Travel Etiquette: Be An Informed Traveler
It has come to this. I can’t believe these things need to be said. Stiff competition in the airline industry driven by budget airlines has democratized traveling. While it is still a privilege, traveling ceased to be the elusive unicorn. Traveling opportunities now reach more people tanks to the internet and promo fares. People have learned hacks to make traveling possible. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is unfortunate that the increased awareness about traveling does not always come with manners, etiquette, and quite frankly, common sense. I’ll be sharing a few tips on how to become an informed and responsible traveler.
1) Research about your destination.
In the age of the internet, there is no excuse to be ignorant. In addition to looking up the weather and places of interest, it will also be helpful to learn a little bit more about the country you’re visiting. Know their culture and social norms. This will prepare you on what to expect and guide you in itinerary planning and packing. With only a few hours spent on research, you’ll avoid being that guy raging on the internet because you’re not allowed to eat in public during Ramadan in Dubai. Or that girl who missed the splendor of the temples because you insisted to just bring your hot pants. In short, don’t be that person who missed the memo.
2) Be considerate of other people.
Newsflash: The world doesn’t revolve around you. This means there are other tourists/travelers who are also set to have a grand time. I will not be the one to tell you that you are taking one too many pictures. But know this: People definitely did not visit the place to watch your photoshoot. Sure, you want to get the best instagrammable photo and you paid good money to get there. But so did all the other people there. And maybe, just maybe, they want to enjoy the view/artwork/moment in peace. Without your hair, flailing arms, or legs in sight. Maybe they also want to have a good photo without any of your body parts. The point is, you can take a million photos as long as you don’t crowd on other people’s space or rob them of the opportunity to enjoy. And even before you think it, let me put it out there. There is nothing more crass than someone saying “I paid to get here, so I can do what I want”. Let me pick me eyes off the floor. Tip: If you want nice photos with no people around and have all the time in the world, go very early ( I mean right by sunrise) or stay late.
3) Follow the signs, your guide, and commons sense.
The government did not spend money to put up those signs for aesthetics. The guide isn’t there to be your photographer. Your guide and the signs have a purpose and that is to keep you informed and safe. When the sign says stay away from the ledge, better stay away. When the guide says there is a real danger of sneaker waves, stay away from the shore. Don’t be a casualty. Don’t add to the statistics. Most of tourist accidents can be avoided by using basic common sense. If you’ve never driven in snow, maybe it’s not the best time to learn while on the trip around Iceland in the winter. Large amounts of resources can go into search and rescue of avoidable accidents. Our guide shared that one of his guests got too close to the edge of the cliff trying to get a selfie with the glaciers and slipped. It was fortunate that she was able to grab on some rocks and people were able to reach out to her quickly. She was pulled over the edge in two minutes; bloody, shaken, but safe. Not everyone is as lucky. At the very least it could mean the rest of your trip is shot, at most it could cost you your life.
4) Leave no trace.
Yes, it means what its says. Keep your trash with you. Whatever the size put it in your pocket or a disposable bag. Don’t blame the place if there is no bin in the area. Bring your rubbish, candy wrapper, cigarette butt, water bottle, left over lunch, with you and dispose it properly when you see a bin. Don’t think that a graffiti of your name on a random wall is cute. Nobody cares. And if ever someone does, it would be probably wondering who this jerk is. Just don’t do it. Unless you’re Banksy. :) If you really have to make a mark, do so in areas where it’s permitted like the Love Bridge in Paris or certain alleys in Melbourne or the passage in Verona. Remember, your vacation destination is someone else’s home.
5) Leave nature alone.
Stick to the defined path along hiking trails. 1) You can get lost and set-off a search team. 2) You may be stepping on (and destroy) flora that took thousands of years to grow. When you explore, stop yourself from snapping a branch or breaking off a piece of coral. If you want a memento, take a photo. We need to keep these places from being abused if we want future generations to be able to enjoy it as we did.
6) Please don’t patronize companies that abuse animals.
Sure, you want a photo of a tiger. That’s just too cute to pass up. Maybe you think riding an elephant’s back is a great cultural experience. Know that these tigers are drugged to be kept docile and that the elephant was tortured since it was a calf to break its spirit and make it submissive. We need to stop feeding this industry. Don’t be mistaken, there are great zoo’s and sanctuaries that I support. I believe that responsible zoos play a part in raising awareness about the need to protect animal habitats and to greater extent nature itself. If you want to see animals in their natural habitat, there are reputable expeditions, safaris, and tours that can help you. Not all organizations are the same, do your research with what company you go with and make sure you support the right ones. Join companies that bring minimal impact to nature. This means staying away from companies that feed whales so you can ”swim” with them. Feeding wild animals dulls their instinct to hunt and feed thus making them less likely to survive.
In short, just because you can doesn’t not mean you should. Be responsible and considerate. Enjoy! Leave no trace, take nothing with you except amazing photos and wonderful memories.