While reading a book on the cultures of the world, my thoughts were suddenly diverted to a very recent incident that my friend had to face while travelling to a foreign place.
My friend was travelling to Myanmar with his family, his father resides there itself. While on a fun family outing there, his mother was wearing a Kurta with an image of The Buddha. All of a sudden, she heard a huge commotion and saw the police making their way towards her. She was later told that in Myanmar it is against the rules to wear anything with The Buddha’s image on it. She could have been jailed if the Indian embassy hadn’t intervened.
While this was genuinely unintentional, the bigger picture tells a different story. In the 21st Century, we as travellers have intentionally or casually forgotten to respect the cultures and the laws of the place or country that we are travelling to. We lose our basic etiquette and engage in some unlawful and rule-breaking activities. We often also unknowingly forget to understand and respect the local culture. Thanks to the increasing influence of social media and the idea of ‘wanderlust’, people have forgotten the true value of travelling
In this growing phenomenon, we travellers have thrown out all of our values. The world has become a big amusement, where we can stop anytime and take pictures just to show off to the world. More often than not, it is highly disrespectful and in some places, it is forbidden. We are so hell-bent on showing the world where we are travelling and how fun our life is, we forget to have the basic respect and to live in the moment.
Inside the Vatican, it is not allowed to take photos in a particular area, yet I found several tourists clicking away. Even in India, there are places that it is forbidden to take pictures. But, since the idea of Instagram is more important than protecting the pieces of art- we start clicking away.
In India, the problem is even bigger- foreigners from all over the world tend to barge into slum areas just to glimpse at a ‘different kind of life’. This is not only disrespectful but also a violation of privacy.
So many tourist places in the world have banned selfies, just to counter this phenomenon. Yet, we click away. This has to be a wake-up call to all the travellers in the world, that it is time to travel to understand and learn the culture rather than travelling to show off beautiful pictures and posting on Instagram
A small town in Spain, had to close itself down to tourism, thanks to the immense amount of travellers that came and created havoc in their town. The locals were finding it hard to live there. This problem was faced by Ladakh also, after 3 idiots so many tourists hogged the place just to have the Bollywood feel. A lot of locals complained about how the travellers were only going to the lake, littering it and hangout out in English cafes. The local restaurants were shunned, and the only question the travellers asked was about the Lake shown in the movies. The locals say that no one really bothers to understand their culture and life.
This is caused by local governments of different places to wake up and realise the issues of travelling.
When travelling to different places, it is very important to respect the locals. Only if you respect their identity will they respect yours. Travelling has a lot to do with being in the need of some local help, this can only happen when there is mutual respect. It is important to make the locals feel that you are not using them and acting selfishly to satisfy your desires.
In a recent case, a Brazilian resort banned ‘social influencers’ who try to stay at expensive resorts for free and in return promise exposure through her or his followers. This not only disrespectful to the locals but also impacts the earnings of the locals very badly. This isn’t respectful and should be avoided at all costs.
It is important to read up about the culture where you are travelling to. India has a lot of different cultures, and it is imperative to learn what all is allowed and respected in the different cultures before strutting into the places. This will not only keep you out of trouble but will help you open up to a completely different and beautiful culture. He will only enhance your travelling experience and help you see the place in a better way. Don’t do something offensive and it is best to learn at least the basics of what should be avoided.
Whether it is local restaurants or local tour operator/guide it is best to support them. You are visiting their place of residence, and acting all snob is not fare. The locals are welcoming you to their home, and not supporting them and having your own entourage is distasteful. If you support the local business they will not only earn more money but will also be genuinely warm and happy to welcome you into their place.
Don’t start littering, or use plastic. It is important to travel sustainably and be mindful about it. You can always turn off the lights in your hotel room, or take shorter showers and not waste water. The place we are visiting is someone’s home, we are just guests in someone else’s place. We need to respect that and be environment-friendly.
Most importantly, remember to enjoy and explore the fullest. The best way to travel in india is to behave like a local, only then we feel the full experience of travelling, and exploring. Travelling is a beautiful experience and is a journey that can turn out to be a magnificent experience if only we can keep these things in our minds.