My Personal Travel Philosophy

As I stated before, it never ceases to amaze me that more travellers don’t get themselves into more trouble while traveling. Common sense seems to fly out the window when people are on vacation.

What is he talking about you might ask. Well, consider this: You are a tourist from Canada or the United States, and you decide to buy a souvenir from a shop on the main street of a Mexican town. You pay for your purchase by fishing out a US$50 bill out of a wad of perhaps 20 ($1,000 worth). The clerk gives you your change, bags your purchase, and you are off down the street to browse more shops. The clerk is probably honest, but stop to consider the scene from their side of things. They might earn the equivalent of US$1,000 in perhaps six months, if she has a good paying job. More likely, it would take her longer to earn what you are packing around in your purse or wallet as spending money.

The bottom line: If you are from Canada, the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan or other affluent countries, you are likely to be considered very wealthy by other people’s standards. Conceal your wealth, and only show a limited amount of currency while purchasing goods and services. Not only is it rude to flaunt your (relative) wealth in poorer people’s faces, it can be downright dangerous! (See Personal security)

On a more positive note, you should keep in mind that you are traveling in foreign countries

  • Their customs, morals, laws, and language are not the same as where you come from, by definition.
  • Be conservative in your manner and how you dress.
  • Make an attempt to learn some of the local culture, and sample the life the locals are living wherever possible.
  • Go to public markets, and have a look at the fruits, vegetables, fish and fowl that are for sale. Breath in the smells and experience the sounds of commerce.
  • Stop into the local cafe for some refreshment, and strike up a conversation with the “regulars”.
  • Smile and be friendly – don’t assume everyone in the town is ready to rob you or rip you off! Show some respect and good humour, and it will be returned to you – enriching your travel experiences.

Don’t try to see every sight the first time through a country. It can’t be done! Leave some things for next time. Grab shots as you pass interesting spots, and make a note of the frame number and write a description as soon as possible.

Respect people’s privacy when taking photos. Don’t take pictures of people unless they previously approve, or they are paid performers. When taking pictures of street scenes, ensure there are not people in the foreground. Wait for people to pass, if necessary. If you want to take a picture of a local person, ask their permission first. Don’t offer them money! That’s a surefire way to insult them. I have rarely had anyone refuse my request to take their picture (except Arab women). If they do refuse, thank them anyway, and move on. There will be other photo opportunities.

I realize this is sometimes easier said than done, especially if you have a language barrier. However, try it once, and I guarantee you will enjoy your traveling much more.

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