Slovakia has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 52!
It's a serious problem when people objectify each other. Instead of looking at one's fellow beings as people, we often look at others as objects: ways to get the things we want. One of the most glaring examples of objectification I've seen while traveling, is the relationship between many locals and tourists.
In many countries, it is common practice to overcharge tourists for everything. Sometimes this is done in a glaringly obvious fashion, but other times it is more subtle. Maybe your dinner costs double the price. Or maybe the bus ticket you bought has a few extra dollars tacked onto the price. Perhaps admission to local sites is free to everyone but tourists. The list goes on.
The overcharging of tourists really pisses me off, but not because of the money. Believe me. Coming from the bottom of my thrifty, budget-conscious heart, it is not because of the money! When locals overcharge tourists, they are objectifying those tourists. They see them as wealthy holidaymakers who hold large amounts of those precious dollars. They are obviously here as wealthy "superiors" and have no qualms about being ripped off. Without ever meeting you or talking to you, people assume things about you. Add to that a language barrier, and it becomes very easy to look at someone as just an easy source of money. This is an extremely harmful practice, that makes it hard for cultures to accept one another.
Many tourists are equally as guilty of this objectification (if not more so). Many people come to a country, enjoy the relatively low cost of living, and go see a few sites. However, they never attempt to interact with local people or soak in the culture. They stay in "holiday mode" throughout the entire trip, and leave the country having gained nothing out of the experience. Unfortunately, I've met too many backpackers who only interact with other backpackers. When a local person tries to talk to them, they automatically assume the person is trying to rip them off, and ignore them. While this may be an ok assumption to make about a street tout, it comes off very offensive when you ignore a fellow human. Why on Earth are you going to another country to not talk to the local people and experience the culture? No wonder so many shop owners act as if tourists are exploitative no-goodniks!
The truth is, we need to start treating each other better. Part of travel is learning to respect different cultures, which is true for both tourists and those who cater to tourists. In a generation as globalized as ours, we should strive to exchange new ideas and concepts, not take others for granted.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.