Representing the Human Race
We all have heard people say things like “be on your best behavior because you are representing the United States” when we go abroad. While this is a nice sentiment, it puts the emphasis in the wrong place. As a traveler or tourist, you represent the human race, not just your country of residence. Indeed, in your dealings with people in your daily life, whether traveling or not, you are representing the human race with our ability to feel and express empathy, tolerance, kindness, patience, joy, curiosity, and exhilaration, other other emotions.
In short, be a good person. Be this person at home, at work, at school, with friends, with kids, with parents, with colleagues, with store clerks and waitstaff. And be a good person while traveling. It sounds simple, right? But it’s not as easy and carefree as it sounds.
Travel is stressful even if your ultimate destination is a deserted beach where all you plan to do is lie in a hammock and drink gin. You miss your connecting flight and have to spend five hours in either the airport or a city you don’t know and don’t care to know.
Travel is expensive which leads us to want our trips to be perfect in every way. When they’re not (and they never are), it’s easy to be snippy to our tour operator or raise our voice at a maitre d’. We would like to propose that: 1. Don’t expect your vacation to go exactly the way you plan it in every way; and 2. Try to embrace unexpected things that happen. At the very least, be graceful about differences and unexpected happenings – treat all people well.
When you go to another country, embrace the culture there. For example, don’t expect the same type of service you will find at home – this is one of the best parts of traveling to a new place, learning about other cultures and societal norms. In the U.S., we get used to a waiter coming over to our table to check on us every few minutes. “Everything okay here?” “How’s the chicken marsala?” “Let me get you more water.” That’s not the norm in many other countries. This type of “over-attention” would be considered rude and annoying. Instead, you are expected to flag down a waiter when you need him. You would also never be presented with the check before requesting it. A meal in these countries is to be lingered over and enjoyed slowly.
To us, socially conscious tourism is not simply “going green” by buying carbon offsets or staying in a locally owned B&B. It’s attempting to learn about and embrace the local culture, traditions, and overall way of being. And it’s connecting with people around the world through kindness and laughter.
This public service announcement has been brought to you by the Rainbows, Sunshine and Kittens Collaborative. Now back to your regularly scheduled snark.