Another article has been posted on why backpackers get a bad name, and being disliked. It seems that the focus of being able to travel with lowest possible cost has took out the important element of being human: courtesy. And this is not courtesy to strangers, but to someone who has hosted you in their house so that you can save some hotel expense and prolong your backpacking trip.
Back in 2006, I was on a half backpacking trip to Flores. We are being hosted in a Monastery next to a Church. For 4 days, the Head Priest took us around the city with Monastery’s car, and even invite us for dinner together with all the Priests. It was such a good experience. All of us love it, and even until today, I still get invitation to come and stay at the Church. While on the last day we did give some donation, it is how we interact with them that leave the impression.
Unless you are staying at some religious building, your host will mostly reject monetary gift. In this case, the easiest way to give back is to show some courtesy. Back to my Flores trip, in addition to donation, here is some courtesy that we showed to our host:
- Help out in the kitchen. We helped to clean some vegetables, cut few carrots, roll some dough, and many more. This courtesy don’t even cost a penny, but really give a huge impact and chances to get your host better.
- Share the cost, such as gas, toll, and parking if you go with your host, in their car. It can be 50-50, or some other combination.
- Buy your host a cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to be Starbucks, or it doesn’t even have to be coffee anyway. Tea, snacks or anything else will do.
- Share your snacks. Chances are, during your stay, you will buy some chocolates, or chips, or candies. Offer some to your host.
- Buy them dinner. I make it a habit that, on my last day of staying at someone’s house, I will make an effort to buy them dinner. This goes a long way and leave a mark to your host. It doesn’t have to be expensive. A take away at nearby Chinese Restaurant will do.
Seriously, there are no awards for those who spend the least money when backpacking. Noone will remember you as someone who can travel with so little money. Not in a good way, at least. So, why not showing some courtesy, and make yourself remembered, in a good way?