The Lightness of Travel

How to Save on Airfare

Always travel light.

We all know about traveling light. Just pack the few essentials. No more. No less. It won’t pay to have a lot of stuff to carry around while you and your friends wander along from street to street, from temple houses to shopping malls, from one location to another while you have the Titanic strapped to your back. It’s just not fun. And that’s what travel is all about.

So, we have that covered. Don’t carry on too much. Leave enough space for things you’re bound to buy on the trip.

That’s a nice way to look at it. Because it could also mean leaving behind other things: like biases, prejudices, or simply rudeness.

We often forget we are simply travelers. When we get to a new place, don’t expect the locals to be all too willing to help you. Sure, we’ve heard all about friendly locals, assisting foreigners as they find their way around the community, the tourist spots and the like. But there are also people out there who are just interested in making a buck or two who won’t mind if they make it at your expense. Don’t put yourself at the mercy of the latter.

Don’t expect to be given advantages just because you’re the foreigner. In some communities, you are even expected to pay triple what the locals are paying. If some locals treat you especially nice, then great but don’t think of it as your due. Thank them and move on. Not all the folks you’ll meet on the road will be nice.

Other things you must remember to leave behind are your biases. If you have biases against people of a certain race and find yourself on a trip bound for a place where you will encounter them with greater frequency, better get a handle on yourself. Ask yourself where your biases are springing from? Are they justified? If you could find it in yourself to let go of biases, of thinking your race is superior over this one or yours is inferior to another, do it. Travel is a way to improve the quality of your perception, of your attention. One way to allow for that to happen is to open your mind to possibilities. To accept things are they are. To look without judgment.

So you go into a restaurant. The place is tiny, crowded and serves the best beef stew you’ve ever tasted. However, the locals all eat noisily, slurping at their bowls, talking with their mouths full. That’s how it’s done over that side of the world. If you prefer silence when you take your meals, get out of there. Don’t stare or frown at them. Don’t scowl at your fellow diners. Adjust. Respect the differences of your culture and theirs.

Remind yourself, firmly, to behave. You’re in a different country with people who are different from you, whose cultures and social practices are a complete departure from what you know. Don’t make a scene. As much as possible, avoid any possible conflict or tension with anyone. Remember, you’re not on your turf. If things get nasty, you might find yourself at the losing end of things.

Help may not be so handy to find if that happens so avoid this scenario at all costs. If someone wants to pick a fight with you, just excuse yourself as quickly as you can from the situation and make your escape. You’re on a trip to look for fun, not trouble. So travel light. Leave everything you don’t need—negative attitudes, biases and all—behind.

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