The Traveler's Commandments
Many of today's natural wonders are destroyed by those who come to see them with the best of intentions. The littered trail to Everest, whales upset by the watchers coming to close, and off road driving in fragile eco-systems are just a few examples.
We recognize that traveling to remote areas can not help having an impact on both those traveling and the area visited. Our desire is to make the impact on both sides be a positive one. Therefore we offer these Travelers Commandments to assure the place you travel to does not suffer from the same fate of many beautiful and remote areas. Whether you travel with us, with someone else, or on your own, we STRONGLY encourage you to follow these guidelines.
1) Do not leave ANYTHING that was not part of the culture before you were there.
It is unrealistic to believe that we will not have any effect on the people we visit. However it is up to us as to the direction that effect will take. Stories abound of travelers visiting indigenous people for the first time only to return later finding them sporting torn and tattered western clothes when this was not the case previously. Of course, it is the travelers themselves, and those who followed them, who left the western clothes and who knows what else. We must think carefully about what we bring and leave behind
2) Take only photographs, leave only footprints
Of course, this means to put any litter you may generate in your pocket. It also means that if you do pick up an interesting seed, rock, or fossil, to make sure that by doing so you are not breaking the law, ruining someone's research, or spoiling the site for other visitors.
3) Do not treat people like another species of wildlife
Meeting people from other cultures is one of the joys of traveling. Sadly for international relations, many tourists cannot be bothered to learn the local greeting, but instead just rudely snap a hurried photograph. It is hardly surprising that this lack of manners has led to a lack of respect for tourists among many indigenous people. Spend time getting to know the person you desire a picture of, and then ask their permission.
Remember that greetings in other cultures are often more important and time consuming than in our own. A simple "hello" is not enough. Several minutes of a back and forth exchange of pleasantries followed by an invitation for beetlenut, tea or whatever is common may be required. It can also result in invitations to ceremonies or introductions to their families. Both of these are worthwhile events that most "tourists" would pass by without knowing it.
4) Stay away from souvenirs made of dead animal parts
Some items are obvious, like ivory jewelry or snakeskin belts; others are less obvious, such as ivory inlaid wood carvings.
5) Keep the welfare of the animal in mind at all times
Good safari drivers and whale watching boat captains keep a respectful distance between them and the animal being observed. Unscrupulous tourists who bribe the drivers to get closer risk disturbing the animals, perhaps even changing migratory patterns as in the case of the Gray Whales.
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