Traveling is such a fun activity to do especially in your younger years. I observe many of my peers traveling from one island to another, from one landmark to another in hopes of discovering something. It seems many of us like to travel with a goal in mind. Perhaps we think we’re going to find the love that changes our lives, that culture we connect with or we simply like to travel to take lots of pictures and show our friends and family all the adventures we’ve been embarking on. As you can see, there are so many great things that can happen because of traveling and observing other people’s cultures. We may even become a little bit more open-minded, and start seeing the world in a completely different light. Although, I acknowledge and see the many positive aspects of traveling, I can also acknowledge the negative aspects that traveling can cause to those people whose cultures are being appropriated without their input or decisions.
When many people, especially westerners (black or white) travel, they travel with the mindset of having fun, learning cultures and experiencing something new. These are very normal behaviors and attitudes of humans when we are getting ready to embrace ourselves in newness. However, the problem is the mindset of travelers who completely disregard the locals that are living in countries they are paying a visit. I’ve seen many travelers boast about the many ways they are going to make an impact to the places they are visiting i.e. wanting to save others. This of course comes with the assumption that the traveler feels that he/she has a better life than the ones they are visiting. Another behavior I have also observed with most western travelers is the attitude that they want to visit different places because they want to show off the places they are traveling, to intrigue their friends and family members back home. This is not only disrespectful to the people and places you are visiting, but it’s also egotistical. You shouldn’t use a country to “intrigue” or create a certain type of reaction from others because you have the money to do so. When you have these types of attitudes, it not only shows that you’re inherently uninterested in the places you are traveling and visiting only for your ego, but you’re also doing a major disservice to the cultures and people you are visiting.
I’m a big advocate of travel and experiencing new things as part of the human experience, but I strongly feel there needs to be a major attitude and behavior shift in people who are traveling especially from western countries. Here are a few tips I want to give out to those who are “travelers” and want to “explore the world”:
-Please travel with the intention you want to learn something new from the place you are traveling to. Have a note pad and write about all the new things you are learning about the culture and the people, and how this made you an open-minded person as a result.
-Don’t boast about saving the people you are traveling to or showing them new ways to live. This is a big NO! Be humble, you are no better than others.
-When you go to a new place, get out of your way to interact and talk with the locals, don’t just go to a place, and interact only with the people you are traveling with or only tourists like yourself.
-Know why you are going to a certain place, don’t just go because there are beaches, islands and margaritas. Ask yourself why you are visiting this place and what specific thing you want to learn from your new experience.
-Please, please, please ask permission to take pictures of the locals and their landmarks. I had a crazy experience of a European man taking pictures of historical possessions when he was not supposed to in Axum, Ethiopia when clearly, the sign said, “Don’t take any photos in this museum”. If you are unsure that you are taking pictures of the right places and things, ask people there to be sure you are doing what you are supposed to as a tourist.
-And last but not least, be respectful and considerate of the culture you are visiting. Just because you have privilege and traveling, doesn’t make you any better than anyone else. Humble yourself, travel, learn, love and enjoy without disrespecting those you are paying a visit.
Peace and Love,