I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now but could never quite get my thoughts as eloquent as I’d have liked, so I’ve kinda just procrastinated on it for a while until I just realised, there’s probably not an eloquent way to say what I want (though I think that’s probably more do with me) and nor does it need to be eloquent.

What it does lack in eloquence, I will do my best to make up for in length by keeping this as brief as possible. 🙂

Why am I writing this post? The more I travel (*groans* I’m so aware of how douche-y that sounds), the more I’ve come across situations where people are just too eager to refer to something as ‘bad‘ or perhaps more passively as ‘weird/strange’, when in actual fact, all that the thing in question is, is different. It’s neither positive, nor negative just unlike the norm that said individuals have grown accustomed to.

Here Is How To See Whales (And Dolphins) In Iceland! Whale watching in Reykjavik (38) (38)

The manifestation of these situations can sometimes be as trivial as someone referring to certain foods as terrible – for example, ‘Hákarl‘ a national dish of Iceland which is, essentially, fermented shark. Hákarl is as stinky as they come – it’s fermented after all and there’s no getting away from that truth, which is why people (usually non-Icelandic), might describe it as bad but for someone who grew up on the stuff, it’s just another meal.

Hákarl is probably a meal that grew out of necessity to ensure there’s year-round food supply in a place with such unpredictable and harsh weather conditions and so, all it is is different to the steaks or roasted chicken than a lot of us might be used to.

Dyrhólaey, Iceland - A Photo Diary... (2)

Another example is in certain places where people eat with their hands instead of with forks and knives. It’s not surprising to hear some ignorant person (no matter how infrequently this might be), make fun of this practice whereas all that is, is how people customarily enjoy their meals. Some things (e.g. chicken wings) as we all know, are so much easier to eat using your fingers rather than with forks or knives. It’s not good or bad – just different.

I could go on and on with more serious examples, rather than fairly light ones like the two above but we’d be here all day. 🙂

All this being said, it’s undeniable that some things are universally bad – animal cruelty, kicking a baby, stealing other people’s money …(you get the picture) while other things are universally good – being kind to people, helping out (when asked), cooking for someone hungry (or ordering takeout for them – I won’t judge 😉 )… you get where I’m going here. A lot of the times, these good and bad things are very obvious however a fair bit of the time, there’s so much else that just doesn’t fit into that binary of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

We all as human beings find things so much easier when we can put things into simple categories and file them away. We don’t like ‘grey areas’ – even when it comes to people. Moral absolutism (when someone is just categorically ‘good’ or ‘bad’) is a much easier concept to buy into than the idea that a ‘good‘ person can sometimes do bad things or that a ‘bad‘ person can sometimes do good things.

St James Club, Antigua (6)

The idea of classifying things into finite categories is appealing –  I get that; however instead of rapidly sticking things into a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ section, especially when it comes to things we know very little about and hence have no context to make an informed decision, perhaps instead it’s worth taking a few extra seconds to put ourselves in the other persons shoes and try to see, if this is one of those times when something is neither good, nor bad but just different.

What say ye? 🙂

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  • Carla Silva

    I suppose it’s human nature to find comfort in the familiar, and to have their customs somehow “validated”. But what would be the point of travelling if all you found out there were the same roasted chickens and steaks? What would be the point of meeting people if every one were a mirror image of yourself? Different is what makes the world interesting and worthwhile – and while I know I won’t like all the different things I’ll find, learning about them, letting them fascinate me/question me/challenge me is a big part of why I go out there (out of the house, out of my comfort zone, out of my country).
    BTW, can you elaborate on the “interesting” food that is Marmite? 🙂

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Exactly! I feel totally the same, Carla, you’re so right… it’s so nice to embrace difference and really cherish it!

      Haha… Marmite is still up for discussion! 😉

      Yaya & Lloyd xx

  • This reminded me of the Hamlet quote ‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’ It’s like we’re all given the opportunity to attach labels to things and should try and refrain from hasty negative judgements. Great thought provoking post!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Thanks so much, Angie. You’re so right!

      Yaya & Lloyd xx

  • A Woman Afoot

    Simple, yet profound. Facing the unknown is difficult and being open to new experiences and accepting other’s way of living as it is, without automatically judging, is hard. I think much of it comes with the way your parents/teachers brought you out – either with fear and/or superiority over “the other” or healthy interest and respect for it.

    • HandLuggageOnly

      So so true… you’re so right about it being a learnt trait.

      Yaya & Lloyd xx

  • Thank you for putting words to the thoughts I’ve been having for a while! Everything is relative to a person’s background. The things I think that become confusing are those things which can be found in any culture. I’m sure everyone has faced things which are not “different,” but they have elements which are both good and bad. I’m finding this more and more in my graduate politics courses.

    In terms of saying it eloquently, you should never worry about that. The reason I love reading your and Lloyd’s blog is that you write in an exceptionally relatable style. When you write from the heart with honesty, it’s eloquent. Thanks for sharing!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Exactly, so glad you agree Lynnae. A big thanks for your kind words too! Your lovely words just made our afternoon! 😊

      Big hugs,
      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • I prefer to view the world in grays; it’s a lot more forgiving. Seeing the world as just good or bad doesn’t offer much flexibility and isn’t fair to the things we don’t fully understand.

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Exactly! Such a great way to articulate it, Emily. Nothing is ever black and white.

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

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    • HandLuggageOnly

      Exactly! ✈️

      Lloyd & Yaya ✨

  • This is an excellent topic, Yaya. So many things are subjective but we as humans really love to make everything objective. 😉

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Thanks so much, Lauren. You’re so right. 😘

      Yaya & Lloyd xx