Being a better traveller
It’s clear that there are different types of travellers.
You’ve got your backpacker type, the true blue budget one who is a penny pincher but tries to make the best out of the experience and rough it out just to experience wonderful things despite the monetary setbacks. Then there’s the kind of flashpackers that consider themselves as backpackers but because they’re only on short trips, they have a higher budget and are not worried when they blow too much money on anything since they’ve got a job back home waiting for them. There’s also the people who travel to find themselves, immerse themselves in a spiritual journey or a Eat Pray Love ritual towards some sort of self discovery. Then there’s the sickening blokes that only want to drink, party and have fun with any and every chick they see with their beer goggles, because booze is 10x cheaper as compared to back home. And of course not forgetting the type of traveller that spends all their time in the hostel but doesn’t have an interest in exploring because they only travel to places to ‘cross it off’ their list of visited countries. The list can go on, but there’s so many variations of the above mentioned that it’s impossible to describe them all.
But that’s not exactly the point. Regardless of which category you fall into, you’d have followed or opened the Lonely Planet guide during your travels at some point. Yes it is useful, and in some places I’m thankful to have it. But at the same time, the backpacker journey according to Lonely Planet destroys real lives and culture, especially in developing countries or small quaint towns. Every traveller I’ve met in the hostel while volunteering in East Malaysia were all doing the same route around Malaysia; Perhentian, Redang & Tioman islands, Taman Negara, Cameron Highlands, Penang, Kuala Lumpur.
This is all because it’s in the featured things to do on the Lonely Planet guide? It seems as though sometimes people are just too afraid to step out of their comfort zone and explore the less explored places. Now i’m not saying that everyone follows the guide books religiously but many people do and that’s a real shame. Heck, I’m even guilty of it myself. And there are days on the road I think about just burning the guide and take a random bus to somewhere I’ve never heard of. One of the keys to being a better traveller is to know when to drop the guide books and follow your heart, instincts and find new places on your own without asking other travellers “where are you going next?”
& then there’s the constant feeling of longing for paradise. Yes, it’s true that many places in Southeast Asia have beautiful beaches, especially in Thailand or Malaysia, where tens of thousands of travellers flock to every year mainly for the sand, sea, aquatic life, booze and party. But you see, places such as the East Coast of Malaysia is just as amazing, and no I’m not just referring to the Malaysian islands. That random small towns you’ve never heard of could just be the perfect location to look for the true local experience and to get to know people who aren’t just another backpacker on the Southeast Asian trail.
At the end of the day, traveling isn’t all about the islands. No doubt I agree that islands in this region can be paradise-like and worth a visit, but sometimes it feels as though some people are practically beach obsessed. The other thing about being a better traveller (for the sake of yourself), is to stop this obsession with the beach hunt. Take a pit stop from all these island hopping and give the unknown cities or towns a chance, you may actually find out more about the culture and the way of life. I mean, how tan do you actually want to be. Does it please you as a traveller to go home and share stories about how many percentage of your trip you’ve spent being a complete beach whale, sipping on beer and floating in the sea?
In all honesty, with no offence to anyone, it disgusts me to hear someone tell me they’ve been to India when all they have done is spend most of their time getting shitfaced on the beaches in Goa, or how they’ve already seen Indonesia because they’ve been to Kuta in Bali. Because if experiencing “white culture” in a completely destroyed Asian beach destination is your ideal way of getting to know a country, then a lot of places would just have the same shit. But then again, there are the types of travellers who search specifically for that, so to each his own. Thou shall not judge other’s travel preferences, but i’m #justsaying.
That being said, somedays I wish I was a better traveller. As I’m on the road I still discover new things and learn every day from the people I meet. Eventually when I visit a place, all I want is to leave behind is a positive impact on the locals’ life and achieve some sort of cultural exchange while I’m exploring the country. With tourism ruining a lot of culture as it strengths the economy, I guess it’s our individual responsibility as a traveller to make sure that we don’t contribute to the negative influences that we might add to the people, the country and the culture.