Confession time: I love partying while I'm on the road. It's usually a lot cheaper and I don't have to worry about work. Why wouldn't I go a little wild on beer or even buckets of unknown alcohol? I'm sure most of us indulge when we're on vacation or backpacking, which in entirely fine. However, the problem begins when we treat a place like it is nothing more than a garbage dump.
Travellers often believe that there is a certain sense of ownership that they have over a country when they go, particularly in South East Asia where many are living in poverty. However, they would be wrong to do so and I wish they would stop. So here is my plea to travellers all around South East Asia or if you're planning on making a trip I ask just a few things.
Respect Religious and Cultural Differences
While I understand that in forty degree weather it isn't idyllic to clothe oneself head to toe or even just covering what could be a great tan, it is important for you to understand that whatever you do back home may not be appropriate in your new location. Particularly in small towns and villages where they don't see a lot of tourism and may have more traditional values then those living in cities do. Men and women alike, I recommend you dress what you believe to be conservatively in your home nation when walking about or not hanging out by the pool so as not to offend the people living in the country you are a visitor in and have no claim to in anyway. This way if you find your way to a Wat you can go in without having to dress up in whatever they have handy.
It may be obvious to some but I have seen most fail at this time and time again but many places you might not expect to be could be more culturally or historically significant than you believe. Save the awkward conversation where someone is asking you to cover yourself by doing so ahead of time.
Would You Do This At Home?
A big question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we would do something in our home country or town. If you wouldn't litter on a beach, park or religious site then it's best you don't do that abroad either. Especially in places like Asia where there is so much unfettered beauty. This isn't to say that locals don't litter but we have to try to minimize this. If not for the environment then certainly for your Instagram photos. There is nothing qute like a pile of garbage to ruin a cute beach selfie.
This Country is Not Made for Your Comfort
Each country is different, even if there are similarities in some. A place is designed with the comfort of the locals in mind. A big thing for this is bathrooms in South East Asia. While in Eastern countries we are used to washrooms that you're able to use toilet paper the irrigation systems aren't designed for this in Asia hence the infamous Bum Gun. I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't completely daunting when I first used it because... well it's odd. However I'm from a country where it's abnormal to use such a thing, mostly because Canada is such a young country as far as infrastructure goes. This is not the case for most countries outside of North America and certainly not for South East Asia unless they have gone through significant upgrades which costs taxpayers heaps of money.
In addition to the unspeakables of bathroom habits, this also has to do with food too. Some countries it is common place to eat animals that we might consider horrifying. For instance, dog meat is consumed pretty regularly in Cambodia because of a high amount of wild dogs and the ability to produce cheap meat for a country where many people have very little money thanks to unstable economies. There is no need to pass judgement on those who eat things when thereis really no difference between cows or dogs or pigs as they all emote, think and can be domesticated. I'm not suggesting you eat them too but I'm suggesting you have a little bit of sympathy and common sense with this because to many people it can seem strange to eat cows or pigs. These things are strictly culturally based so travelling requires you to have an open mind when encountering things like this. If you wish to change the state of the treatment animals at home or abroad there are many things you can do, like helping the Soi Dog foundation or donating money to veternary offices abroad to fund for de-sexing animals. This is just the tip of the iceburg though.
Western Values Aren't Superior Values
I can feel the anger in people just reading this section's title but please hear me out first. We have very different ideals - not even country to country but state to state or province to province. This is most seen when you go abroad - particularly from a Western country to an Eastern one. In part this is due to the industrial revolution then later the technological advancements that have been made. Many move at a faster pace, live differently and are less in touch with their physical surroundings. Being a blogger, I can hardly say that I don't have that issue. My phone is attatched to me as if I need it to breath. In North America we also seperate ourselves from our families very young whereas many other cultures are shocked by such a thing. I've personally experienced people in a few small villages being slightly horrified that my parents would not live or travel with me. The independence we have from our parents that is so ingrained into us is looked at as being selfish in some cases. For this reason, you shouldn't look down on others because they don't live the way you do as they would similarly not understand the way so many of us live.
Respecting different cultures is the most important part about travel especially when considering the history of Imperialism, war and poverty felt around the world which is largely from Euro-centrism. If you are lucky you will meet people who will further explain things to you when you are abroad, you just have to be willing to meet them halfway first.
Essentially this is important for every place you go to but as someone who meets long-term travellers regularly and is one herself I have seen this sort of attitude from people in Asia. There are beautiful places with equally as amazing people there but how easily we travel to a country is dictated by how we treat that country while we are there.