Behold: The 10 Commandments For All Travelers. Although I didn’t have to scribble them in stone atop a mountain, I did have to go to Ireland for them.
This post was originally published in 2019. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
I took my Mum to Ireland a few years ago. Why? Because I won a trip. (Indeed: that actually happens to people. I was suspicious about it myself, until the Irish soil under my feet made me a true believer).
Getting off the overnight flight from Canada and feeling a bit dazed, we were met by our cordial driver Dave, who delivered us to our hotel while making Dublin-based recommendations in a sing-songy voice that represents one of my all-time favourite accents in the world.
When he handed us a wad of documents, maps, and itineraries for our trip, he covertly slipped a sheet of paper into it that I found absolutely delightful – and largely accurate: The 10 Commandments For Travel.
I’ve seen various and similar versions of these ten commandments floating around online. Please enjoy!
The 10 Commandments of Travel
I’ve taken the liberty of adding my own two cents and experiences to a few of these travelers ten commandments.
1. Thou shalt not expect to find all things precisely as they were at home, for thou hast left home to find things different.
Differences are for celebrating, not lamenting! You may sacrifice a bit of (what you perceive as) comfort at times, but it’s usually well worth it.
2. Thou shalt not take anything too seriously, for a carefree mind is the cornerstone of a good trip.
Fret about the details, and you’ll miss the big picture – and for me, perspective on the big picture is at least part of the point of traveling to begin with.
I recently read that “one minute of anger weakens your immune system for 4-5 hours. One minute of laughter boosts your immune system for over 24 hours”. Biology has spoken: laugh a little.
3. Thou shalt not let other travelers get on thy nerves, for thou art paying good money to enjoy thyself.
This is a good rule for life. Other people are designed to piss you off! It’s how you choose to react that makes all the difference. I learned about that during my shamanic apprenticeship in Peru, where I learned some extremely valuable life lessons that made me more compassionate and easy-going on the whole.
4. Thou shalt not worry, for he who worrieth hath little joy.
Also a good rule for life. There are so many things you can worry about while traveling – it’s almost endless! But worrying accomplishes very little except the development of ulcers. Surrendering to your circumstances (be it a delayed flight or a lost passport) is the best solution.
If it’s finances that have you worried, perhaps you’ll resonate with the advice of a colleague of mine, who says he never frets any expense under $10. While I’ll admit that wantonly spending $7 here and $5 there will add up pretty quickly, I also agree that desperately haggling something down or sacrificing a nicer meal costing $15 for a crappy meal costing $7 is not time or energy well spent.
5. Thou shalt not judge all people of a country by one person with whom thou hast had a problem.
This is a common problem in the travel world. People paint with broad strokes about entire nationalities based on a bad experience with a few representatives of that country….for example if those representatives are awake (and drunk) at 3am in a hostel dorm room, repacking their luggage and rustling plastic bags like a baby with a rattle. Not that I’ve ever had that experience, nooooo…..
6. Blessed are they who can wait and smile, for they shall enjoy themselves.
Patience is the biggest lesson I’ve learned since I left Canada in 2007. Not only might that bus you’re waiting for be late, but it might never come. Best to enjoy yourself in the meantime instead of fretting about the bus. This is travel in all its splendour; get used to it. (See also: The Very-Fast Train is 1 Hour Late – and Other Ukrainian Paradoxical Experiences)
7. Thou shalt do only somewhat as the natives do.
The first thing that comes to mind here is drinking water. Locals might glug from the tap like there’s no tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you can. Please, just….trust me. (See also: Dealing With Parasites: A Guide to Clean Drinking Water Around the World)
8. Thou shalt carry the Passport with thee at all times in a safe place, for it is said that a (wo)man without a Passport is a (wo)man without a country.
Once I arrive at a destination, I don’t actually carry my passport with me everywhere; but I always have a copy on me. While the legality of this strategy is debatable (technically you are required to have your passport with you at all times), I won’t be jailed for having only a passport copy with me, but I could end up in some serious doo-doo if it’s stolen abroad. Again, please….just trust me.
9. Thou canst be welcome in every land. Treat thy hosts with respect and thou shalt be an honoured guest.
Entitlement (or hopefully the lack thereof) is the key here….every experience on the road (and in life) is a gift. Traveling with both humility and respect will usually keep you in the universal good books.
While I’ve seen some pretty gauche travelers abroad, in my experience expats (and travelers staying for extended periods of time) are the worst offenders. (See also: The Irony of Expat Life – Pros and Cons)
10. Blessed be the traveler who can say thank you in any language…for this and a smile doubles the value of any tip.
Before I land in a new country, I have some basic words in my repertoire – the most important of which is “thank you”.
While I’m there, I ask people how to say various words and phrases that will be useful as I go. I write these phrases in a little notebook and practice until they’re committed to memory. After a month in Thailand doing this (and having learned the number system already), I was able to go to a market and greet vendors, exchange basic pleasantries, negotiate for and buy an item, and take my leave politely – all in Thai. (And yes, I got some great deals this way). And of course, there’s an app for that as well.
Any missing rules for travel here? Please share in the comments!