A traveler’s duty
Often, we as travelers find ourselves indulging in the many pleasures of life on the road. We get to see some of the most amazing things that the world has to offer. We get to meet wonderful people from every corner of Earth; and all the while, we have a good time doing it. In traveling though, I believe that we occasionally forget that we have an obligation to the world. When we travel, we are given much, but in return we must take care to ensure that we do not take advantage of the experiences we have. The duty of a traveler is a simple one, but it rests on the shoulders of those who care. In reflecting our obligations as travelers, I have come up with a few points, which I believe we can all follow to become responsible travelers.
1.) Mutual respect for differences – The further away from home you get, the stranger the world might seem to you. To those people though, life isn’t strange. It is perfectly normal. Constantly, we live in our own cultural norms with which we are accustomed to, so visiting something vastly different can lead to culture shock. As a traveler, we must remember the old adage, “there are no foreign lands, it is you who is foreign.” No matter the difference in culture, whether we agree with it or not, we must accept differences as being: not strange, just different.
2.) Leave it better than you found it – One of the most fundamental principles of being a responsible anything, is to leave it better than you found it. In traveling, we should seek the role of observers and minimize our ‘footprint’. We have an obligation to speak the local languages, not litter, respect local laws and authorities, and more. After all, we are the guests.
3.) Coexist – Regardless of your religious affiliation, we have an obligation to respect local religion(s), and its practices. You don’t have to be religious, or have any beliefs at all to do this. It is not necessary to agree with everyone, but it is necessary to agree that everyone has a right to believe what they want. We need to be mindful of that while passing through.
4.) Never generalize – Although, Malcolm Gladwell does a good job in explaining stereotypes in Blink (a good book), we must learn to distinguish between good stereotypes and bad, realizing that generalizing an entire population of people based off of a specific experience or something we read, can be counterproductive.
5.) Stand up for what you believe – I was having a discussion recently about how even though knowledge is power, it is also a great responsibility. Knowing things that you have learned when traveling, you are now obligated to stand up for what is right.
6.) Share your experiences – If you have gained a perspective or insight that few people around you understand, then consider sharing the knowledge with them. Perhaps, you have a better understanding of some world events, foreign policy, or even language now that you have lived abroad. Share your travel experiences with others. We learn from one another.
As I conclude, I want to mention that we need to realize how fortunate we are to get to travel. As one of my 3 principles you should never forget when traveling, it is an opportunity that few will ever realize. Traveling does change you, but that doesn’t mean we should change it. We need to ensure that the next generation of travelers has the opportunity to experience things as we have. Although we cannot control everyone’s attitudes, mindsets, or actions, we can be mindful of our own. Let’s leave the future something nice; an unspoiled, untainted, and incredible world.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Do you agree with my thoughts on being a responsible traveler? Do you think that responsible tourism is the way to go? Or perhaps not?
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