There are still some things that “responsible travelers” might miss.
We have all met people who say they are responsible travelers – they don’t litter waste, read and follow rules on notice boards, and diligently comply by the police instructions. While I am happy that people know how to conduct themselves, you ultimately don’t belong to the place. Committing blunders is natural, since we are oblivious to the rules laid down.
Interestingly enough, there are some things that travel books will not teach you through their encyclopediac knowledge of things.
It is time that ED lists out some ways you can improve the responsible traveler in you:
1. Keep leather away from temples
Yes. Leather is a big no-no. People within the community are very particular about it. Leather is always kept at a safe distance from temples. Usually temple complexes have a separate room to keep your leather belongings. Make people from the temple premises aware that you are carrying objectionable belongings – to me, the first rule of travel. Please don’t carry leather goods inside complexes. Not even your belt.
2. Clicking photos without permission is rude
Very rude, in fact. Let me remind you of this forgotten etiquette – you always take permission from the person you are clicking. It is very disrespectful and many people hate being subjects to any kind of your project simply because they are hesitant to technology or do not feel like a clown posing for you.
And please don’t click photographs of local devotees at temples. That is just a very idiotic thing to do because those rituals are sacred and nobody is allowed to tape them. You’re actually lucky that we haven’t banned you from the place.
3. Listen to the locals!
I can probably scream my lungs out on this. The local population has been inhabiting in the mountains since generations. Quite naturally, they know a thousand more things than you do. Just because you have traveled a lot does not imply that you are a pro.
If there are people who say that one should not take a certain road or a route, your first instinct should be to go by what they say. And this is just the minutest of all things. Locals will help you out through your way. Often it is witnessed that in any mishap, people had brushed the warnings from the locals aside and continued with their way despite obvious objections by the community. Therefore, ALWAYS, ALWAYS listen to the locals.
4. Do not enter villages
Villages are as private as they are communal (not in the negative sense of the word). When one enters a village, you penetrate the daily lives of people. Not everyone will be comfortable to host an outsider. Besides, there is always a sense of distrust that villagers have towards people who do not belong to the community, introducing massive miscommunication. If you still really want to live among the people, I suggest that one should ask for the village head.
Just barging in the lives of people “to learn and experience how they live” is not a very polite thing to do.
I really suggest that the only way to allow people to come to you is to ask them – make them believe that they belong to the place and not otherwise like I have observed many people do. If you present your concerns as genuine, people are obviously going to come to you. There is really no way that they will refuse.
But the more one tries to assert yourself to the culture of a place, the more you try to penetrate the society, whatever reason it be, people will cocoon themselves more, and this cardinal rule works almost everywhere.
While there are travelers and tourists who do travel responsibly, one thing that they should never forget is that they are outsiders anyhow and you have to abide by certain rules that will bind you because of your identity. Respect that. There is nothing to take offence about it.