05 February 2009

The Most Courteous People in the World

Sometimes the hassles of travel can be more trouble than a journey is worth. I dislike being accosted by people trying aggressively to sell me things that are either kitsch or cute or crappy.  I especially detest those unpleasant characters who lurk in the distance, forcing women, children and disabled people to beg pathetically amongst the queues of tourists at World Heritage sites.

Service in shops, restaurants and hotels can sometimes be against the unspoken policy of the place. There can be transport delays, strikes, strange opening hours, language and currency problems, upset digestion, sleepless nights, security warnings, mosquitoes, flies, and answers to your questions that are well-meaning lies.

Genuine respect

What can make a trip worthwhile is often simply the kindness of strangers. Yet where in the world might we be treated with genuine respect with a comforting certainty? In the United States it often happens, though usually the service person anticipates receiving an extra donation known there as a tip. In other parts of the world the practice might be called begging, or even bribery. It appears to be a starvation-prevention measure in the United States.

So where are there people who are genuinely warm and consistently courteous, and might even be so while begging for money? After many years of travelling, I found my own answer. It was in Zimbabwe.

Acknowledging courtesy

My visit to Zimbabwe was a few years ago. So much has changed over the years. But even in desperation, I am sure that most of the people there are still as modest and considerate as the many I met there.  How might we best respond to their plight now?

True sources of wealth

Most of my current travels are merely into the minds of other people.  I hope you do not think me a soapbox person! It is just that I hope that peace and courtesy will be recognised as the true sources of wealth. Through them, we might travel towards a more considerate world, and perhaps assist the people of Zimbabwe along the way.

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