A bit of background for those who do not know Thor. Thor is a 40 year-old guy going to every country in the world (193+2), plus some more, he decided on 203 countries. His gimmick is he is doing this without flying. Ever.
Why did I need to add that “ever”? Because there is already Graham Hughes who is on the Guinness World Records for travelling the world without flying. However, Thor argues Graham flew a couple of times, back home and back to the place he left off. Even though Guinness had no objections to that and approved Graham's record, Thor says that does not count.
Where is Thor now?
In Hong Kong.
Stuck in Hong Kong.
How far is he into this project?
You want to know time-wise, distance-wise or country-wise?
Well, he left in October 3, 2013. So that makes 6,5 years.
He is in country number 194. That is he has 9 countries left.
Seems sort of the end of the road is close. Not really. All those countries are islands and with this coronavirus outbreak, every gate is closed; be it the countries closing their doors or cargo ships, the only alternatives to flights, not accepting any passengers who are not essential for running of the operations on the ship.
Thor is also trying to promote the message. “Keep on keeping on” and that you'll get where you want to be if you never give up.
That is a good motto.
Unless of course you are stuck somewhere where you don't wish to be, when you've got better things to do. When life is going on without you, passing by in front of your eyes while you wait for things to change, biding your time... No, it's not so good.
Biding your time when you are mentally at the end of your limits, when you have been like that for such a long time. Nopes, not a good idea.
You see, Thor has been stuck in Hong Kong for two months plus.
He's been stuck in Lebanon and other places too before. Waiting for visas. Hoping to get some access to some hard-to-get-in country.
He has had to deal with bureaucrazy too many times. He has had to do turn arounds and retrace his steps for tens of thousands of kilometers because there was no overland access to the place he wanted to go from the place he was.
I wouldn't want to be in Thor's place now.
Well, even he doesn't want to be in his place either.
But isn't it funny?
He has put all these restrictions on himself. 24 hours in every country. It doesn't matter if he has to sleep like homeless people out in the cold on the street, twisting and turning.
Here are two screen-shots from his blog:
Ah, and of course no going back before the trip is finished. Well, this one he has to keep because he wants to be unique. He wants to be above Graham. He wants the grandeur. He wants to bask in the glory of being the one and only. Well... Even if not one and only he will always be the first. That's what he is after.
At the end of one of his posts, Thor says he did a Skype call with students in Hong Kong and he got asked the question “Is the journey more about experiences or setting a record?”
Thor just says: “Brilliant!!”
Doesn't answer the question directly. But I suppose when he says “Brilliant” he implies that it is about experiences. After all, we all know that that is the “correct” answer!
However, I'd say, if Thor was honest to himself, he'd admit that it is more about the record or at least finishing up what he started rather than experiences at this point. As it is obvious he doesn't enjoy being out there and would much rather prefer to experience a different life after so much time on the road.
But he will not tell you such a thing.
Actually, he will tell you he is doing other things with this project. He is inspiring people, he is showing people that you'll reach your goal when you keep hanging on. Like he answered the person who labelled his saga as a vanity project.
Well... I'd ask him:
“Thor... You want to give the lesson that it is ok to torture yourself by self-impositions which aim at grandeur??”
You know what would be so cool and really shoot Thor up to respectable status for me (not that he'd care to be respected by me of course but still...) If he could just go to every country and skip the last one. Even find the boat or transportation to the last one and not go. Or go and not stay 24 hours.
Like the great sailor Bernard Moitessier did in the “1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first non-stop, singlehanded, round the world yacht race. With the fastest circumnavigation time towards the end of the race, Moitessier was the likely winner for the fastest voyage, but he elected to continue on to Tahiti and not return to the start line in England, rejecting the idea of the commercialization of long distance sailing.” (From Wikipedia)
“One of the world's most famous ocean sailors, Moitessier had sailed for more than a year from Plymouth, England to the Indian Ocean when he inexplicably abandoned the lead in the 1968-1969 Round-the-World single-handed race. He sailed to Tahiti, dropped anchor and dropped out.” BoatUS
Sailing Inland & Offshore writes:
“For Moitessier, the race finished in mid-Pacific after he had passed the three Capes and crossed his outward track, leading, and with the hardest sections behind him, he decided to forfeit the race and continue into the Pacific again, to anchor finally among friends in Tahiti. His actions were never explained by the news media; they could not have been, for the voyage had always been seen by Moitessier as something other than a sponsored, publicized, competitive event. It was on the ocean, alone with his boat, that Moitessier began to regard this as a voyage that could not end for him with the reward of those whose values were not his.”
