Backpacker Bitching

The tuk tuk from the bus station costs 20,000 kip each. It's dark, about 5 kilometers away from where we need to be, and we all have been on a bus for 2 days. We're all tired. The English hippie backpacker says, "No. 10,000 only." I'm ready to pay the damned driver 50,000 just get me to a place where I can put my backpack down and stop moving.

England is adamant. 10,000. Just to put it in perspective, 20,000 is $2.50. He wants it for half that because we are 8 people and he's afraid that we are getting ripped off. He's afraid the tuk tuk driver who is dressed in rags is going to make an extra dollar or two off of us. Jackass.

This is the kind of traveler that really pisses me off. The kind of backpacker that gives us all a bad name. I hate being ripped off as much as the next person but I'm not gonna quibble about a few cents. Especially when England has been downing beers all day. Seems like he has no qualms about "donating" to a corporation but is reluctant to give a dime to a person it can actually affect.

Independent drivers, street food vendors and locally owned hotels and guesthouses are ways that our tourist dollars can go directly into local people's wallets. To me, part of traveling is exchanging cultures and making a difference to the local economy. Waterfalls and natural wonders are definitely part of it but daily living (roof over your head, eating and getting from A to B) are the hourly realities of traveling. Just like at home, you need these things in order to survive, be it in Laos or Los Angeles. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I understand that people have budgets. I know that long term travelers can only do long term with an outline of how much to spend on a daily basis. I get it. I'm not talking about those travelers. I'm talking about those ones who buy drugs or copious amounts of alcohol, ones that spend dollar after dollar getting wasted or on cheap souvenirs or tattoos and then "bargain" the food vendor down to the least amount because that traveler is "on a budget". 

Be a positive ambassador for your country. Don't just go, "Oh, these people live in such poverty! I'm going to do some volunteer work to help the people" Give to the people that help you on a daily basis. Interact with them and they will give you more than a low price. They will give you an authentic experience that money cannot buy. Volunteering goes only so far. Contributing to local businesses helps them grow and prosper. It sends their children to school so they can have a better life than their parents. Bargaining is healthy and cultural but going to the lowest of the low does no good but to allow you to buy another beer. I'm talking to you, England!