Rules of the road
This is a little something I thought I would put together for those of you who, like me, are born with a travel bug and who also, like me, are sometimes so embarrassed by our fellow travelers abroad. It's not that everyone is trying to be embarrassing...although I know a few who do consider it a hobby; I think it's just that we don't know better. So for those of you who want to travel to new places, meet new people, and maybe even help out after a big catastrophe, here are a few tips that will help...trust me:
1) Never ever ever, when out with a group, wear matching shirts. Nothing screams "I'M A WEALTHY TOURIST, PLEASE MUG ME!" louder than that. So unless that's the statement you're trying to make, please be an individual and dress normally.
2) If you must take your anit-bacterial hand wash with you, PLEASE learn to use it discreetly and only when necessary. Slathering on the Purel right after shaking someone's hand or holding their naked kid is so very uncool...and rude.
3) In poverty situations, when a local family makes you dinner you eat it...even if you don't like it. I have been in situations where they killed one of the few family chickens and spent a months salary to feed visitors because they wanted to honor us, and a few very spoiled group members ruined it by complaining about the food and refusing to eat. Bad bad bad manners people.
4) Please don't assume that "our" way of doing things is the only and/or right way. Sometimes it isn't.
5) Listen more than you talk. If you want to really help people you have to first get to know them and find out what they really need as opposed to what you think they need.
6) Only rich people joke about being poor and only the well nourished joke about starving to death. When around people who are actually poor and starving don't do either of those. Remember that if you are an American and you're traveling abroad you are wealthier than the majority of people in the world...even if you're a college student working part time at a coffee joint.
7) Don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself when it comes to talking in another language. Making the effort tells people that you're interested in them and would love to get to know them, whereas sitting by silently and staring at people says something else entirely...like "Hello, I'm a stalker from another land." or "I'm sorry but you're just not worth the effort".
Remember, humility goes a long way in any country, so if God blesses you with the gift of travel, please use it wisely and represent Him the best you possibly can. It's really all about Him anyway.