The Ten Commandments of Travel
Most travel writers and bloggers talk about where to travel. This piece deals with how to travel. The guidelines below, penned in the style of the ten Biblical commandments, and distributed to travelers who book a tour of China with a Seattle-based outfit called China Spree.
It may have been created for American tourists bound for China, but the advice contained therein can be applied anywhere in the world by anyone who travels:
1. “Thou shalt not expect to find things as thou has them at home, for thou has left thy home to find things different.”
It’s not that comparisons between the American way of doing thing and life in a foreign country aren’t valid. It’s just that nobody wants to hear them ad nauseum all through the trip. Not your traveling companions. Not the tour guide. Definitely not the locals.
2. “Thou shalt not take anything too seriously…a carefree mind is the beginning of a vacation.”
Do you come home from a vacation so worn out that you need a rest? Did you forget why we take vacations — namely, to relax and de-stress? Things don’t have to be perfect. Minor hiccups during a trip are just that, minor. Embrace the unexpected, the unscheduled. Roll with it. You’ll return with a brighter outlook, some funny stories … and maybe lower blood pressure.
3. “Thou shalt not let other tourists get on thy nerves, for thou art paying out thy savings to enjoy thyself.”
There are roughly 7 billion human beings on the planet. You’re not destined to “click” with all of them. Before you let your last nerve snap, remember why you took this trip, how much fun you had planning it, how much you looked forward to it. If all else fails, remember how much you paid for it. Far too much to let any one obnoxious cretin ruin it for you.
4. “Thou shalt not forget that thou dost represent they country.”
Wherever we are in the world, the locals seem to have no trouble spotting us as Americans. You don’t have a say a word. They just know. And when 99 out of 100 locals look at you, they don’t see you. They see “America.” Whatever impression you make on them, good or bad, is likely the way they will view the United States long after you’ve left. So have a blast, but please remember to “represent” in a positive way. We need all the international goodwill we can get.
5. “Thou shalt not worry. One who worrieth hath no peace…and few things are ever fatal!”
This one ties pretty tightly to commandments 1 and 2. Unless you’re on a solo expedition down the Amazon or across the Sahara, odds are you’re going to be in the company of either family or friends who will be looking out for you, or professional tour operators who have a vested interest in taking care of you. So leave the Type A work persona at home and chill. You’re here to enjoy.
6. “Remember thy passport, so that thou always knowest where it is. A person without a passport is a person without a country.”
Whether by accident or theft, losing your passport is the quickest way to turn a dream trip into a nightmare. Protect it. Keep track of it. Treat it as if it were your most precious possession in life. Because when you’re outside the US…it is.
7. “Blessed is the one who can say “Thank you” in any tongue, for this is of more worth than tipping.”
Do you like to feel respected, appreciated? Well, so does everyone else. When someone in a foreign country does something for you, the only thing that makes him or her feel better than saying “thank you” is saying it in their language. Don’t worry if you butcher the pronunciation; people appreciate that you cared enough to make the effort.
8. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do. If in difficulty, use thy American common sense and friendliness.”
As it says in the very first commandment, thou art not at home. When in difficulty or in doubt, don’t lost heart or patience. Smile. Be polite. Try a little sign language. Smile some more. Keep your cool. The situation will sort itself out in a moment.
9. “Do not judge the people of a country by one person with whom thou hast had difficulties.”
Remember the third commandment? It doesn’t apply only to your fellow tourists. Likewise, if you cross paths with a local who turns out to be a lout, that doesn’t automatically mean that you’re spending your vacation in a nation of louts. See him for what he is — an individual whom you are never going to see again in life, but about whom you will be telling jokes (at his expense) for the rest of his life — and move on.
10. “Remember thou art a guest in every land. Those who treateth their host with respect shall themselves receive honorable treatment.”
Two simple principles here. First — “their house, their rules” also applies to countries. And second, the Golden Rule is a traveler’s best friend.
Greg Gross is the Publisher/Sr. Editor of “I’m Black and I Travel!,” and the owner of the Trips by Greg travel agency. This is cross-posted from his blog “I’m Black and I Travel.”