Do’s and don’ts for your next trip.
I’m writing this to remind myself of the things I’d like to do while traveling. The big, obvious one is always “take photos,” but I sat down and thought about what else matter to me, and came up with four do’s and don’ts.
1. Drink with locals
Bourdain went as far as saying “drink heavily with locals”, but I’ll skip the “heavily.” Approaching people from a different culture or place is scary, uncomfortable, and awkward; they’re strangers after all and it’s natural for you to raise your guard. Outside this comfort zone, however, you might find historical facts, personal anecdotes, valuable recommendations, weird jokes, and priceless knowledge that aren’t on corny flyers or Trip Advisor reviews.
2. Respect cultural traditions
Wearing short clothes inside the Blue Mosque, leaving your shoes on inside a Nepali house, kissing inside the Ostrog, or asking for a beef dish at a Hindu dinner are examples of being culturally insensitive. Even if you’re not trying to be an asshole, it’s easy to be ignorant about someone else’s values. Respecting cultural traditions differentiates a guest from an intruder.
3. Dress modestly
Nothing screams “tourist” more than a Gucci hat, popped collar, excessive jewelry, and YEEZY sneakers. Besides looking like a clown, you’re also surrounding yourself with narcissism. Travel to see, not be seen. Travel to inspire, not brag. Travel to be humble, not arrogant. Start by dressing modestly.
4. Be geographically aware
I suck at this. After coming back from Mexico City, I was recommending a few neighborhoods to my coworker when he asked me where La Condesa was relative to Roma. It was a simple question — La Condesa is slightly west — but I had no idea since I never paid attention to the map. All I cared about was getting there. So I swallowed my pride and said, “I’m not sure.” Always be aware of where you are; this increases your knowledge of the vicinity, gives you more depth while providing recommendations, and keeps you safe.
5. Don’t eat fast food
After flying on multiple airlines, sitting through long layovers, and surviving grueling jet lag, please — for the love of God — don’t eat at a McDonald’s. If you haven’t researched yet, ask your Uber driver for suggestions on your way from the airport. Eating at a local restaurant will make you more cultured, promote their food (because you’re definitely going to Instagram that), and encourage yourself to be less afraid to try new cuisine.
6. Don’t carry a selfie stick
Nothing scares me more than someone menacingly walking around with a sorry-looking selfie stick. It’s a pain to watch the whole process: mounting a clunky phone on it, extending the flimsy arm, and then awkwardly posing for the perfect angle. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take photos of yourself. Take as many as your heart desires. Take a regular selfie or, if you need a wider angle, ask someone to take it for you. People are generally happy to take photos; maybe offer to return the favor!
7. Don’t litter
I’ve seen tourists do this many times. They can’t hang on to their trash, either because its falling out of their purse or they nonchalantly leave it on top of a newspaper stand. Take it from someone who was raised in a third-world country, everyone has their own trash to take care of, and nobody needs our Clif Bar wrappers floating around. Keep it in your bag and dispose it properly.
8. Don’t assume credit card is accepted
I got a travel credit card for the same reason you did: to be able to swipe away without international fees. I also worked at Visa when I did most of my recent traveling and self-righteously walked around with no cash, expecting the world around me to be digital. Most restaurants and stores have a very slim profit margin — especially if they’re a small business abroad — and even a three-percent credit card fee is too high. Forcing local merchants to painfully chose between paying card fees or losing your business is wrong. Just go to an ATM.