A voyage that could not end for him with the reward of those whose values were not his.
Yes, this is the important point. What are your values?
Unfortunately, for Thor, the values are his too. That's the trouble; that's the dilemma.
I wish he could be strong enough to give up these values.
It really would be to his advantage/profit. As a person. Make him grow as a person.
Sunk Costs Fallacy- Escalated Commitment
I know Thor is never going to do that.
But apart from that, he should still be giving up the project. If only to cut his losses.
On one of Thor's posts, Ric Gazarian commented:
“Keep up the good fight! Your patience is amazing!”
"It's not patience, it's having no other choice!" I replied.
"Going back at this point after investing so much time and effort would be such a downer that it is not really an option. Plus, obviously, having the right to brag about being to every country without flying is such a big deal to Thor to pass up."
However, if Thor knew any better he'd give the sunk cost fallacy some deep thought. Sunk cost fallacy makes you act stupidly. There is something called Escalation of commitment related to that. Which is "a human behavior pattern in which an individual or group facing increasingly negative outcomes from a decision, action, or investment nevertheless continues the behavior instead of altering course. The actor maintains behaviors that are irrational, but align with previous decisions and actions."
One can never get back the time, nor the money spent on some dream to pursue. So people keep playing, they keep on keeping on to avoid the pain of loss. Negative impulses are greater than positive ones. It is so designed for our survival.
However, for Thor, he shouldn't feel it as a loss. As he has greatly benefited from the experience already. In fact, he has benefited enough. But now, it is just costing him, taking away from him. Without adding any more value.
On his “You Are Not So Smart” website, David McRaney writes about the sunk cost fallacy:
“It is a noble and exclusively human proclivity, the desire to persevere, the will to stay the course – studies show lower animals and small children do not commit this fallacy. Wasps and worms, rats and raccoons, toddlers and tikes, they do not care how much they’ve invested or how much goes to waste. They can only see immediate losses and gains. As an adult human being, you have the gift of reflection and regret. You can predict a future place where you must admit your efforts were in vain, your losses permanent, and when you accept the truth it is going to hurt.”
There is merit in giving up. When you realize that what you are after is not worth it. It's called cutting your losses.
IT IS OK TO QUIT!
I believe Thor is now at a point where whatever he does, he'll be regretting it later in life. He will always wonder what if he had taken the other road, done the other thing.
If he goes on, he'll regret it:
I suppose by now it is clear that this Covid-19 is not as innocent as Thor was claiming at the beginning. Someone in his family or his circle might get sick. He'll be feeling the guilt of not being there for them.
Or suppose he completes the project and returns, but they have trouble having a child. Thor will be blamed. “You and your stupid saga...” I can hear his now fiance, future wife if be, saying.
Perhaps I am too pessimistic. I am a doom's day scenarist.
I really hope he doesn't hear these words but if he does, they will definitely hurt. They'll hurt much more than a stranger calling his project vain.
He will wonder if he should have gone back. Gone back when he was stuck like this. Instead of trying to push it through, waiting a pandemic wave to pass.
He will wonder if it was worth giving up his personal life for the glory of that Guinness World Record he craved so much.
Upon return, he will realize most people do not care at all. Even the ones who followed him back then, that is those who are applauding him now... They'll be long gone too, gone after their own life, or following a new traveller guru after Thor has finished.
At that point Thor will realize the meaninglessness of it all, he'll find life empty once again. He will realize that all these “rewards” he was after were not worth. That they do not give satisfaction.
Yet I know... If he returns home now, he'll regret it too. He'll always wonder what would have happened if he had grit his teeth and endured, what opportunities he missed.
