Being a smart traveller

I took a walk around the lake near my home the other day. The spring was officially here and it brought the warm sun and many baby birds. Tiny ducks and geese were awkwardly and insecurely jumping into the water after the adults and enjoying their first swims.

It was weekend and the park was visited by many people, especially families with small children. We were watching the animals from the distance, even though the birds were so used to people that they would not mind if we came closer. I sat on the bench and three small geese looked at me curiously. Someone before probably gave them food.

Suddenly, three children passed me, with their father along. They were not speaking the local language and by the way they were equipped I was immediately sure that they were tourists. The children ran towards the family of geese, scaring them so they would run into the water. To those who did not dare to, they indicated with their feet and kicks to do so. Because it was »funny« to hear them complaining they started throwing the stones in the water so the birds would jump and swim faster. “Excuse me, could you stop? This is not nice,” I said politely, being in a shock of what was happening in front of me. “Yeah, yeah, let’s go,” said their father. And after stopping for a few seconds, the children continued with scaring the birds and throwing stones. “You should stop, this is not ok!” I said louder and my neighbor added: “Do you think this is normal?” Father, one of the first sources of a child’s knowledge, repeated: “Yeah, let’s go,” and they left to play some mini golf, without giving a child any lesson or explanation, without apologizing or feeling awkward at all. And I could not help myself but to think that the word »tourist« often comes with a negative sound because of such people.

I do understand that especially children do stupid things and mistakes – I can not count how many I’ve made! But they need to be warned to be respectful to other living beings, to foreign lands and to the citizens of the places they visit. But, what is the excuse for an adult? If this is how you behave, you are ignorant. And it makes me sad that because of such individuals the tourism is sometimes getting the negative reactions of the locals.

No one saved the world that day and I doubt that anyone learned anything. But it made me write this story and ask that when visiting a new place, be respectful to what it offers to you. Do not be a stupid tourist. Be a smart traveller. And pass that to the younger generations, that are learning by the example.

Traveling broadens our horizons, teaches us, grows many friendships, so keep this alive and show the locals that being a tourist does not mean coming into a place full of yourself and expecting from it to impress you, but coming modestly, respectfully and prepared to learn and adapt to the new. Let the travellers continue being greeted welcomely.