Friday, October 23, 2015

10 Ways to Show Outward Gratitude while Traveling

Let’s be honest, if being abroad and roaming the beautiful earth doesn’t render you grateful for being alive, then there’s a good chance you are doing it wrong. Traveling, be it for a week or a lifetime, is great. It reminds you how important the simple things in life are, and makes the less than stellar aspects more palatable. If you are the one who planned your trip, funded it, and for all intents and purposes, made sure that S actually happened, who should you show your gratitude to? The answer, my friends, is yourself, your travel companions, those in the country you are visiting, as well as the random person you passed on the street, the animals walking around, smiling children, and, of course, life overall. Basically, your gratitude should be so overwhelming that you are just walking around thanking everyone you come in contact with. If that seems too much for you, here are 10 solid ways to outwardly show your appreciation for life being super awesome

Please help this person look less ridiculous
Offer to take Someone’s Picture: While this may not be as relevant in modern days with this ridiculous piece of equipment being so popular, people like to have their pictures taken. Selfie stick or not, a picture taken by one person of another person or group of people will always look better than trying to get your selfie on. Even if you don’t speak the language of someone trying to get a picture of themselves, use some sign language. Making your hands into a box and saying "cliiiiiccckk," is pretty much universal. Show some gratitude by helping someone else capture a special memory from a trip that they are deeply happy to be on as well.

Learn Some Local Phrases: Ok, ok, so maybe we aren’t all going to become polyglots, but do we really have to be totally ignorant of a language? While English is becoming more and more prevalent (with many people opting to learn it rather than local languages elsewhere), learning at least a few words and phrases in a culture goes a long way. People love to hear words in their own language, especially if you are in their country. Please and thank you are musts, but actually learning words that help you count, ask how much, or even just something silly that can make someone laugh, are all great. The effort put in to learn these phrases shows gratitude more than a thank you in English ever could.

Be a Conscious Tourist: Among all things on this list, being a conscious tourist may be at the top. Learning phrases is keenly important, but actually learning the culture shows true gratitude for being a welcomed guest. Be it dressing culturally appropriate or avoiding activities that are culturally inappropriate but created for tourist purposes (i.e sex tourism in Thailand) learning this dichotomy is a must for a conscious traveler. Along with the former, finding local accommodation, tours, shops, and places to eat are some of the easiest ways to show gratitude and better your travel over all.

Support Street Performers: Without a simple donation here or there, street performers wouldn’t exist. If you find yourself walking down a street and enjoy the music, art, poetry, or incredible physical accomplishment you see, reach in your pocket and put your money where your happiness is. All donations, regardless of denomination, are accepted. While some may argue that this encourages the black market, the truth is that street performers add joy to life, as well as make streets safer by garnering more attention to areas they are performing. Performers bring in a higher volume of people, and, coincidently, normally perform at night. Safer streets = happier people = better existence. 

Support art and creativity

Saving your Leftovers: Why would one save their leftovers? Because wasting food is silly, and even if you aren’t going to eat it, many homeless people like to hangout where the tourists flock. Instead of getting hassled, or getting upset when someone asks you for change, give a person some of your food. You’ll be amazed with how grateful a hungry person will be when given something to eat. This is a very simple gesture, and one that is mutually beneficial to yourself and the no longer rumbling belly of the person receiving the food.

Not Giving Money to Street Children: While this seems harsh, and almost in contrast to the last form of gratitude, it is the best thing you can do for street children. The truth is, there is a large correlation between children receiving money and not returning to school. Children who tend to work or beg and receive money are positively rewarded for doing so. School may be lucrative in the long-run, but money in hand is immediate gratification. Sometimes they are forced by their parents, other times it is on their own accord, but the truth is, as long as it is an alluring option, it will continue to happen. If you do want to help children as a form of gratitude, find a local organization that works with street kids and donate your time or money. While a little bit of money given directly to a child may be somewhat helpful in the short-term, I promise its long-term implications are not positive. 

Artist's welcoming tourists on a local train
Handwritten Notes, Postcards, and Thank You’s: This is coming from a person whose handwriting is nearly illegible, handwritten anything these days will bring a smile to someone’s face. Can you draw? It doesn’t matter. Making your own thank you card, writing a poem, or even just doodling something for someone secretly in their travel journal for them to find later will bring joy to someone's life.

Being Respectful in your Accommodation: While your accommodation abroad is your home at the time, it really isn’t your home. In fact, there is a good possibility you share at least the location, if not the actual room, with other travelers. Show your gratitude by not being a dick! You can do this buy cleaning up after yourself, being quite during the early morning or late night, using a shared room only for sleeping, and most important of all, not trying to hook up secretly when you are in a dorm room. You're not being sneaky, your being obnoxious. Choosing your accommodation according to what your intentions are in a place, as well as treating it as if it was your own, oozes gratitude, and will result in a good karma down the road. 

Being Environmentally Friendly: While not all destinations you visit will be up on their green game, part of showing gratitude is being good to the earth on which you are roaming. One super easy way to do this is by cutting down on single-use items you will definitely come in contact with. If you are street food or drink fan, bring your own container and liquid receptacle, as well as reusable utensils (or eat with your hands, it’s fun!). Do you buy stuff from stores often? Bring your own sack! These ideas, as well as self-powered modes of transpiration, are easy ways to be more green and give this beautiful earth a giant bear hug!

Bringing home gifts: Everyone loves gifts, even people who say they don't. Buy or make some gifts for people, especially those who least expect it. Even if you don't see the happiness they get from receiving said gift in the moment, it will absolutely mean something to the receiver. 

Photos courtesy of: Wall Street Journal and author

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