It can be hard when traveling to a new place to figure out where everything is and ninety-nine percent of the time you will get lost. You will need a hand figuring something out, especially if it is written in, say Swahili. Or when you want to order something off a menu that doesn’t have any pictures and is written in Mandarin when the only language you took in college was Spanish. Yeah, you will probably need a hand with these things; not everyone is ready to play Russian Roulette with their taste buds or digestive tract. It is okay to ask for help from locals or fellow travelers.
But how to we wander from place to place without being that obnoxious tourist? We all have been guilty of it at one point or another. So, to understand what makes us intolerable travelers, I asked my fellow wanderlusters for some help with some guidelines on the best ways to increase our Travel Kharma.
Be aware of customs and/or social norms of the place you are visiting.
In some exotic destinations women might not be allowed to dress a certain way; maybe it's considered rude to point at people and things. Perhaps you are visiting a place where you should always serve others first at the table rather than yourself, or maybe showing the bottoms of your feet to another person is considered dirty. Read up a little bit on how the local people act and behave toward each other. You will be one step closer to blending in a bit and you won't come off as being offensive, even though you weren't trying to be in the first place.
Saying rude or critical things in English because you think others don’t understand.
Sometimes the language barrier gets the best of us. We don't get what we want, mostly because the person who is listening can't understand a darn thing we are trying to say. Don't get angry and start making rude comments about the person who was attempting to help you in English because they didn't understand you the first time. Saying nasty things, even under your breath, is not the way to earn some good travel Karma. Just smile, say thank you and try getting what you need from someone else. Being rude in English even when no one can understand you does not help anyone. It only hurts you. Maybe someone around you actually does understand what you are saying and perhaps you might offend them. Keep those nasty comments to yourself.
Complaining how “different” everything is.
If the reason why you are traveling is to experience new, exciting and different things, why would you complain how different the country you are visiting is compared to your home country? Yes, chances are the toilet in the restaurant you are at in India is going to be gross compared to your favorite place to eat back home. Maybe no one gives you the check for your meal until you ask for it in Korea. People spit and hawk loogies all over the ground in China, a little nasty, but whatever. You are traveling to experience these different people, places and cultural norms. Don't get frustrated and complain, take a deep breath and remember this is why you travel. You are learning about the world around you.
Generally lacking in patience.
It's 3:09 and your Costa Rican bus that you have been sitting and sweating on for the last twenty minutes was supposed to leave nine minutes ago. Your first instinct is to go ask the bus driver what the hold up is, but don't. Some cultures just don't operate in a timely manner. It's called "Tico Time" for a reason. Understand this and accept it. That whole nine minutes is probably not going to make or break your trip anyway. Patience is a virtue, this is a golden opportunity for you to work on this art. Just accept that you might have to wait another ten minutes for the engine on the bus to start. Hey, look on the bright side, maybe next time you are running late for the bus and you might just make it since it never leaves on time anyway!
Climbing or doing yoga on national monuments or buildings that are off-limits.
Being an adventurous yogi myself, I always want to find the coolest place to bust out my Dancer. Sometimes, I have to take a step back and think about where I am going to perform my signature pose. On a temple's alter in Thailand, sounds awesome, but wait, there is a sign saying "keep off". What about next to a throne in a royal palace? Nope, can't. There is a sign asking people not to walk on it. Be aware of where you are about to asana.
Being a rude dorm room mate.
Okay so you are going the dorm room route on your holiday. Who can blame you? Dorms are awesome. You can meet great people and usually have a travel or adventure companion. The dark side to dorm room holidays is that sometimes, you can encounter obnoxious bunk mates. You don't want to be this person for someone else. Don't leave your stuff strewn about the dorm; try to stay to your confined space. Don't come in to the dorm after a night of boozing with your pals and turn on the lights and make a ton of noise when everyone else is trying to sleep; be as discrete as possible when getting ready for bed. That being said, if you are the one who has called it an early night, let's face it, sometimes you are getting up for an early yoga class or hike or dive session, be understanding of your roommates who didn't turn in at 10pm. Let them get ready for bed at 2am in peace, wear an eye mask or ear plugs and you will probably not even notice them coming in. If you know you are a horribly light sleeper or have trouble going back to sleep after being woken up, it's probably best to get a private room or share a room with one other person.
Being a pack rat
You don't need to take everything with you on your trip. Bring enough clothes for five to seven days and if your trip is longer, do laundry. Carrying around all that extra weight isn't good anyway. Pack as light as possible, remember that you can usually buy something if you forget it. A light bag is a light mind. Try to keep that in mind when you are packing for your travels. Plus who wants to pay excess luggage fees anyway?!
Being a Scrooge with your cash.
Remember when you used to be a budget backpacker? Maybe you still are; I think I'll always be one! There are times when you might find yourself flush with cash and others in your traveling group are not so liquid, maybe the town's ATM is down or perhaps non-existent. If you find yourself being the well off one, pay it forward, literally. Treat your travel companion to a cold beer, a fruit smoothie or even a shared taxi ride if he or she is strapped for cash. Hey you are already going there, so take a friend, plus who wants to drink or eat alone? Not me. Your travel Karma will repay you down the road.
Be kind to your fellow travelers' noses. No one wants to smell BO when they are eating dinner out or sleeping in their dorm room. I get that we all sweat, some more than others, and not everyone believes in deodorant, but even if you aren't into wearing deodorant or have a sweating issue, take a shower everyday, or at least every other day. You will have many more people wanting to be around with when you smell fresh.
Smile as much as possible
It's a fact, people want to be around people who are friendly. Smile and you will attract other fellow travelers and even locals! You would be blown away if you know much free stuff I have been given because I constantly walk around with a giant smile on my face. Locals want to see a smiling foreign face wandering around their town. You will meet many more friends along the road with smile than with a frown or emotionally neutral expression. You are out exploring the world. Be happy and smile big!
Images via: @cuchira