I, of course, wish none of this happens. That the road is cleared soon, even if a month or two, and he goes on to complete t/his project.
It means so much more to him, I know that very well. I wish he finishes his saga, returns and has a happy life, basking in the glory and reaping the rewards of his efforts and “patience”. Unfortunately, real life rarely works that way. It never runs smoothly or as we hope it to. The repercussions, the unintended consequences of our actions follow us.
Life never matches with our expectations.
Even though, of course, it sometimes does surprise us and exceeds our expectations. Mind you, that usually happens when we listen to what it is telling us to do instead of persisting stubbornly on the path we are obsessed with.
The question is... Which one you will regret less?
It is said that at the end of your life, you regret the things you didn't do, not the ones you did. But here, Thor is not doing one thing when choosing to do the other.
Another thing that is said is that you never think "I should have worked more" at the end of your life. You wish you'd have spent more time with your family and for yourself.
So for Thor, I think the choice is obvious.
I know you want to keep on keeping on but life has a way of letting us know when to stop. It guides us, if only we should listen.
We are human beings who should be capable of weighing situations and changing plans.
As in Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”
"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run..."
PS: Actually, this piece was meant to be written privately to Thor. However, I couldn't find his email address on his website (he doesn't have it). So I changed all the second persons to third person and published here thinking it is also good advice or good food for thought for everybody.
PPS: Of course, for Thor to give up at this point, it would mean such shame and feeling of failure. So how to deal with that? How to get over that?
The Way Out... is hidden in the wind.
PPPS: If you think what I write is worth something, please support me on Patreon
Somebody has apparently called what Thor is doing “a vanity project” and he found it hurtful. I understand that very well. There is always someone who interprets what you are trying to do in a bad light and it is not nice. I've had my share of hurtful comments like I was waiting for applause etc.
Most “ordinary” people are not aware of what it is to be out travelling like Thor, they have never been out in the world like that. They do not know what it is to be away from your home for so long, to miss the familiar, to have to run after visas and arranging transportation day after day month after month year after year. They do not know what it is to not to be able to enjoy the small ordinary things of routine life. You cannot expect them to understand either. We all use guidelines based on our own experiences.
On the other hand, it is true that it is a vanity project. Every “every country chaser” is a vanity project especially those who do it publicly, publicizing, not privately.
Safe from mine of course ;)
Just joking... I mean I of course I keep my project out of the vanity travel projects but -apart from the likes of Anthony Asael, the Israeli guy who has been helping villages etc. or Sal Lavallo or perhaps a handful of other people's who do not center on themselves but their project- most world travel “expeditions” are vanity projects.
Thor says he replied saying:
““I have met with and promoted the humanitarian work of the Red Cross Red Crescent across 189 countries. In turn this has brought the movement more volunteers, more donations and more visibility. In addition to that I have shown thousands of people a world behind the cameras. A world where a mothers love to her child is no less across any border. The Saga also inspires many people to chase their dreams and motivates them not to give up when it gets hard. It is such a vanity project”.”
Well... Sorry but if you are after a Guinness World Record, that definitely goes under the category of a vanity project.
What's worse, there are now people going to every country twice; it is becoming a race towards vanity and stupidity.
Open Message to Thor
I had written this to Thor as a comment on his website last year. If he could do this, he could get out of the classification of a vanity project:
Keep on keeping on on your project. But please do NOT keep on keeping on the blind faith in the antiquated status quo of borders, people defined by the borders they are born into and their radius of movement on the earth defined by their nationalities and visas required from them.
Ahh... And I have a proposition for you. Would you like to take over my flag and burn your passports at the end of this trip? :)) I guess that would be too much to ask of you, I believe you cannot bring yourself to burn and destroy those passports which you have worked and suffered so much for. They are a testimony to your feat. Well, you can get the Guinness certification and burn them ;)
I know you won't be doing it, but if you did, I believe only then would you take your place in the records of humanity as a true pioneer. Just think of this... How would people who live in a borderless world and see this current state of the world like the way we see Apartheid or slavery today look at you and your project? How would those future generations look at you?
