While we were having our siesta in our fortunate a/c room in Calvatrava (our extended family's little town near Boracay, Phillippines), the first time in 3 days we have some wifi action going.. Upon checking my emails, msgs, one of my friend sent a long txt to a group chat sharing an unpleasant experience during his travel in Vietnam..
The story goes like this: he was with a tour in Vietnam and his envelope with money inside got stolen. He went to the police station with his local guide in the evening, and was shocked at how drunk the police were, also how corrupted they were when they asked him to pay before they would help him.
To be fair he has all the rights to be upset and angry at the rotten cops. But it was the bit when he bitterly swore he will never visit any 'under-developed' ever again... really got me thinking..
First off, I understand where he is coming from and I have to admit it is quite daunting to feel helpless in unfamiliar culture. Although I must admit, I like exploring new places and off the tourists-radar kind of destinations. In some of the places I have visited, with its exotic and unique culture comes with a very different background, not all of them comes with a well-established bureaucratic, or simply functioning system in the way things run. It is definitely important to find the balance in understanding where you are coming from and the locals’ perspective of things, then find ways in adjusting your matelity accordingly in order to enjoy your trip.
It’s okay to compare
..but internalise everything. Write it down, have a moment to yourself, think through it and process it into something you take lessons from. Neither make quick judgement on what you see, nor, on the contrary, be so moved that you decided to live a simpler life and start deleting your Facebook account and throwing things out from your flat.. Go through your thinking process and make realistic impact that will change the way you do life or a thought to live by.
Whether or not you are travelling to your destination with an agenda to appreciate the scenery and wish to have nothing to do with the people who lives there, let me get this straight, you are still entering other’s territory as a guest, or depending on the culture, an intruder. So best pay respect to the caretakers of the land you will be visiting, treat them with dignity and compliment them on the beauty you see while you are there. Doing that, you are off to a good start to an interesting conversion if language allows; if all things got lost in translation, gestures, thumbs up and trying your best to express gratitude is good enough respect to them.
Share something with them
… not necessarily your money. I used to be worry-sick about being begged for money when travelling, then I found a way to justify both my financial status and my will to give. I started packing small toys from pound/dollar shop, sweets, or treat them a drink. It’s true that it’s a luxury to be able to travel, but at the same time there’s no need to beat yourself up from over-pitying other’s circumstances. If you want to share something, share your time instead of money. Show your genuine interest in their culture or language. (It will always amuse them when you try to speak their language.) Share some fun!
Do it for safety
With everything I mentioned above, it’s more on the mentality side of things. Concerning safety, do what you need to do to feel safe. May it be taking those jabs, getting a travel insurance, storing your wallet in a secure compartment, carrying a inpenetrable rucksack or having a companion, do so for safety so that you feel secure and have less things to worry about. Don’t compromise with the things that’s gonna make your trip safe, but also don’t paranoid yourself! Research, read in details and approach packing with sense. (Bad example) In the worst case (like my friend's or worse), stand your ground if you need to and trust yourself in being able to solve the problem (if others aren’t helping.).
Last note: Congratulations to those of you who made it through this word-y post! Well, nuff said from our humble opinion, travelling propose a new way of seeing things and experiences, so embrace it. Take captive every thought and they are what you make of them.