If you follow travel blogs you might get the picture that in some countries people are waiting everywhere to rob or overcharge you. Bloggers tell crappy stories that may damage the image of many poor countries, in comparison to their own “safe” western countries or that portray them as heroic or savvy. However, after travelling to over 50 countries and being cheated just a couple of times for a couple of bucks, I truly believe you can do loads to avoid any mishap.
I hope that if you follow these principles people will treat you better:
A bit of context
Let’s not forget that it is here in Western Europe, as in other parts of the so called ‘developed world’, that bankers, politicians, companies, millionaires, kings and queens seem to steal, repeatedly, and for pretty large sums and we can’t seem to avoid it. So drop the attitude, corruption, thieves and non cool people are everywhere.
Actually, if you know a little about world history and how the West became rich, you might actually feel a bit ashamed. So, instead of criticizing foreign governments for this and that remember what your own did and how you live as a result of that and how the locals do. You would be surprised just how often they are the ones teaching us lessons on politeness.
Making sure everyone is happy
While travelling, I have heard several reasons why salaries should be different in different places. Basically, the cost of living being lower and something about the market. I’m not an economist but I know for sure that people have the same needs everywhere. So, how much money does a private driver make in France vs. one in Cambodia? Does it really have to be such big of a difference? You know there is an amount of money that will make your driver happy, a guy who probably has a family and who is providing you with a service of great importance. No further discussion needed.
Pay like a happy traveler
If the locals pay half a dollar, IT IS NOT CHEATING for you to pay 2 dollars when you know the same thing would be 10 in your country. Plus, and this is a huge plus, a bit more can get you loads. For instance, in South East Asia we usually hire the same driver for extended periods of time. He makes more, we don’t have to hassle and he protects us from any further problems. I couldn’t afford the same thing back home. But that doesn’t mean I’ll take advantage, paying like a happy traveler gets me better services and everybody is happy!
Keep your cool
I recently read a friends post on how much he suffered in India because “his guide was so pushy, trying to sell stuff constantly, he had to complain, so they fired him”. Just like home, here in Europe where you can’t walk or turn your computer on without someone trying to sell you something 24-7. All the time, everywhere. But of course we have to complain about our poor guide, who probably earns next to nothing, cause he is annoying us trying to make an extra buck. Whining and being self righteous is not cool. I’m not saying you should buy stuff just to keep him quiet, but I’m sure that if he had a decent income he would be nicer.
Travel to expand your views
I constantly meet people who claim to be travelling around the world to widen their views. But what I see instead is a bunch of people constantly comparing the places they come from with their host countries while enjoying luxury they can’t afford back home. I guess every true traveler knows there are no good nor bad places, just the ones you like a bit more or a bit less. If you think your way is the only way and travelling doesn’t change that point of view, then you are not doing it right. Just open your mind.
Forget politics, be generous
So many times I’ve heard tourists complaining about tipping the locals and not receiving anything in return. Or being treated like a “walking ATM”. Frankly speaking I doubt this is true. Whenever I am in a country with underpaid workforce I tend to tip more and I always receive a huge smile or a friendly look. And I’m not doing it because I’m nice, its people handling my food, my bed or taking me places, taking care of me, if I’m having fun everyone around me must have fun too. Be generous not because you want something in return, but because it feels good.
I don’t pretend to create a world philosophy with deep meanings on human behavior. But I know from fact that being kind makes me happy. It’s not some religious belief but common sense. Of course you should always keep your eyes open, because you don’t want bad things to happen to you. What I am trying to say is that I believe positive energy attracts the same. It works the other way too, by detecting non kindness you can avoid unpleasant situations.