Before you continue reading this content, I would like you to grab a pen and paper (I’m so outdated) or you can just use the notepad or Word on your laptop or PC (pffft still outdated) or just about anything you can note something down (I’m sorry, I cannot think of anything else used to write something down), and write down the answer to the following questions:
(This part is optional actually, you do not have to comply)
1. Do you like to travel?
2. How many places have you been to?
3. Among those places, which one is your favorite?
4. What was your favorite part of that trip?
5. What was your favorite delicacy from that place?
6. What is your favorite word of phrase from the dialect of that place?
7. Did you meet new friends there?
8. Who would you say is your favorite friend from that place?
9. How did that trip impact your life?
10. What do you think was the impact of your visit to that place?
Let’s put your answers aside and get back to them after reading this.
I would not consider myself as a professional traveler, and I haven’t even been to a lot of places yet, and I could easily be mistaken for someone who is sticking my nose up someone else’s business rather than someone who is stating an opinion.
Now a days, travelling to different parts of the world was made easier, all thanks to modern technology. I rarely hear people tell me they do not like to travel, in fact, I do not know anyone who does not want to travel. Of course, who wouldn’t want to, right? If given the time and especially the money, then why not? For that very reason, the quote “If travelling was free, you will never see me again” came about, which would definitely be true for me, however, the question still remains, why would you travel? Do we travel for leisure? RNR? To explore and experience things? To see a very famous architecture, specific tourist spot or area from that place, and enjoy. These are a few of the most common answer. But did we really stick to our reason for travelling?
I have done a bit of travelling myself, and one thing I have observed (please don’t mistake me for one who is judging people) is, travel for social media’s sake and bragging rights, and worse is, promote and destroy. It is totally fine to take pictures of the places we’ve been to, in fact there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. It’s fine to take a single selfie as part of proof of our carbon imprint on the place so we can brag about it on social media, but what I commonly see most of the time is taking dozens of selfies and photos, though I know that the intention was to show to the world how beautiful the place is, the focus is now on our faces or us, and we are using a wonderful creation as a background or backdrop. I got to thinking, if that wonderful creation of God or by an indigenous group of people or by whoever, can talk, I think it would be insulted that it is being used as a background despite its beauty. Look at it this way, if you bumped in to one of your favorite celebrity, would you ask them by saying “Hi! I’m a big fan! Can I have a picture with you, and oh! Can you stay behind me please?” How’d you think they would react? Although this is not entirely applicable to structures or huge scale wonders as we would be very tiny and would go unnoticed, which is actually the point, the place already looks beautiful as it is, and does not need us in it for us to show the world how beautiful it is and especially it does not need us to enhance its beauty. And why is it always that when we have to have our picture taken, we need to have the entire place to ourselves, we do not want anyone else to be in the frame or the so called photo bomber, they are visitors to the place and they paid (may not be the same amount as we paid for) to get there, they have every right as we do to have a picture taken as a proof. Let us take it to consideration that we only have an hour for a tour. Instead of spending time enjoying and marveling at sceneries for an hour, we spend 30 minutes taking multiple pictures and 20 minutes reviewing the photos and 10 minutes to enjoy and appreciate the view. We already took dozens of pictures, and yet we take another one until we find that Instagram worthy photo or “instagramable”, but we did not even bother to wonder how such wonderful structure was created, why was it created and how did it serve the people and the history of the place.
Even a simple trip to a nearby beach, I’ve experienced being invited for a trip to the beach, and it easily turns from a beach bumming to fashion show, photo shoot and trashing frenzy. How many hours do we actually spend swimming and enjoying the sunrises and sunsets and enjoying the view and the place compared to the actual time spent on staying dry, taking photo and drinking and sleeping because we got so wasted? Unless if you are a farmer whose job is to go up the mountain to plant crops, or a fisherman who goes to the beach to head out and catch some fish, everyone who goes down to the beach or up the mountains would say, they want RNR and that’s why they go there. Everyone and I meant everyone, but what do we normally do when we get to the place? We turn on our expensive and awesome looking wireless speakers and turn the volume up so loud. Yes everyone loves music, but not everyone likes the same type of music. Grabbing a bottle or two is always good anytime of the day, however, drinking too much than your body can hold to the point of getting drunk and we start screaming at each other even if we were just talking and sitting right next to each other and laughing excessively. During the day, this is not much of a trouble, but at night, where the RNR really kicks in for everyone, we forget the value of common courtesy, people around the area came for the same reason we did, they want to sleep and rest especially at night, and yet we continue on with our party till past 12.
