Your passport is only one of the few essential things you must remember to bring along with you when you travel. Yes, there’s sunscreen, guidebooks, your camera, and mobile phone. Also there are other important travel documents that you must have handy if you plan on crossing several borders on your trip. You don’t want to be the only one of your friends to have to trudge back home from the airport, not having been admitted entry to another country because you were missing some identification.
There’s also the first aid. Fun’s no fun if you have the sniffles plaguing you all throughout. There’s nothing like a fever that’s coming down on you like a ton of bricks to take the cool factor off of the trip. It pays to be healthy when you’re tromping along the fields and gawking around the sights of another country.
But these are the basics. While we don’t forget our MP3s, our guidebooks, our extra shirts or lucky hat, we forget the most basic of all: respect.
Sometimes we judge without thinking, comparing things with how they are back home. They’re supposed to be different. Learn to deal with the difference. Respect it. Observe the locals’ traditions, their ways. Watch without passing judgment. Don’t blunder about, thinking what you do at home is acceptable. See if it is. If it’s not, adjust.
Also, don’t forget to bring along a sense of humor. There are plenty of surprises that chance could spring on you when you’re on the road. Having the wit to laugh off even the most awful slip-ups or mishaps could keep your trip from turning into a disastrous jaunt, keeping it on a fun and thrilling keel.
So you have respect. And humor. If it’s not too much of a stretch for you, you could also try for a little kindness.
Most of the tourist-friendly places in the world aren’t first-world countries. They’re mostly the poor nations, where good-paying jobs are hard to come by and the majority of people survive on their wit and skills rather than their wealth or trust funds. Residents of these countries often work in the tourism industry to earn a few extra bucks everyday to help out in their families. They offer to drive you around, serve as your guide, provide you with transportation and basically try to make your stay a lovely and pleasant one.
When it’s time to go, don’t stiff them. Don’t pay them through the nose. They’ve worked hard to earn a living. While not all guides are hard-working or likable or charming, there are really the remarkable ones, the ones who stand out, who were kind to you, who did try to make your stay as fun as possible. Hand over an extra dollar or two if you think their service has been worth it. So long as they’ve earned it.
We’re not saying give them money because they don’t have a lot of it. We’re saying learn to appreciate the efforts that other people have put into making your stay a great one, in whatever country you are. People who made you respect them with their hard work and kindness.
It’s important to pay them back in kind, in travel and life.
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Abdou Karim and SOFThinking http://www.softhinking.org