Experience is the best teacher! I heard this for the first time when I was in high school. At that time, I just thought it is the normal cycle of life. We are born, study in school, graduate, get a job, build our home, start a family of our own, send our kids to school, grow old and eventually die. Coming from a small town in the countryside I must say my knowledge and experience in life was very limited. All the life lessons I learned are from the experience my mother, my teachers and what the church I used to attend taught me. However, things turned into 180 degrees when I started traveling. I got to learn things I haven’t learned from school and experience things I could have imagined. Some experiences are good while some are not but one thing is for sure it made me a better person.
*Disclaimer: These are all from my personal experiences that I am sharing. You may agree or not but just saying that we all have different experiences and situations in life.
Keep an Open Mind
I was raised in a conservative environment where certain standards serve as guidance on how to live and how to act in order to fit in. As a result, I was always confused on why some things are unacceptable when I can’t see anything wrong with it. Along my journeys I met the most amazing, accepting and non-judgmental people who would say nothing but good things. I learned to see the good things in every place, people and culture. Through them I learned to be more understanding on everything whether it is cultural, political, religious belief or personality difference. We are all diverse and that is beautiful. I realized that as long we are sensitive to people around us and respectful to our unlikeness we can all get along just fine.
Being independent does not only count on traveling alone but also taking good care of myself that includes some adulting stuff. Traveling to new places, living overseas and exploring the unknown taught me to be resilient and to step out of my comfort zone without depending on other people. I walk places alone, eat by myself, take care of my finances and do things on my own without worrying what other people think. It is the best and most liberating feelings I ever had.
It irks me when people would drop comments about something better in their country versus the country or the place they are visiting. Sure, it’s very common to compare but do you know what this place or people are coming from? I heard a lot of people being so judgmental on others’ cultural practice but have you dug deeper or talked to the locals about it? Remember that these cultures that we mock were practiced millions of years ago and people are just doing fine before we even encountered it. There are cultures that are deemed unaccepted to the culture we are raised to but it would be helpful to observe and learned first before opening your mouth.
Proper Etiquette for Travelers
Putting your dish away in the hostel, asking permission before you take photos on sacred sites, people and with other people, observing proper dress code at sites, greeting and smiling back at locals, asking your fellow travelers if you can upload or tag them in your photos are some examples of right conduct while traveling. Not only to leave them a good impression and being polite but also to show sensitivity to the space we are sharing and acknowledging their presence.
Experience over Material Things
You must have heard this from many motivational speakers and read it from many travel bloggers but it is true and I am living by this statement. In my first year in the working world, I used to go shopping every pay check to relieve my stress and be happy. Yes, the material things I owned gave me sense of fulfillment but only for a short time. When I embarked on a journey of packing my bags and catching flights I realized that the experience I have on the road, meeting new people and learning new culture are lifetime happiness and fulfillment that I need. I also gave up my old lifestyle of collecting things and choose to collect experience that would last a lifetime. Experience, I will share to people and to my future offspring hoping it will inspire them. Experience, I will cherish and will never regret when I reminisce in my grandma days.
Travel Responsibly In Terms of Environmental Consciousness and Exploitation
Something that I learned from people I met along the way and from what I see with my own eyes. Environmental deterioration is such a huge problem right now and admit it tourism play a big role in this. Being sensitive and caring for the environment is a responsibility of each and every one of us. We only have one world and we don’t wish our future generation not to witness its beauty. We have to be responsible even to our small gesture like keeping your litter until, you find a trash bin. Through the years I learned how to travel sustainably such as using eco-bags and bringing my own reusable straws, spoon, fork and chopsticks until I incorporate them to my daily life even when I’m not traveling. I know it is a bit of an effort but I consider it as doing my part to our world.
Another issue that we should be concern about is the exploitation of animals and people for entertainment and tourism. Most people are not knowledgeable about this dark side of tourism. It pains me whenever I see photos of elephant riding in Southeast Asia. My heart is also broken when people patronize tourist trap tours in villages run by third party agencies. I felt that I have the responsibility to educate people about responsible tourism. To my dear friends and readers anything involving animals and people in an unethical way for the sake of tourism and entertainment is not acceptable and should be banned. I am asking you to skip these activities. If it is a package tour do not choose these ones because if there are no consumers then there won’t be producers.
Disclaimer: I am not in any way against village tours. They are worth visiting however, be sure to choose your tours well and do your research before going. Some tour agencies give very little money to the people of the village or they don’t give any benefit at all. Some ethnic minorities also are forced to do something they are against their will to attract visitors. They don’t have proper health benefit, income and education and most of them depend on the tip or “dollar money” given by tourists.
Realizing How Lucky and Privilege d I am
Being able to travel is a privilege. That’s a fact especially coming from a developing country. Not everyone can be able to step outside and see the world. In my culture, most of us are obliged to help our family financially so we prioritize to support our loved ones. I am grateful for having a very understanding family who supports my decision in traveling the world. This alone is a privilege of mine. For years of backpacking, I witnessed people who wish to travel and live a similar lifestyle of mine but couldn’t due to responsibilities. I saw people having no roof above them and struggle to make ends meet day by day. I also talked to someone who gambled everything he had to leave his troubled city and trying to survive doing dead end jobs. I seated next to locals on a train ride putting a smile on their faces while batching their products to be sold in the market despite the fact that 2 minutes ago they almost pass out carrying the 60 kg sack of vegetables into the train. I chatted with a very wealthy young heir who has all the material things he wants however he is not given the time and freedom to explore the world because he is pressured with responsibilities to run his father’s business. I had numerous encounters with women crying on a plane because they have to leave their family and their children as young as 1 year old in order to work overseas and make money for their future. These situations impacted me to be thankful with what I have in life. I will quote a statement of someone when I complained how life has been rough on me in the past. He said “Stop comparing your life to others! Think about those who struggle and unprivileged who wish who has your job, your experience, your health and your ability. All your experiences on the road could be equivalent to their lifetime experience or none at all because they are stuck in something they can’t go out.” Those are the words I live by up to now. I must say I am purely happy and contented with my life right now. With these privileges that I have, I promise to stop complaining, be kinder and be more emphatic to people’s situation.