Comparatively, we are young travelers. There are many in our new community that have been at this much longer than we have. However, there are a few things we have learned, and we are starting to see a new trend: Tourist Shaming.
I am not going to add to the whole tourist vs. traveler debate. There’s plenty of that crap going around already. I want to talk about another issue I have seen as of late. I am a member of several groups and boards that share experiences and recommendations on countries and areas that we want to visit. After all, first-hand knowledge from the mouths of people who have been there before is way better than just a guide book or a tour pamphlet in a hotel lobby.
I am starting to see very generalized comments pertaining to a whole group of people. We have just finished three amazing months in Vietnam, where we traveled from the North to the South before exiting. We saw our share of sights, and since we enjoy people-watching as much as we enjoy food and beer, we had a never-ending show daily. We have seen almost everything I can imagine, from the selfie stick Olympian and the budding Instagram star to the pushy and loud people with no regard for anyone around them. I have seen a total disregard for the environment and the beauty of an attraction, or even just a beach.
These are all offenses that have been perpetrated by a minority of people, yet the impression of these events is so vivid that it burns at the forefront of my memories and those of many other travelers as well.
The posts and comments I have been seeing lately call out specific nationalities as though all of them are bad. Fingers are pointed at Chinese, Russians, and even “those damn Americans,” heaping them together in one large lump of undesirable scum!
This sense of judgment is unfair. Yes, there are people who have a total disregard for everything and everyone around them. Yes, there are loud and obnoxious people. Yes, there are people who lose their cool and become belligerent. Is it an entire nationality? Of course not. It really boils down to not being an ass, regardless of whether you are the person committing the traveling faux pas or the person observing them.
Remember when you travel that you are visiting a place that is not your home. Your expectations are not the reality that may exist in a particular place. You are a guest, and in that new location, there is another set of rules and guidelines. It’s called culture, and it’s different everywhere you go. Actually, it’s the reason we travel: to learn other cultures and to expand our views of the world we live in, to see things in a different way. We may not always agree with it, but we are guests, and we have the responsibility to see it from a perspective that is not our own.
I openly admit that I am guilty of clashing with things that are unfamiliar or foreign to me, but I am growing. In short, I am trying to not be an ass. That is the tip for this week. Pause and realize you are not home. This is someplace different. Don’t be an ass. Instead, try to be a light. Try to be that awesome (insert nationality here), and enjoy the experience.