There is this wonderful adage that I came about to like over the years – “Be a traveler, not a tourist.” Though they do sound synonymous, popular expressions tell you why you should never be the quintessential tourist when you get out of town. Being a tourist brings up images of people wearing the choicest of clothes, with stylish shoes and striking RayBans to go along. When you are a hardened traveler, the flair of tourists is bound to be an eye-sore. But if you aren’t a frequent traveler, here are my two cents on how to avoid doing overrated things!
Over Indulgence with the Camera
Honestly, clicking pictures was never a problem. But doing it incessantly, without ever living the moment is clearly overrated. And people do this everywhere. Be it a rock concert or a city tour or even in art museums. Tourists whip up their DSLRs and are so involved in taking pictures, rather than standing back and marveling at the scene.
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Remember this – when you forget to live the present; you have never lived.
Ticking of Bucket Lists
Creating Bucket Lists has been a fad, predominantly with the millennial tourists, especially after the movie “The Bucket List” hit the screens. The idea of ticking off places and events erodes the idea of experiencing the moment and reduces it to mere to-do lists. Whirlwind tours of visiting five European countries in five days isn’t helping you embrace their culture or enjoy their cuisines. Dressing down travel is overrated, and as a tourist, it is better to avoid habituating such practices.
Harming Animals for Fun
Activities that physically involve animals are often cruel and extremely caustic experiences. People traveling to Thailand would have heard of Tiger Petting Zoos, where visitors get to pet and stroke full grown tigers inside cages. The apparent docility of these animals is because they are heavily sedated and tortured to behave like house pets. Hundreds of tigers are killed in the process and tourists who flock these petting zoos are equally to blame for the tigers’ unfortunate conditions.
Image credit: 321Dogs/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
Elephant trekking tours, where people sit over elephants to climb mountains is animal cruelty again, since mahouts train elephants by poking them with sharp rods. Remember never to try such practices and actively try discouraging people who are inquisitive about this overrated entertainment.
Beg-Packing for Travel Money
There is the trend of beg-packing that is increasing in relevance over the last few years in the developing countries of South East Asia. Westerners smitten with traveling quit their jobs and hope to travel hop countries with absolutely minimal resources and end up being broke in the middle of their trip. In such situations, they sit down in dense shopping centers and railway stations, with a placard which reads something like “Please Fund Me to Travel the World” and beg for money. This is shameful because not only does it offend the locals, but it also is insensitive to people who are actually poor in those regions.
Image credit: dailymail.co.uk
Weird Gestures in War Memorials and Sacred Places
Lesson 101 for any tourist is to respect the law of the land they are traveling to and try to gel with the locals as much as possible. Visiting a cathedral or a place like a holocaust camp and gesturing for pictures isn’t exactly the way to behave. Before you venture out to a place of local sentimental value, understand its significance and act accordingly.
Drinking and Partying like there’s no Tomorrow
It is especially overrated when you are solo-traveling across a city. A lot of tourists take pub crawling too literally, drink a lot more than they can handle and end up getting knocked out beside a random alleyway in the middle of the night. When you are out drinking alone, make sure you are safe and try writing down emergency numbers in case you get lost during the wee hours.
Traveling is about decorum and understanding your place in a new setting. You could learn a lot about a city by just sitting in the corner of a busy street and observing the social behavior of the locals. Try learning a few words from their language and make friends with the locals to fully integrate with their lifestyle. Opening your mind up and refraining from overrated experiences could do you wonders, and can change you for the better.