Happy December to all my fans who are currently freezing in the northern hemisphere and burning in the southern hemisphere. Welcome back to my #yow post. For today’s blog post, I want to talk about the etiquettes of traveling. But before that, time to recap what has been happening since my last entry.
After leaving Zagreb, I spent a week in Bosnia where I visited Jajce, Mostar, and Sarajevo. Jajce was a nice town that had a fortress on top of a hill and a waterfall that ran right through town! Monstar was of course the site of the beautiful Ottoman-designed bridge. Interestingly enough, I really liked Sarajevo. It was definitely a place where on one side, you could see Ottoman-inspired architecture and on the other side you could see Austro-Hungarian architecture. Everything was of course oh so inexpensive. The country’s history is tragic in and of itself, and I can only hope that a brighter future awaits all the citizens there. For Jajce, I’ll give it a C+, Mostar a B-, and Sarajevo a B.
After Bosnia, I spent a week in Belgrade at the 1001 Night Hostel, which I had been at earlier in the summer. That was great fun, exploring another night in the Belgrade nightlife. After that, I went to Bulgaria to spend a week there, where I was only able to see Sofia and Plovdiv. Unfortunately, during this time, it was raining practically every hour, so I did not get to see Sofia at all except a few of the bars, and same for Plovdiv. However, considering how must I really enjoyed both cities, I definitely see myself going back next summer. I can’t give a rating to Sofia and Plovdiv because I feel I hadn’t been able to fully see these two cities. But overall, my week in Bulgaria was pretty awesome. The only other country in Europe besides Croatia where the locals actually took the initiative to ask me if I needed help when I was looking lost at my map. Young and old alike even! I look forward to see this country again sometimes next summer.
With that, time to get back to the crux of this post, which is dedicated to the etiquettes of traveling. This is a list of things that I think we, as travelers, should and should not do when we’re in a foreign country, whether on a backpacking, vacation, or business trip.
Etiquettes of traveling: DO throw your trash in the trash bins.
This one annoys me to no end. Especially seeing western tourists littering everywhere they go in Asia (see Koh Rong, Cambodia). Do you think that it’s okay for you to litter just because you’re not in your country? Oh, the locals are also littering? Well, guess what, that does not necessarily mean you should as well. Imagine going into someone’s home. If you see them throwing stuff everywhere and m
aking a mess, it doesn’t mean you should. Because hey, one day, they’ll want to clean up their home, and since they already have enough of a mess to clean up, they don’t need you to add to it.
What about when there are no trashcans? Then put your stuff in your backpack, in your pocket. Don’t just throw it to the side of the road, anticipating someone else to pick it up for you. And for you smokers who continually throw your buds on the ground after you smoke, regardless of where you are, I hope there’s a special place in hell for you. It takes up to 10 years for that little thing to biodegrade. (http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/cigbuttbiodegradable.htm)
Etiquettes of traveling: DO NOT buy things or give money to little kids.
I’ve seen this happen so often: cute little girl runs up to a couple. Ask if they would like to buy a necklace for $1. The couple feels bad for the little girl, and buys it from her, thinking they’re helping her livelihood. Unfortunately, they did not help the problem, but just contribute to it. The only sure-way to escape poverty is through education. Doubt that? Look at Singapore (no natural resource after formation of state) or Korea/Japan (no natural resources after a massive war that destroyed everything). They got themselves from utter poverty to some of the most developed nations in the world because they concentrated on empowering their people through education. That is what’s needed in the developing world. The children should not be out making money for their parents. They should be in school. Buying stuff from them does not help this. So stop it. Buy your souvenir stuff from the adults that operate the shops. As an addendum, do not give candy to little kids. Most of them can’t afford a toothbrush and toothpaste. And guess what happens when they eat candy? Yeah, their teeth would rot. And they probably won’t be able to afford dentistry either. So don’t you even dare give them anything sweet.
Etiquettes of traveling: DO pay for mass transportation.
This one is pretty simple. As a budget traveler, one of the best place we might catch ourselves trying to cut back on expense is paying for public transit while still riding it. Yes, you might see the locals doing it. But guess what? You’re not a local. You’re not paying the local tax. So pay for that bus ride. Someone has to start somewhere. Someone has to be the one that act as a good civic person. Governance can only continue to provide for the people if they have the money. Your small amount of money might not matter much, but hey, Rome was not built in a day. And if you truly don’t have the money to pay for mass transit, then walk. It’ll do you good.
Etiquettes of traveling: DO bargain.
This might seem counterintuitive, especially when in a very poor country. You might ask, why should I bargain for $1 off? It does not affect me that much, but it would surely help the person who’s bargaining with me. That is true on one hand. On the other hand, you’re being ripped off. And greed should not be rewarded, regardless of who’s doing it. If they find they can rip you off, then they’ll do it to the next person, and on and on the wheel would turn. As Daenerys Stormborn said, don’t just turn the wheel, break it. If you allow yourself to be ripped off, it’ll just give the merchant a view of you as less than a person, and more of a money tree. In traveling, respect has to go both ways. We are always so concern as to how not to offend the local population. True, but let’s not let ourselves be a victim of perpetual greed.
Etiquettes of traveling: DO speak English slowly.
This one is for my Anglophone peeps out there. Yes, English is the traveling language of the world. No, most people in the world do not speak it. However, sometimes, they might be able to pick up a word or two, just because they heard it from a song, or a movie. So if you’re going to go up to some old looking local, don’t expect to go up to them like speedy Gonzalez and throw words at them like an automatic rifle and hope they have any idea of what you just said. Slow down. Especially for you Brits whom from an informal poll I’ve found has the least-recognizable and understandable accent out of all the Anglophone countries. Accentuate your words. Speak very slowly. And use your hands. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve seen someone speaking English so fast to a local person that the local person just kind of stared dumb at them. Also, don’t speak louder or yell assuming that that will help the other person understand. It won’t. It’ll just make you look like an idiot tourist.
Etiquettes of traveling: DO NOT litter.
This cannot be repeated enough.
Etiquettes of traveling: DO NOT think because you have money you can do whatever you want.
Give someone money in their own country, and they feel like they still don’t have enough. Give them money in another, poorer country, and they will act like they’re gods. How many assholes have I seen ruining it for the rest of us travelers because they can’t keep their hormones in check. It’s nice you have money and intend to spend it on the local populace. That does not give you the right to choose which laws to follow and which laws to not. It also does not give you the right to look down upon those locals who are poorer than you. To everyone else who acts like a decent human being, I thank you.
Etiquettes of traveling: DO have fun
Traveling is a privilege. Not a right. 6 out of every 7 people in the world do not get a chance to do it. So while you travel, leave the drama at home. And walk around with a smile on your face. This is your chance to spread the goodwill of your nation. To show other nations that whatever stereotype they have preconceived about your people might be wrong. Or, of course, you could always prove such stereotypes true. If that’s the case, then I can only hope traveling can enlighten you.
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