This I overheard while walking among ancient tribes while they were applying makeup and body art at a festival in Papua New Guinea.
The American woman continued…
“And why did you just leave me back there? I would never just walk away from you while you were taking a photo!”
I wondered if these people realized where they were.
For me? To be wandering amongst tribal people whose history goes back 50,000 years, I was in heaven. You couldn’t have ruined the moment for me if you tried. But these people? Obviously in hell.
I realize we take our baggage (in more ways than one) with us when we’re on the road. And sometimes travel conditions can be such that the worst of us leaks out. But despite this couple’s obvious domestic issues, I really think they forgot, even for a brief time, where they were and just how special this moment was.
(Note – I later saw this couple walking around the showgrounds with matching tribal face paint. I suppose it was their way of “making up.”)
I think we have a responsibility to be on our best behavior when we travel. Our actions affect not only those with whom we’re traveling (be it our significant other or those on a group tour) but also those whom we’re visiting. We are ambassadors of our respective countries and when we behave badly, the locals start to see patterns (whether they are true across the board or not) and create their own prejudices against us. Believe me, working in the tour industry, my local tour operators regularly tell me from which countries they don’t want to see tourists.
I don’t advocate shrinking in the corner and becoming a wall flower, but neither do I suggest you become one of those people in that group standing in the middle of an Indian street trying to determine which bar to hit next (you know who you are).
In another example from this recent trip, an Australian woman from a different tour group shoved, and I mean literally pushed hard, one of my tour members to get her out of the way while she was taking photos. While you could argue my gal was blocking the view of some people, for this Australian woman to have physically pushed her (twice, I was told), was an absolute stunner for me. I mean, the last time I saw a catfight was probably in high school. Really, all she needed to do was ask nicely OR move her seat – there was plenty of room at this small festival to take it all in.
Above is a photo I took at last year’s Mt. Hagen Singsing where a couple of photographers insisted on blocking the view. For some reason, this year was far worse, with more photographers pinned up against the fence for that million dollar shot of the dancing tribes and there was more obnoxious behavior (not from my group, of course!) than I may have seen on any trip I’ve taken.
This increase in aggressive behavior I observed in Papua New Guinea makes me wonder… were these just a few bad apples or is the bad economy making us more territorial when we travel? Do we think we’re more deserving because we can afford to be on the road?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. I just hope that these trends don’t continue – both the bad economy and the bad behavior.