disney vacations, including a cruise to Mexico and a trip to Carolina Beach – but you wished you were at Disney instead?Absolutely. I would say that with our kids, we’re able to find fun wherever we go – but we find ourselves comparing meals we have to meals at Disney. The Mexico cruise wasn’t the same as the Disney cruise to Castaway Cay where there was an entire private beach. We felt safer in the ports – with Disney being such a big company and so concerned with their PR, we knew they were going to take extra steps to make sure they’re not going to any places that things could go bad.


Some people argue you should visit as many countries as possible – what do you think?
One of mine and my husband’s goals is to go to all of the Disney parks all over the world. So we are planning a trip to Tokyo Disney and Euro Disney at some point. When we work as hard as we do and we have some time off, I want to go to somewhere where I’m guaranteed to have a good time. 

Why go to Disneyland Paris when you could have a more “authentic” trip to Paris itself?
It’s hard to say that Paris itself would necessarily be a more authentic French experience when they might cater toward tourists anyways. Disney at least is upfront about it! 

Does EPCOT give you a sample of the world?
Any places that we’d want to travel, I feel like we can get the best of the best at EPCOT. I do have aspirations to go to Germany someday but I think in large part that’s because I have such a good time in the Germany Pavilion at EPCOT. Something tells me that if I do go to actual Germany and experience Oktoberfest there, it wouldn’t be the same. There are no rides! 

What do you think about the “Disney adult” label? 
I am absolutely a Disney adult – right now, I’m drinking out of an Ursula mug. Life’s too short. If we can find happiness, we should embrace it. 

– – – 


The 47-Year-Old Hostel Fanatic


Photo supplied by author

Carter Liotta is an optometrist from Philadelphia – he’s also a 47-year-old hostel fanatic. 

VICE: How did you fall in love with hostels?
Carter Liotta: I was a little late on the hosteling scene, I started when I was 26 and had just graduated. I went to London and stayed in a hostel in Shepherd’s Bush. Hostels are a great base of operations for everything and incredibly cheap as well. As my career progressed and I made more money, I decided to stick with hostels for the community. You meet people from around the world. 

Did you notice your hosteling experience changing as you aged?
In my late thirties I went to Hong Kong and I realised a generation gap was widening. This horrible thing happens when you approach midlife where you find that younger people are much smarter than you and they’re also in tune with the latest thing on TikTok; they all follow the same influencer you’ve never heard of. 

Did people start treating you differently?
I’ve never had any experiences where I was shunned but people would say “hello” then just gravitate to people closer to their age. You start to feel like a ghost in the room. But I love hostels because you never feel lonely – you always find one or two people you click with. Increasingly, I’m finding a lot of people my age or older. 


Do you think it’s important that hostels are intergenerational?
I do. I’ve become a little bit wary of the rise of Airbnb, I worry young people will gravitate away from the community experience. I have learned something every time I go to a hostel.

How do you avoid seeming like a creepy older traveler?
I no longer book in the dorms, I do a private room. I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ in people’s memories – “Hey, do you remember when we stayed in that hostel in Berlin and there was that old guy who snored the whole night?” In Thailand I inserted myself into a group going to dinner and there was definitely a maturity gap – I felt unwanted, so I left fairly early. There is a point when life changes and you have to change tack. In Mumbai I met a woman from France who was 60 and wrinkled, smoking ultra-slim cigarettes. She had wonderful stories about her failed marriages and affairs and the year she spent on a boat with her lover. In my twenties, I wouldn’t have listened. Now I’m in my midlife, I love stories of life experience. 

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity. 

Follow Amelia Tait on Twitter.