Saturday, March 5, 2016

Travelers need to be kinder

Can you imagine yelling at your host? Can you imagine yourself being yelled at? I was surprised yesterday to walk into this scene. A guest, a young man covered with tattoos and wearing a piece of cloth as a "sarong," which I guess he deems appropriate because he perceives himself to be in a "beach resort," was yelling at the owner (gentlest lady) and her front desk assistant (who lost her mother in the tsunami). His tirade? The pool was full of local kids having their Saturday swimming lesson. He hadn't been warned of this and he wanted more than the three kid-free hours to have the pool to himself. Imagine. The kids were jumping and chattering. 

In fact I've been to the pool on a Saturday morning. The kids are kept under good control by their parents and the coach, a former Olympic swimmer. You can swim there. There's room for everyone and "foreigners" have their own part of the pool to use. But that's not exactly to the point. The point I guess is that we are guests here, entitled perhaps to certain services and courtesies, but we don't own the place. As a matter of fact by traveling we have put ourselves voluntarily into a space where we have less control, less say, than we might at home. We are in a new place where we expect courtesy and by that standard we should, in return, be kind. 

How are you kind? Be empathetic and show it. Look around you. What do other people here do? What do they need? You are not here to anticipate or fulfill the needs of people here but may I suggest that your time is an exchange of sorts. In a small guest house it is certainly more than "customer" and "seller." Traveling is your opportunity to experience a new world, new horizons. It is a chance to immerse yourself in a landscape that's free of assumptions. You don't know what's going on here so you can lighten up and smile because even if you don't have the pool to yourself all day you are pretty much for certain gonna have dinner and a clean bed to sleep in. 

As a stranger here you get to experience the differences from what your world has to offer. The new encounters you have define your experience more, I think, than hours spent swimming. This is an opportunity. You have paid your good money to fly here. You have landed and traveled here safe and sound. Now build something for yourself even if it's unexpected. Make this time count as a time when you smiled and relaxed and made some new acquaintances and got insight into a new world. Give yourself and others a break. Don't demand. And don't expect that your demands will be met, or even listened to. It's your chance to be fair and patient and find the fairness and patience in you. If you have them in you. 

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