Seen the TV series An Idiot Abroad? It makes me cringe – but only because I know this is exactly the way I’ve behaved in the past.
I remember arriving at the ferry terminal in Surat Thani, in Thailand. I thought I’d walked into a time-warp. Here were a whole bunch of “freaks” looking as I had been trying to look twenty years previously.
Looking, that is, as different as possible from the people whose hospitality they were enjoying. Many of the would-be passengers were spaced out, closed off to the world around them, as if in little vacuum bottles. In virtual reality, they weren’t even there. They were still back at home.
Maybe travellers need cultural immersion lessons before getting a visa. These lessons would include:
- How to leave your excess baggage (in the form of preconceptions) at home;
- How to say “please” and “thank you” in the language of the country you’re visiting; and
- How to smile instead of constantly growling and complaining.
And if you can’t think of any syllabus items to add to this list, then maybe you should stay at home!