I’m a cynical traveler.
Part of this rests in my own personality: I’m a cynical person. Part of this rests in my travel history: after spending more than 2 years living in foreign countries, I’ve been taken advantage of enough times to be constantly skeptical and on guard.
I still get caught out- like that time two men tried to rob me while I was looking for the change they supposedly dropped on the bus. But normally, I’m a firm believer in the power of a polite “No”. “No, I will not buy you an exercise book.” “No, I will not promote you (the Kenyan euphemism for ‘buy the crap I’m selling at exorbitant prices’).” “No, I will not give you the shirt I am currently wearing.”
My husband, on the other hand, is a kind and generous traveler.
When we were in Ethiopia together, he was so moved by a little boy’s story of coming to town from the countryside to go to school that he bought the boy a school book. Of course, my husband suspected that the exact same book was resold several times a day to tourists who fall for the ploy. He didn’t mind though, he was happy to give the kid some money.
As part of his kind and generous nature, my husband is also quick to give his contact information to people. I, on the other hand, won’t even answer my Kenyan cell phone if a call is coming in from a mystery number, since I am convinced it’s just someone calling to rip me off. (I know, I’m paranoid. But to be fair, I have gotten multiple text messages from people trying to get money from me.)
Sharing your contact information is nice. I think it shows a level of respect and trust. Unfortunately, it also opens up your email address to entire villages.
Here’s a sample email, which my husband received last night:
Hello my dearest
I would like to express my warmest greeting by writing and asking you how are you doing with your families and friends too? I am extremely fine and doing pretty well thanks to almighty of God. Well, did you remember me in the holy land place of lalibela? I am the boy whom I meet you around your hotel when you were been here. Even you have bought a book for one boy, who is in the same classmate with my sister, and I have a good visiting on the lalibela artisan’s office and you have a gave me a small coin which I used to bought a exercise book because after a week we will start a education, I don’t have a word to express your humanitarian thinking for me and for my education.
Have you arrived in your country safely? Did you gate your families in a spectacular health?
How was the trip of Ethiopia especially in the remarkable place lalibela?
You are always in my thinking and daily prayer!
I wish you all the best.
Yours sincerely miki
On the one hand, it’s a very sweet letter. Who doesn’t want to be called “my dearest” (albeit by a 10-year-old boy) and be praised for their “humanitarian thinking”. On the other hand, my husband gets several of these emails each day.
Because of my experiences and my personality, I don’t always connect with people when I travel. I’m introverted, skeptical, and say no a lot, and people leave me alone. I miss out on interpersonal connections, but I feel safer (this doesn’t mean that I am actually safer, though).
My husband is much more outgoing and generous, but it means that he is more frequently hassled. (Once you buy a book for one school boy, everybody wants your money. We had small crowds waiting outside of our hotel.)
Right now, I’m still working on relaxing my introverted, cynical self. I’m grateful that I can witness my husband’s generous example, and realize that his generosity does not put him into dangerous situations. He might get a few odd emails, and we might have to put up with a crowd of children who want our tourist dollars, but it’s not a big deal.
What about you? What’s your travel style?