Three Tips for Being Respectful as You Travel the World

The National Geographic started off as a magazine in 1888, and has run 12 monthly issues every year since then. By 2011, the magazine had a global circulation of over eight million. Generally, the magazine focuses on bringing attention to other cultures and ways of life, though it often touches on current political issues and things like environmental protection. Many people, when imagining how to travel the world, see themselves as a National Geographic traveller. What are some tips for seeing the world yet being respectful at the same time?

First, when you go on National Geographic trips, take photos with permission, or at least, do not ignore someone when they ask you not to take a photo. There is a history in some places of foreigners taking pictures, and then using those pictures as fodder for aid organizations that the individual has not consented to being the face of. It is easy, when one comes from a different background, to see others in a new place as being downtrodden and in need of help. However, this is not always how those people see themselves, and it is reductive for National Geographic travellers to imagine that a different system of selling products, for example, is necessarily a sign of a place being backward.

Second, a National Geographic traveller should understand the difference between acceptance and appropriation. There is a difference between wearing something when you are with people, and using their cultural heritage to craft your own identity once you leave and go back home. Bindis, for example, that Indian women wear on their forehead are sometimes worn by people trying to be fashionable in other places. This ignores the discrimination Indian immigrants face when they try to keep aspects of their culture with them, and also treats a cultural item like a fashion prop.

Third, if you decide to post travel videos online after being a National Geographic traveller, you will likely get many views as people are interested in the travels of others, and that is great. Make sure, for this reason, that what you do and say in the video is generally respective. If you go to another country and try a popular dish that you do not like, do not insult it at length in your travel video online. If you travel National Geographic style, this means being respectful to different cultures you encounter.

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