Thursday, January 3, 2008

On travelling...

I love travelling. No, really!! Yes...I know there are sometimes little niggly things that can happen during a trip and which might seem like major catastrophies at the moment, but on the whole, travelling is a wonderful undertaking that can only broaden your mind and heighten your education of this world of ours.

I find that among those who do travel, there are two camps. There are the 'travellers', those who enjoy every aspect of a journey and see it as a wonderful learning adventure. They consider their exposure to other countries and cultures as a priviledge. They have taken the little time it takes to learn how to travel well and are as courteous abroad as they are at home. They show appreciation for their surroundings, as well as for the staff who work long hours for little pay in most resorts and hotels. A traveller will research the country he or she is about to visit. They will look up pertinent information on health considerations, flora and fauna, travel advisories, language and customs, social structure and conventions, crime and consular contacts. They are aware that "what you don't know CAN hurt you...". They will inform themselves on entry and departure requirements for people visiting that country.

Next you have the 'tourists'. These are the people who exhibit and perpetuate every negative stereotype associated with that particular word. They tend to be loud, obnoxious, disrespectful, overbearing and pretentious. They invariably announce their presence with the greatest amount of noise and commotion and delight in complaining to others how bad everything is because it's "not like back home". These are the folks who could never eat or appreciate the local fare, but will seek out internationally-recognized fast food chains for their meals. Invariably they will know nothing of the country they have come to visit and could care less. They have a tendency to treat resort and other service staff as their personal slaves, whimper and bitch over the least little item and are generally impossible to please. Everything seems to surprise them in an unpleasant manner. They travel not to discover and enjoy, but in an apparent attempt to impose themselves on total strangers, or possibly to have others think of them as 'worldly'. They are ICBMs. A type of 'Inter-Continental Bitching Machines', if you will. The reason why they travel is a mystery really, as they could surely have saved thousands of dollars by simply behaving like total assholes at home. Perhaps it all has to do with the fading art of grandstanding...(?)

So if and when you decide to travel... please... for God's sake...go as a traveller and not a tourist. The rewards are endless and you will have done your part for world brotherhood. Just remember to heed some common sense. I.E.: No amount of pre-planning or reading up will make a trip to Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq a pleasant and carefree one. Notably if you happen to be a Westerner. There are places in our world that both travellers and tourists should avoid at all costs. And that includes if you are working for a NGO or any other humanitarian agency. It cannot be made any clearer that good intentions will not defuse religiously-driven barbarism. (If in doubt...please revisit my post on God Love Charles Darwin).

No comments: