Guatemala diaries: postscript

After that experience in Antigua, which made us feel violated, I thought about all the different countries I have visited over the years.  I lost almost everything in Prague many many years ago. I find that it always happens when you are distracted or focusing too much on taking photos. We as tourists do stand out with our unique behavior and need to be cognizant of that. Even the best and cautious travelers can have their belongings stolen. But I still think one should take a few precautions:

1. make copies of all your documents including credit cards, passports etc and put it in a different place.

2. Carry a smart phone so you can communicate with family back home.

3. Use pick-pocket proof attire to secure your documents and money/money bags around your waist and around your neck but tucked inside your clothes.

4. Try not to take your pictures without being aware of your surroundings, and above all, be very careful when there are crowds.

Ok, there might be more ideas but I want to go beyond the tourist talk and make some general observations about travelling.

I find that tourists in general are voyeuristic beings, almost like the way we behave when we go to the zoo: ” Hmmm.. interesting, wow, how strange/exotic they are.”….Very few of us show empathy, respect when we visit. We are eager to buy, consume, devour the knowledge and go home and put the trophies in our living rooms or elsewhere. I get irritated when I see tourists in Chicago staring at things and clicking away mindlessly as they take their boat tours and climb Sears Tower etc.  But I also know that the very nature of tourism only allows you to see what is beautiful, picturesque and exotic. I am guilty of a lot of the things I abhor about tourists.

Yet, I say we are intelligent human beings who can show sensitivity and should learn more about the country before visiting. I do not just mean about the places we will visit but also learn about daily life for the ordinary person in that country. After returning from Guatemala, I heard a radio documentary about the environmental degradation in Northern Guatemala, an area that is hardly seen by tourists. Guatemala is a very poor country and has gone through many years of terrible civil wars.  I am talking about being aware of the intricacies of the politics and economics of a country especially after having had the wonderful opportunity to see it. Because even as a tourist, you can see with different eyes.  I shall be writing about my trip to Cambodia earlier this year and the history of that country is even more horrific.

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