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. Totally agreed.

    Don’t be a jerk. Respect and recognize others.

    You never know, some days you may need their help or may
    be at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.

  2. This is a pretty good list. I like to think I follow most of these. Must work because I guess I’ve never really had anything bad happen so I must not have any bad karma.

  3. Monica @ totaltravelbug

    I don’t really know if I believe in karma as such but I definitely believe that people will treat you the same way you treat them. If you kind, friendly, thoughtful and fun, people will be exactly the same to you. You. An get so much more out of your travels just by being nice!

  4. Couldn’t agree more. Its always nice to be friendly to dorm-mates and to make friends with hostel staff. And very important to look out for fellow travellers – I end up watching out/supporting half-drunk people towards the end of the night, but I don’t mind. It’s just the right thing to do.

  5. Absolutely, It’s all common sense. If you treat someone in a polite and respectful way, of course you will get the same back. Let’s face it, the world needs to smile more.

  6. The acting entitled one drives me INSANE. This applies not only when people are traveling, but just in general. So many people feel they are owed something just for existing… makes me crazy!

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