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How Not To Be a Douchebag While Travelling

Let’s make this clear, none of us set out to be rude, insensitive or judgmental, well most of us. Unfortunately it can creep up and before we know it our behaviour while travelling can be completely cringe-worthy. We all have bad days where things don’t go right and we have trouble finding our zen. That’s expected. I tend to have a good laugh at myself after I’ve been a grump and move on. But, what happens when it's bigger than just an off day? What if it becomes a pattern of behaviour? I’ve made a helpful list of some signs and symptoms of douchiness that I hope comes in handy. Check yourself before you wreck yourself….

1) Holier Than Thou

I’m a people watcher. I enjoy watching people and their interactions. I’ve made a science of observing the weird and wonderful ways we associate with one another. For the most part we all want to be loved. We all want respect and admiration because this makes us feel appreciated. Regrettably in our strange lifelong quests for compassion we sometimes mix up status and rank for love. We subconsciously feel that if we are better than others we are more lovable, and that’s where things tend to get screwed up. Here are some indicators that we may be off balance:

  • You catch yourself regularly scoffing at or making fun of other travellers who don’t fit your style of travel. Some people consider a Disney cruise the perfect way to see the world, while others are happy to throw away their hairbrush and wander barefoot from country to country. Live and let live I say.

  • You turn your nose up and act aghast at local food, accommodation, transport, etc. that you decide do not meet your standards. You are not forced to partake in anything that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Perhaps try not to vocally express your displeasure and thereby treat others like turd.

  • You think people who do not speak the language of your homeland are idiots with zero intelligence. (Sorry to add this one but I’ve just observed a shameful episode of this and I’m still shuddering from it.) I understand that it is hard not being able communicate. Maybe try imagine it in reverse. How many people have you seen yell at a Taco Bell employee in the States for not speaking Swedish or Japanese or Swahili?

2) A Little Too Untethered

One of the reasons most of us love to travel is that it give us a sense of freedom and escape. There is nothing wrong with this. It feels great to disconnect from our regular routines but let’s try stay grounded. It is not uncommon when we travel to be tempted to act and speak in inappropriate ways that we would never even contemplate on home turf. The minute we stop feeling accountable for our behaviour things go downhill quickly. This is how symptoms may present themselves:

  • You find yourself groping and taking sexual photos with statues in temples, shrines, churches or other sacred places you feel no connection to.

  • You post pictures of toilets, beggars and stray animals and feel this represents an entire culture. (Come on, you would never do this in your home town)

  • You assume no one speaks your language and you talk very openly and insultingly about people, right in front of them. By the way if your are laughing at, mocking or mimicking someone, language is often irrelevant. People can tell when they are being disrespected and just because they are too well-mannered to kick your ass doesn’t mean that they are clueless.

3) The Freak Out

Let’s try our best to keep our cool when things don’t go according to plan. Is it really worth popping a vein in order to get our way? Most often it doesn’t yield the results we want anyway. The following are some signs that we need to take a deep breath and find our happy place.

  • You get your knickers in a knot every time you don’t get the service you paid for. This is hard to understand, especially for us North Americans, where the customer is king. Sometimes you order a Pepsi and get a Coke. Sometimes you are promised free WiFi and there is none available. Sometimes you pay for a fast bus and it takes double the time. I’m not saying let yourself get scammed but I’m just suggesting to take a moment and reflect. Will spazzing out get you the results you want? Will it make your day any better?

  • You don’t quite get the art of bartering and end up full-on fighting with the vendor. Bargaining in many countries is a delicate dance of push and pull. It can feel quite aggressive at times. There may be feigned offense and expressions of displeasure but most often no one is actually upset. Please don’t jump in and go to war with the poor dude trying to sell you his wares. You can always just walk away. Don’t engage if you don’t feel comfortable. Most likely there will be 20 other people selling the exact same thing just down the street.

  • You completely melt down when you lose your stuff. This sucks, and it happens to all of us. We leave one of our bags on the bus, we drop our camera off the boat, we get robbed, and sometimes we have no idea what the hell happened. Nowadays we tend to travel with more and more expensive gadgets. It truly stinks to lose anything we have decided is important enough to lug halfway across the world with us. Passports, money and credit cards are a serious bummer to lose. All I can say is hurting those around you and people completely unconnected to the loss of your items is not going to remedy the situation. I find that very kind people show up in my life when I am in need. Stay calm, stay openhearted.

Yah so there it is, just a few little ideas on how to be a decent human and not treat others like trash. My best advice is to laugh. Life’s screw-ups are usually hilarious. Most of my misadventures have become fodder for some of my funniest stories. Travel is such a blessing and it is even more rewarding if we don’t act like douchebags.

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