Matt and I have a pet peeve. They’re called shitty travelers. They can be found wearing booty shorts at a Buddhist temple or eating McDonald’s everyday. Not exactly the most responsible travel. They’re uninformed, rude and give a bad rep to other travelers.
The nonsense stops here!
I’ve come up with a plan to avoid being a shitty traveler and to be get into responsible travel. Because c’mon, you’re totally better than that.
1. Respect local culture
It’s so simple and yet too many overlook it. For instance, let’s look at Thailand. For many, this country is all about its beach destination and party islands. These islands are almost a no man’s land as westerners have completely taken over with their bikinis and hamburgers. Thai people are actually quite shy and conservative. For example, Thai women do not wear bathing suits at the beach as they instead opt to hang out in shorts and a t-shirt in the water. I would get so angry when I’d see western women topless as Thai children with their mothers were passing by. Smarten up, you can survive a few weeks abroad adhering to someone else’s rules. It’s about respect, don’t be a jerk.
Tip: Observe and ask yourself if a local person would be doing this. Trust your gut feeling. If your gut feeling isn’t trust worthy (that must suck huh), read up on the topic online.
2. Google stuff
This is so simple it blows my mind. In every country there are destinations to avoid, scams to watch out for. Yet, people still complain about getting scammed or getting sucked in tourist traps. The internet is FULL of reviews from fellow travelers which can usually give some hints on a place or activity. I wouldn’t encourage depending only on these but it’s a great way to get informed on what to expect. I’ve witnessed people getting conned by scams that were talked about over and over again in discussion boards and blogs.
Tip: Lonely Planet has some great discussion boards. If you have a question, odds are it’s been discussed on these forums.
3. Stop using the word “weird”
Places are different. That’s how the world works and that’s awesome. Instead of noting everything as an outsider and how “weird” things are or how “back home we don’t do that” simply embrace how things are where you are, in the present. Energy spent on complaining on how things are slow or weird is energy wasted. It’s a lot more fun to laugh about mishaps or oddities (though not always easy) and how good of a story it’ll be when back home. To remove yourself as a critical eye and to simply live with a situation takes a lot of effort but enriching to the travel experience.
Tip: Shut up and enjoy!
4. Eat local
I absolutely understand the craving for western food if traveling for a long time so once in a while, a trip to Pizza Hut is no crime. However, don’t be afraid to eat local! Prices are much cheaper, ingredients are usually more fresh and you’re helping out the local economy. Some foods will look “weird” and “unappealing” but it’s always rewarding to try something new. If you don’t like it, no problem! What’s important is to try different foods a great tool to get an insight on local life!
Tip: If a restaurant only has an English menu or has the word “authentic” on it, it’s NOT!
5. Take less photos
I myself need to work on this step. I absolutely love my camera and taking photos. However, it’s important to look around with your own eyes and understand what’s around instead of simply traveling behind a lens. There is no need to take a photo of every monument, every mountain, every meal or ever person you see. I have actually been approached by people who want their photo taken in front of something that later ask me what they’re standing in front of. Ridiculous! Be conscious of where you are, enjoy the place, meet someone new and if you still feel it’s photo worthy, then go ahead. The internet doesn’t need more shitty travel photos.
Tip: At the end of the day, delete bad photos so you don’t have hundreds to organize later.