A trip to a far off place with historical and wonderful sites is one thing everyone dreams of doing. More often than not, we get this urge to fly in to these places because we saw people on social media posting how wonderful the place and how grand the experience was from that place. We base our information from someone who visited the place once, who also based their information about the place from someone else who went there ahead of them. Planning ahead is critical, especially if travelling with time and budget constraint. Most of the time, we have this mentality that there is no more good left in humanity, that everyone wants to rob us off of whatever we have left for our trip. Every time we meet a local in the area, the first thing that pops up in to our mind is “this person is trying the cheat more money out of me”. It would be good if you were born with a trust fund ready at your disposal, then this is the least of your problem. But even so, if you just agree to whatever price bar has been set, these people would start charging the next visitor the same high price or even higher, and what about the other locals who would need the same product or service, they will then be deprived of the produce at a local price as the vendor would prefer selling it to visitors as they were used to that they will pay more for the same product. But by researching is always useful when going to a place we have never been to before. Information is always useful, and where best to find information? Locally! By asking multiple locals around, we get to average it out and get a rough estimate of how much things would cost. Getting more actual and updated local information is already available to us the moment we land at the airport, all you need is ask.
How many times did we tend to hide or secure our purses, mobile phones, pouches when a local rugged guy come up to us. This a simple act that could go a long way all up to insulting the person. And we are more likely to get in to trouble with others because we have aggravated them with our tiny careless gestures. We have to remember that these people are our hosts and are the only person we can ask help from aside from our companions on the trip. Try to smile, learn a greeting in their dialect or two and keep an eye contact to send out a message that you mean no harm and you have the intent to gain friends. Soon you’ll know that not a large number of people are trying to rob you off and locals are really nice to visitors. Sad to say, but yes, although it is a reality that there are a few numbers of people who aren’t trust worthy, but there is no reason to suspect every one of the same. This hinders us from getting in touch with local people and be friends with them and get to experience what it really feels to actually live here.
Once we get to the destination we intended to go to, we do the exact same thing, avoid talking to locals, take photos, post, go to the next, repeat, and so on until we decide to call it a day. What could be sadder than that? The trash we leave behind. For places that demands a charge to get in, although they have someone to clean-up after us, but it’s not as if that’s their only job and as soon as they do that other job, a trash left unattended wanders off somewhere else. And what about beautiful places where no one will ever clean-up after us? And the worst thing is, we leave our trash behind, yet we take a living pieces of the place with us as a souvenir (promote and destroy). Taking a coral, starfish, plant, a tiny creature. Taking dead or non-living mementos from a place is minor, but if excessive then that’s something else. We have to remember that we travelled a long way to get to enjoy things, both living and non-living from our destination, and there’s a lot of us who has the same reason for travelling, if we already took a good number of those, and the next visitor does the same, what would the next generation of visitors take a photo of and enjoy? And if you decide to go back to the same place, would you want to enjoy a site full of nothing but trash?
Let us now go back to our answers to the questions above, or for those who took it as optional, would you know like to ask yourself those questions and answer them?
So please, on your next trip, chill and don’t get frustrated that someone else is in the background, and as a courtesy for others, take a photo or 2 or a few and make it count as others also want to have a photo as proof that they were there. Commute and ride local bus or any mode of transportation, smile to the local sitting next to you, learn a phrase or two, ask for information and if lucky enough, you might just gain a new friend. And lastly, practice leave no trace “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time”. Memories are not confined within a photo or a souvenir, you keep them in experiences and emotions acquired from the trip. Be a responsible traveler, travel with a purpose.
Photos by: My GF @chastityyy110 and me.