Someone in that distant future would be just travelling all the “countries” without the need to get any visas or cross any borders in no significant amount of time; s/he might even trace your exact steps, only without the visa and border hassles. How long would it take? Definitely less than a year.
What do you think they'd think of you? I'd say they'd think you a fool. So I'd beware if I were you, lest you go down history as a laughing stock while intending to be written as the biggest hero in history ;) Or of course there'd still be people who hail you as the greatest hero of your time because of your achievement. I believe those will be the minority though.
Homo sapiens is the most stuck-up name a species has bestowed upon itself. If there really will be a true homo sapiens in the future, I have no doubt they will look at us only as fools, hopefully they'd not only condescend us but feel pity for us too. Even though being pitied is not a nice thing either, under the circumstances, I suppose that should be a welcome judgement for us.
This is part of a seven piece series on the EPS- Every Passport Stamp Facebook group and Counting Countries podcast. The following is the foreword to this piece:
My EPS Adventure- Behind the Scenes
Asked to Come Back
A Call to Ric Gazarian's Patrons
Threats and Controversy
My Counting Countries podcast with Ric Gazarian has gone wrong for many reasons, the most important being his claiming I was kicked out of the EPS- Every Passport Stamp group in the introduction. Ric has still not issued a public apology, he has just changed it on the written part in his website and removed the podcast. I make a Call to Ric's Patreons to stop supporting him until he corrects his slander.
Moderators and School Kids
"What about Maurizio Giuliano?? Why is he still there? What about the rules he broke? Oh, some rules are okay to be broken, or is it who breaks the rules, that some people get preferred treatment?" I retorted to Ric after he announced on the podcast I was kicked out from the group.
"If you had an issue with Maurizio Giuliano breaking the rules you should have reported him at that time. I am not aware of him being guilty of any infractions."
“Reported” him??? I was so taken aback by this response. I mean I'm aware most people see this as "normal" and do not see what's wrong with it.
What's wrong is that they are recreating/mimicking a mini-school environment. Moderators as principals, group members as school kids.
"I'm sorry but you seem to see us as school-kids and you are I suppose the principal of the school???" I wrote to Ric.
I had said a similar thing to Stefan. That I'm not a school kid he can scold or threaten with a stick. Excuse me!!!??
"I'm not a school kid who is going to come to you to report that my classmate pulled my hair! All is going on in front of your eyes. You are the moderators, you are supposed to interfere and put your weight in when a discussion gets heated."
What is a moderator for??
Oh I know, they are the police. You report to them and they either put people on time-outs until they cool, or kick people out or simply walk in and close a topic to comments. Well... Not my place to be.
I had several issues with the way Ric launched the podcast.
Apart from his accusation of being kicked out, the biggest issue I had was there was nothing in Ric's introduction about my going to every country to burn passports.
Well... That is the one and main reason why I am going to every country! To just make a point about the stupidity of borders and visas.
That is also why I accepted to be in the podcast in the first place. Otherwise, I have no need to promote myself in search of clicks to make money or to boast about my travels for ego-boost. My only goal is idea promotion.
So someone going to every country to spread his uncle's ashes is something to put on the headline but someone going to every country to burn her passports is not???!!! Is that so???
Come on... It is outrageous...
I found it disrespectful and a big insult to me that there was NO MENTION at all about my burning passports not even an allusion to my core belief of visas and passports being symbols of a global discrimination in the introduction. I took Ric's omission as disrespect and insult because it is something so important to me that I wish to devote my life to it.
I understand, Ric does not approve of my project, he is not sympathetic to my cause but he has to be objective. That is if he is to be a media.
Oh "Gülin has been fighting conformity her entire life..."
Yeah, it is true that I've been fighting conformity all my life but what has that got to do with my travelling to every country in the world??
He could have as well said "Gülin has black hair but it's going white." He would again have been totally right but what has that got to do with my world travel? It is not related. You do not put that on the headline.
Would he have liked it if I did a podcast with him and instead of saying "Ric is going to every country" in the headline I said "Ric took geography lessons at high school." Duh!
Now... To Ric's credit, he changed it after I protested.
