How to go travelling this summer without being a colonialist dickhead
Bindis are a definite no
Summer holidays are prime time for reliving your gap year glory days, or making up for the fact that you never had one. Obviously, it can be really hard to travel to other places (especially outside of Europe) without being a colonialist dickhead. Louise Linton famously fucked it up. Here’s your guide to how to avoid this, complete with gap yah pants.
Don’t post photos of you and local children
If you were in Paris would you have a bunch of Parisian children pose with you? Probably not. Just because you’re in South America/Africa/Asia doesn’t mean you need to upload pictures of you and a group of children with a caption about how you played with them for fifteen minutes and it’s truly changed your life. The only way that this gets worse is if you’re in swimwear.
Your caption reads something about your perspective being altered permanently followed by a PSA about materialism and happiness, but we all know that what it should say is ‘Check out my abs AND how good I am with kids. See how they’re smiling, and I’m smiling? We all love each other. But wait, don’t forget my abs.’ Pics of you and children from another country are not going to help you pull when you’re back, no matter how much you hope your tutorial crush from last semester saw this pic and will remember it for months. People ≠ props.
Don’t blog about it
This puts you about one rung below Louise Linton on the colonial dickhead ladder. Please, for the sake of all of your Facebook friends, don’t start a blog that perpetuates the white saviour concept. Definitely talk about your experiences (preferably through lengthy Instagram captions), but kindly refrain from acting like you have a lifetime of expertise from your two week experience.‘Check out new blog! Can’t believe I’ve only been here for a few hours, it feels like a lifetime!’
Don’t get mad if you can’t find a Pret
Embrace the fact that yes, you are in a different place from where you live, so yes things will be different. Once I heard an American on plane (in Europe) talking about his hope that things wouldn’t be ‘too European’. Don’t be that person. You can live two weeks without McDonalds. The person who spends all their time in a new place being angry that things aren’t exactly the way they were at home is a dickhead. Don’t be one, and don’t bring one with you.
Don’t start wearing a bindi
Or dreadlocks, or whatever else you can appropriate from other cultures. If you want to show how cool and well-travelled you are, wear something bright and patterned, and tell everyone who comments on it that you bought it in the coolest outdoor market on your travels. But please don’t show up during freshers sporting your new bindi and telling everyone that it’s chill because you were travelling in India this summer. Everyone is going to ask how your summer was anyways, so don’t worry about missing the opportunity to mention it.
Voluntourism: proceed with caution
Oh, you’re building houses in Costa Rica? I’ll bet your degree in English and Philosophy has given you the exact right training for that. Surely there’s no one in the area that might be trained for this, or benefit from the work.
Some organisations do effective volunteering. Most don’t.
Ask ‘who is this helping’? Because unfortunately, an increase in your self esteem at having ‘done something good’ doesn’t actually do much to benefit a community you’ve spent two weeks in. Do your research on voluntourism before you decide ‘hey, I can build some houses for some people!’
Be chill about language barriers
Shouting louder in English will not make someone magically understand your language. Why is it that only English speakers do this? Believe it or not, it’s actually rather disconcerting to have someone shout at you in a language you don’t speak. Your assumption that English is the best language in the world doesn’t mean it’s compulsory for the world.
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