ETHICAL TRAVEL HINT #1: Before you travel to a foreign land, make an effort to learn some simple words, like “hello”, “goodbye”, “please” and “thank you”. Learn to count to ten. Meet people on their turf with their language.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou
I’ll even go a step farther, Maya! I’ll say if you actually get to know a person from another culture you will soon see that we are all the same…where it counts. We may have different foods, different houses, different holidays, different religions, BUT we all want peace, we all want our children to have opportunities, and we want our effort at living to give us back a sense we have achieved something.
So, if you have the same mindset, then my task will be to help you understand that you can make an effort to reach out and touch someone, not necessarily literally, but in a way that you will understand more and have a deeper sense of the place you visit.
Many people go to a new place and visit the “must see” things. For example, when my sister, daughter and I were heading for a 4 day trip to Paris, I asked them to give me a list of the things they wanted to see. My sister had the Louvre on her list. I asked her why. She said it is a place everyone says she needs to see. I asked her when the last time was when she visited an art museum and she slowly answered “never”. My point was that if she had no strong interest and only a short time to see things, why go somewhere because it is on someone else’s list of things to do.
Why get off the beaten path? Think about some high tourist area you visited? Did you notice that the shops were full of items that had that place name printed on the tee-shirts or the coffee mugs but did you also notice that those items were made in some other country? And perhaps you also noticed that the people who were there with you all were tourists? Did you really get a sense of WHERE you were visiting?
Off the beaten track, when you show interest in what you are seeing, when you ask questions and get involved even in a small way, the locals immediately sense your genuine and respectful curiosity and usually respond with enthusiasm. That is when you experience a travel gem….some experience that will make that vacation shine!