7 Stupid Things To Do While Traveling

August 4, 2010

1. Express Your Anger

This isn’t limited to anyone in particular. Don’t give the check-in lady a hard time because your flight just happens to be oversold. Don’t look ticked off in front of the security guard as you enter the metal detector. And, above all, do not yell at the immigration agent; you may not have broken any laws by showing your frustration, but he has the power to let you in or send you packing.

As I was waiting in line to check into a hostel in Auckland, I noticed a large group of belligerent guys giving the receptionist far too much stress. When it came my turn to speak, I simply said “would you like a reprieve?” and handed her a few chocolate chip cookies I had just bought. Not only did she seem in a much better mood, but, as a courtesy, she upgraded me to a single room for the holiday weekend.

As difficult as it may be at times, remember to show a little compassion, not anger.

“You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry!”, DenisGiles

2. Flash Cash

Pretty self-explanatory. Even though you may need lots of cash on hand to travel, don’t pull out your entire bankroll every time you buy a bottle of water. You may attract unwanted attention from pickpockets, or worse, someone daring enough to assault you.

3. Be Ignorant of Local Laws

Found yourself in handcuffs abroad, have you? Did you step on an image of the King of Thailand? Eat during Ramadan? Don’t be a fool; read up on the local laws of countries to which you plan to travel. Just because you have a Canadian flag on your backpack doesn’t mean you’re subject to the laws of her majesty wherever you go.

4. Travel Sick

I’m absolutely sick of people doing this, pardon the bad pun. I know, I know, if you’ve contracted a bit of a cold while traveling and need to catch that flight home, it’s often unavoidable, but do you have to put people on their vacations at risk by coughing, sneezing, or just being sick in crowded areas? If nothing else, wear a mask:

“Public transportation circa: 2009”, weissfoto
Public transportation circa: 2009, weissfoto

5. Have Absolutely No Idea Where You’re Going

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there
Through the Looking Glass

I’m not referring to those who couldn’t care less if they end up sleeping in seven different countries seven consecutive nights, or want to see all of the Sahara on foot. No, this advice goes out to those tourists who have taken the time to make elaborate plans… and feel compelled to rely on others to execute them properly. The ones who make it a point to do absolutely no research prior to setting out in a foreign land, bugging locals and travelers for directions and advice. I’m all for engaging others in conversation and sharing expertise, but could you try to help yourselves first?

6. Lower Your Defenses, Put Yourself at Risk

I’m all for adventure, being a “yes man”, exposing yourself to situations you might never have imagined… but remember, you’re in foreign country, possibly alone and very vulnerable, at risk for kidnapping, rape, assault, who knows what else. At the same time, you feel compelled to cut loose, have a good time abroad, and party it up. I’m not suggesting you do otherwise… just be mindful, simple as that. Don’t get drunk around people you don’t know. Don’t accept drugs from anyone, period (you know how many bodies they’ve dragged off the beaches of Kou Phangan after Full Moon Parties?). Don’t be stupid.

7. Expect Others to Understand English

My apologies to non-English speakers (this article is in the target language, after all). Although English is certainly the language of choice for international communication, try not to be arrogant when someone doesn’t speak a word of it. You’re in his country, after all: volume won’t change that (i.e. yelling “HOW MUCH?” right after saying it slowly changes nothing). I suppose this goes back to controlling your anger in an unpleasant situation.

The corollary of this, of course, is that many people in foreign countries DO understand at least a little English, and, especially if you’re a long-term resident, it’s stupid of you to assume otherwise all the time. No need to force your smattering of improperly pronounced Thai onto a bewildered tuk tuk driver; he can speak to you better than you may ever be able to speak to him… tonal languages are tricky.

I have just finished working to rebuild Haiti, but can’t speak to the details due to a non-disclosure agreement. I am off to Korea tomorrow!

One Response to 7 Stupid Things To Do While Traveling

  1. Melissa on August 5, 2010 at 5:45 am

    Great advice! The world would be so much better is everyone were smarter. This article is going to get everyone, me included (because face it we all do stupid things sometimes), one step closer to doing the right thing. 🙂 Awesome on working in Haiti, have fun in Korea!

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