Is there a right way and a wrong way to travel? Yes!
We live in the era of the Virtuous Traveler. At The Global Scavenger Hunt (TGSH), we 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 worldwide: to trust strangers in strange lands. Their customs may be different or strange, and effective communication may be challenging, but make no mistake; 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.
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 & wonderful memories with you. Don’t litter, and never leave graffiti—even if it appears to be custom. Try to save their precious water resources & conserve energy as much as possible. Minimize your footprint as best you can. Use an eco-sac bag & reusable water bottles (fill them up after you pass through security at the airport & get them filled at your hotel). Walk & bike when possible, and use public transportation as much as possible (an event requirement). Use reef-friendly sunscreens (sans oxybenzone). Enjoy local cuisines (oh yeah!), not shipped in western staples.
Be patient with the people you encounter. They’re not from the “Big City,” and it may take a few moments to digest & adjust to your language. (Think for a moment how you would feel if someone out-of-the-blue started asking you for directions in Hindi or Arabic on your hometown street corner!?) Cultivate the habit of patiently listening & conscious observing; not merely hearing, seeing, and quickly reacting. Ask sincere open 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 cultures & 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 or We’re #1 Syndrome. Keep an open mind. Encourage sustainable old ways & 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 sweaty, poorly dressed stranger crashed your daughter’s wedding…or your father’s funeral!). As in your daily life, make no promises to people you are unsure of honoring. (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 world. White lies are BIG lies.
Stay on designated paths and within designated areas. Private property laws do exist elsewhere. When visiting sacred & historical 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—no shorts, caps, or tank tops. Women especially, please dress modestly in certain destinations; respect their traditions. Men, take off your hats indoors & your sunglasses when having a 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 historical or sacred sites, or buy objects from endangered species, corals or rainforests. It is called illegal contraband. And please, stay away from mass-produced cheap plastic shit from China. Instead, buy local handmade handicrafts & art.
Please attempt 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, and religion…and the situational politics of your destination. Ask questions & 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. Only enter protected areas or scientific research stations if invited. Be careful taking animal selfies, to; don’t join the stupid club. Wildlife is, err, wild—be careful! And it is true: if some place allows you to interact with animals that would usually be dangerous to interact with—those cute animals are most likely sedated. So stay away, and don’t encourage this financial exchange.
Remember that many historic & sacred sites still function as 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 & the local people you meet. Turn off & unplug—you will experience more. It is okay to get lost & have to ask directions. It is when serendipity occurs. Look at what is live & in front of you—not at the digital photo you just took.
Buy & eat local stuff. Support local artists & craftspeople. Spend money so that it stays in the community’s economy. Remember that the bargains you may obtain are only possible because of their low wages. Happily, pay the Gringo Tax & don’t quibble over a few cents.
Take a few moments every day to reflect on your experiences to enrich your understanding of the people & things you were lucky to meet & experience.
Obey all local laws. No matter where you are, accept the laws of the land. This sometimes means not drinking alcohol, showing public displays of affection (PDA’s), or even chewing gum. Corruption & bribery is illegal everywhere! It means saying no to illicit drugs. And it always means respecting traffic laws. You are not special.
Do not encourage “organized” begging. Of course, you can be generous, but try not to enable (incentivize) kids to be on the streets instead of in school with your noble impulses; or by perpetuating dependency with hand-outs. Attempt to avoid orphanage tourism that turns “orphans” into a commodity by asking yourself: “Am I the best person to help here? Am I properly trained to do this work? Will I really be helping, or is this just for my social media virtue signaling?” (You will know the honest answers.) Encourage self-reliance by supporting local registered charities & international one’s like: GreatEscape Foundation, Free the Slaves, UNICEF & 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! So please travel & play within that spirit. Know Coach John Wooden had it right when he said: “The true test of one’s character is what they do when no one is watching.”
Remember the Golden Rule—and no, not the one about the man who owns the gold rules—the fundamental Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have others treat you. The natural law of reciprocity—you must give to get…and get what you give—is known as karma.
Finally, remember that the places we visit are there for the people who live in them, not the people who visit them.
Did we miss something? Please let us know at: GSH (at) GlobalScavengerHunt (dot) com
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