Is there a right way and a wrong way to travel? Yes!
We live in the era of the Virtuous Traveler. We at The Global Scavenger Hunt (TGSH) believe that traveling in the spirit of humility and curiosity will enhance your journey. To do well in this event—and to travel in general—you will find it necessary to interact with people throughout the world: to trust strangers in strange lands. Their customs may be different and strange, effective communications may be challenging; but make no mistake about it, your destiny will be determined by the kindness those strangers extend to you. So, smile, listen well, be sensitive, go slow and gentle into the night, and accept karma.
In our humble opinion, below is a Responsible Travelers Creed that every traveler ought to abide by. Most of it is commonsense, but since ignorance can do a fair amount of harm, we find that they always bear repeating:
Do no harm. Minimize your impact. Be Green. Pack it in—pack it out. Leave nothing in your wake. Take only pictures and wonderful memories with you. Don’t litter and never leave graffiti—even if it appears to be a custom. Try to save precious water resources as much as possible and conserve energy as well. Minimize your footprint as best you can. Use an eco-sac bag and use reusable water bottles (fill them up after you pass through security at the airport & get them filled at your hotel). Walk and bike as often as you can, and use public transportation as much as possible (an event requirement). Use reef-friendly sunscreens (sans oxybenzone). Enjoy local cuisines (oh yeah!).
Be patient with the people you encounter. They’re not from the “Big City” and it may take them a few moments to digest and adjust to your language. (Think for a moment how you would feel if someone out-of-the-blue started speaking Hindi to you on your hometown street corner asking directions!?) Cultivate the habit of patiently listening and observing; not merely hearing, seeing and quickly reacting. Ask sincere questions—accept honest replies. Be polite. Don’t be glib or provocative.
Remember that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Travel to meet the world openly; relish the differences in both cultures and customs—don’t be a condescending know-it-all imperialist swine. We in the West (most of us) don’t have all the answers to all the world’s problems—we just think we do! Please don’t fall into the West is Best and We’re #1 Syndrome. Have an open mind. Encourage sustainable old ways, and be respectful of local traditions. Others are not inferior—they’re just different.
Do not expect special privileges from others just because you’re a visitor. Wait until you are invited to partake in their personal celebrations and rituals (Imagine if some badly –dressed stranger crashed your daughter’s wedding…or your father’s funeral!). As in your daily life, make no promises to people that you are not certain to honor. (Repeat that sentence!) Doing lunch means doing lunch—not just saying it. Saying you’ll call or write later, or send them a copy of the digital photo you took of them—means that you will really do it. Your word is your bond still reigns supreme in most of the rest of the world. White lies are BIG lies.
Stay on designated paths and within designated areas. Private property laws do exist elsewhere. When visiting sacred and historic sites, take only photographs. Always adhere to posted “no photos/no flash” rules.
Dress appropriately when visiting sacred and/or religious sites. Take off your shoes when appropriate—and please no shorts, caps or tank tops. Women especially, please dress modestly in certain destinations; show respect for their traditions. Men, take your hats off indoors and your sunglasses off when having dialogue with others.
Pack this mindset for your travels: make friends and listen.
Always ask permission from the people you wish to photograph up close or take a selfie with. If you’re in doubt, ask before your shoot. Be sensitive. And for both our male and female travelers: when taking a group photo with indigenous strangers/new-fast friends of the opposite sex, it is not polite to put your hands on their shoulders or touch them—no matter how friendly you think you are being!
Never remove or disturb architectural fragments, natural habitats, stones, critters or foliage—these are always highly inappropriate souvenirs. Think if everybody did that.
Don’t purchase artifacts or artworks that you think or suspect may have been taken from historic or sacred sites; or buy objects from endangered species, corals or rainforests. It is called illegal contraband.
Do some research once you arrive (Usually done before you go we know!). Attempt to educate yourself quickly about language basics. Learn and attempt a few useful phrases like: Hello, please and thank you. Learn about some of the local customs, taboos, art, history, religion…and about the situational politics of the destination you are visiting. Ask questions and listen well—learn.
Never touch animals or birds. And please don’t feed any wild animals. Always give the animals you encounter the right-of-way and retreat if necessary. Never enter any protected areas or scientific research stations unless invited. Be careful taking animal selfies too, don’t join the stupid club. Wildlife is, grrr, wild—be careful! And it is true: if some place allows you to interact with animals that it would normally be dangerous to interact with—those cute animals are most likely sedated. Stay away, don’t encourage this financial exchange.
Remember that many historic and sacred sites are still functioning (living) places of worship for local inhabitants—and not just for tourists to admire and photograph. Show respect.
Please don’t allow your personal electronic techno-gadgets to get between you and the local people you meet. Turn off and unplug—you will experience more. It is okay to get lost and ask for directions. Look at what is live and in front of you—not at the digital photo you just took of it.
Buy and eat local stuff. Support local artists and craftspeople. Spend money so that it stays in the community’s economy. And remember that the bargains you may obtain are only possible because of the low wages that exist there. Happily, pay the Gringo Tax. Don’t quibble over a few cents.
Take a few moments everyday to reflect on your daily experiences to enrich your understanding of the people and things you were lucky to meet and experience.
Obey all local laws. No matter where you are, accept the laws of the land. This means sometimes not drinking alcohol, showing public displays of affection (PDA’s), or even chewing gum. Corruption and bribery is illegal everywhere! It means saying no to illegal drugs. And it always means respecting all traffic laws. You are not special.
Do not encourage “organized” begging. Of course, you can be generous, but try not to encourage (incentivize) kids to be on the streets instead of in school with your noble impulses; or by perpetuating dependency with hand-outs. Attempt to stay clear of orphanage tourism that turns “orphans” into a commodity by asking yourself: “Am I the best person to help out here? Am I properly trained to do this work? Will I really be helping or is this really just for my Facebook page?” (You will know the honest answers.) Encourage self-reliance by supporting registered local charities, and international one’s like: GreatEscape Foundation, Free the Slaves, UNICEF and Save the Children.
You have read the event’s Official Rules & Regulations, but the spirit of this event is to be honest, don’t cheat, lie or fudge your results, don’t rush and have fun. Please live and play within that spirit. Know that Coach John Wooden had it right, when he said that: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
Finally, remember the Golden Rule—and no, not the one about the man who owns the gold rules—the real Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have others treat you. The natural law of reciprocity—you must give to get and you get what you give—also known as karma…
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