How to Boost Your Travel Karma

This is not as hippy-dippy as it sounds, I swear.

I’m not a terribly religious person, but there is one life philosophy I do ascribe to, and that is the idea of karma. I believe that what you put out into the universe comes back to you; sometimes in strange and unexpected ways.

I guess you could say I follow the credo of Don’t Be a Jerk.

That’s not too unreasonable right? Nobody likes a snotty, rude traveler. Whether you’re backpacking through Thailand or relaxing in style on one and all-inclusive vacation, it’s important to remember to act in a genuine, human way. So here are just a few simple things people can do to make sure karma is on their side:

Be Friendly

New friends in Tokyo

This seems kind of “duh,” but I’ve run into plenty of travelers that are rude, cliquey or closed off. Everyone has their bad days, but you gain so much just by smiling and being open and inclusive of other people. Not only does it make other people happier, it’s sure to improve your outlook too.
When Mike was backpacking through Korea, he befriended the staff at his hostel, even practicing Spanish with one of them. When he lost his ATM card and couldn’t pay his bill on time, they were more than happy to help him out because they already liked him and considered him a friend.

Of course there are certain times when it’s okay to be rude and unfriendly, ie: when you are concerned about safety.


Be Considerate

When I am staying in a hostel I go out of my way to be as polite and thoughtful as possible to my fellow travelers. I don’t hog the shower, I don’t talk loudly late at night or early in the morning and I try to be as neat as I can. This seems like common sense to me but judging by some of the people I’ve shared rooms with (including one guy who PEED ON THE FLOOR OF THE DORM ROOM), not everyone cares to care. Just think how pleasant life could be though, if everyone just thought a couple seconds about their actions?

The Killing Fields, Cambodia

Be Respectful

I could rant on and on about this one, and actually I have. It is SO important to show respect for the cultures, customs and history of the country you are visiting. Dress appropriately, don’t shout in churches, and do NOT sunbathe outside a genocide museum. This goes beyond being polite, it is your responsibility as a traveler and ambassador for your country. Plus, throwing trash on an untouched beach is the kind of bad karma that’s going to come back to bite all of us in the butt.

Village in Central Laos

Don’t Act Entitled

Everybody has seen those travelers who walk around town with an air of superiority. The seem to think that because they are spending money that there every need and demand should be met. That might be true at an expensive 5 star resort, but when you are staying in a group hostel room you are just the same as everybody else. So don’t be rude to the locals, don’t break laws and don’t treat other countries as your own personal playground.


Look Out for Your Fellow Travelers

This one is so very, very important. There are a lot of us out there, exploring the big world, and it’s important to have each others backs, even if you don’t know the person you’re looking after. Passing on a friendly warning, returning a lost wallet or helping someone with their luggage are all ways to rack up good karma points.

Personally, I make it my mission to keep an eye our for backpackers who’ve had too much to drink, particularly women. In a drinking and partying situation things can turn ugly really fast, and I would hate for someone to be taken advantage of just because I didn’t want to get involved. This is on instance where I have no problem being a bitch.

So look out for other people, because you sure as hell want them looking after you.


In the end, it doesn’t matter if you believe in some sort of cosmic balance or not. You shouldn’t not be a jerk because the universe might punish you, you should not be a jerk because the world really doesn’t need any more rude, entitled or selfish travelers. Be the kind of traveler you’d like to meet on the road, and I firmly believe your travel experience, and probably your life experience, is going to be better.

Do you believe in karma?

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20 thoughts on “How to Boost Your Travel Karma”

  1. I believe in Karma 100% Steph, more than anything religious because you get back what you put in I think, if that makes sense?!

    I have to admit, sometimes in hostels I know that I can come across as unfriendly but my unwillingness to talk to everyone is because I’m actually quite shy in big groups but I’m definitely going to try to be more open 🙂

  2. They say karma comes ’round. When I’m done traveling, I guess we’ll find out! And, BTW, don’t worry. I’ve seen three people pee on the hostel floor since I’ve been on the road.

  3. I would dare say all these are applicable to life in general, not just when travelling (and I would dare say that no one escapes his usual behaviour when one travels…)

  4. It is so true – the friendlier you are to people, the friendlier they are to you. I have become a much better traveller since we’ve started our trip – I am more considerate, more patient, more open-minded, and I think definitely friendlier 🙂

  5. Don’t be a jerk – that’s pretty much my life motto as well. Some people might not like it but the impression you make on a person is important – so you need to think about what your saying and how your presenting yourself to other people.

    I remember when I was flying from Calgary to London a few years ago, and the flight was delayed and I had a five hour layover at the airport. There was another passenger at the ticket counter ahead of me, and he so rude, demanding that they move him to another flight (there wasn’t another flight that day). Instead of being understanding, or at least calm about the situation, he ranted off and looked like a dumbass. When I went up to the agent I said, “Wow I’m sorry you have to deal with such a rude passenger. It’s not your fault this plane got stuck in another city because of a storm.” We started talking and because I was nice, and understanding she was able to move me to an empty aisle. On an 8 hour redeye flight to London that aisle to myself was nice. And the rude jerk, well he boarded the same flight and then stood in the same long customs line in London that I and everyone else on that flight did. His rude behavior and attitude got him nothing.

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