The art of traveling with respect

Dear readers and lovely friends,

It has been some time since I have written something on my personal blog. Recently I have traveled to Bali, and was amazed by the welcoming and friendly Balinese. What a beautiful country with some wonderful people and their charming traditions and culture. I was simply mesmerized by their rituals, religion and their passion for it. Everyday I was bombarding people with questions about their believes, their practices, their customs, their families, their religion and their personal lives. I wanted to know everything and be able to adjust and show respect for their way of living. Everyone would help me answer the questions I had and help me understand their way of living.

That was also when they shared with me that they on the one hand are very happy with tourists because thanks to tourism they have incomes. However on the other hand I listened to their stories told reluctantly about the tourists they do not appreciate.

There are tourist groups, which come in masses with their mainly private and expensive boats and tour guides. Those tourists are the ones who insist on holding animals for pictures (such as turtles and Nemo fishes or baby sharks). Because of that behaviour many animals died while being photoshoot with. This does not make them think or feel sorry apparently. One of the turtle sanctuary made life size turtle replicates in order to give to those tourists who insist on taking pictures. The guy from the sanctuary explained that they were extremely happy with the European tourists who they find very respectful with animals and nature.

A few days later one of the staff in one of the hotels on Nusa Lembongan, told us very carefully that this special group of tourists would not respect their culture and religion but bring their own culture to Bali and try to force it on Balinese. He told us that they are very demanding and not respectful with this beautiful land, causing a lot of rubbish on every attraction. Furthermore being rude to people with one single goal, to take the perfect picture, no matter what it costs. Eventhough Balinese are extremely sad about the way their culture and land isbeing treated they would never open their mouth and say something about it because of their extremely polite and friendly attitude.

First I could not believe what I was told until one day I could experience myself: on a very crowded attraction we were trying to take some pictures of the attraction without the hundred tourist heads..which was already very challenging. At one point we decided we also wanted one or two pictures with the attraction so I told my boyfriend to stand strategically so I could try to take the picture as if there were no people. In that moment I got rudly shoo’ed away with an “excuse me”, an irritated face and some very rude hand signs. Feeling uncomfortable we left that spot and carried on to the exit where fresh coconuts were sold to drink. We sat there and enjoyed our coconut water. This gave us plenty of time to observe those tourists the Balinese were talking about. Not interested in the area and people around them they war rushing from one attraction to another. Taking pictures in the weirdest poses and carrying on with their skin covering rain jackets at >30degrees celcius and some bad ass umbrellas. Repeatedly we saw rude behaviour, while they were talking to the old couple selling the coconuts in the hot sun. But that shocked me the most was that those tourists threw their rubbish (such as chewing gum paper and empty crisps bag) on the tiny basket with offerings for the gods/demons. Either they were assuming it was a pile of rubbish or they knew what it was but did not care. Both scenarios make me nearly cry. the first case is shocking for me, how you can travel in a country and not ask a single time to locals or your guide what the little basket with flowers etc in means and if there is a way to show respect. And about the second case… I don’t even want to think that this is true.

I noticed that those things I saw myself and were also told by multiple people really shocked me. I was thinking about my own behaviour while traveling and that I try to adapt to local culture as much as I can in order to embrace the whole experience and in order to learn about their lives. Still I felt very ashamed of us as tourists, even though knowing that I was not part of “those tourists”.

With this short post I hope we all travelers keep being aware of our behaviour and the impact of it. Please lets be respectful with the people the animals and the nature we are visiting.

This is offering, not rubbish!

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