However, the main title in the thumbnail stayed the same...
The other thing I bristled at was Ric's portrayal of me.
I was very VERY UPSET and disillusioned that I was reduced to this, leaving my husbands to travel or being outspoken about fellow travelers.
Yes, I have strong opinions and yes, I do not mince my words. Like I did not with speaking against Ric as well.
The other issue was that at some point in the interview Ric told me to answer the questions directly. That was left in the podcast when it was published and I did not like it. It was just like him scolding me in front of everyone again, as if his slander was not enough, this was added on!
Then, listening to Sascha Grabow's interview, I realized he asked the same questions to Sascha twice and he still didn't answer, and Ric didn't say anything, just let it go.
I actually laughed out loud when I was listening, but it was not funny at all. On the contrary, it hurt... It hurt a lot. To be treated differently, to be singled out once again. I cannot help but think this is personal. That I am a woman, that I come from a different background.
He scolds me after asking once; what's worse, he leaves that scolding there for everybody to hear and witness. No editing. And that is the only such uncut conversation in about 60 CC podcasts!
This is his answer and our conversation when I made a comment to Ric about the issue:
Yeah, so his asking me to answer questions directly was left in by error by his editor, so Ric washes away all responsibility from his hands. Perfect!
No apology given. No. He didn't do anything wrong (!) No need for an apology!
On 2/25/2019 at 4:51 PM, Gülin:
Ric... Could you please be more specific about why you think I'm a proponent of fake news, what's the inaccurate and false info? As you have stated yourself, your scolding me and that being left there unedited is correct. I suppose you'd also agree it is the only such unedited conversation in about 60 CC podcasts. As for Sascha's... Would you like to listen to the podcast again, with a new eye, or new ears, looking for the specific thing I pointed out? Don't you think it's best to investigate a bit further into the matter before asking someone if she's a proponent of fake news or telling her what she said is inaccurate and false information? Or perhaps you could have tried asking me where you ask Sascha the same question twice and he still doesn't answer... I'd have answered you, you know.
And don't you think it's rather ironical you come up with accusations of fake news, inaccurate and false info to me? I wish you showed the same sensitivity that you exhibit here -to a comment which almost no one reads- to your own false and inaccurate, if not slanderous comment -that you blasted out in your podcast in the introduction. Let alone a public one, I do not remember even a private apology from you for saying I was “kicked out from the group”, what's more, “for several violations.”
You bet that hurts a lot too. But don't worry, I'm used to such hurts; even bigger ones and from more important people in my life.
It's also very interesting to see you boast about free speech. You are the one who blocked the conversation in EPS, not allowing me to answer the douchebag Maurizio hurling wrong accusations and insults at me without having any idea of the details at the airport during my boarding denial. Of course Petro is the greatest censor in EPS as she dutifully and diligently deleted my perfectly legitimate posts as well. Then talk about free speech and how nice it is; very interesting indeed!
Monday, February 25, 2019 at 7:18 PM, Gülin:
Let alone an apology, you didn't even publish a correction, you simply changed it on the written part, leaving the podcast as is, which meant people who listened still heard me being kicked out of the group. And people listen, do not generally read. After all, it is a podcast!
Show me where I am wrong, where is the fake news, the inaccurate, false info of what I said, you can be sure I will correct my mistake and apologize.
Ric did not reply.
So I am not to take any offense at all this?? I have no right to react to such a thing and he does not owe me an apology?? Not even in private! He doesn't say "I'm sorry about it." No, why should he say that??? He is not even sorry... I mean that is the worst part.
Am I a proponent of fake news??
No, I am not. If he cared to listen he would see, or rather hear how he asked Sacha the same question three times and did not get an answer. But Ric did not scold Sacha like he did me. Why? I don't want to proclaim like he did but I bet because I am a woman. Women are so easy to brush off or to hit on their heads.
Ric is the one with fake news! He is the one who disseminated that I was kicked out when it was me who had left the group!
EPS is the one with fake news! They are the ones insisting on Cassie not being the first woman documented.
I mean okay, we all might make mistakes. But come on... There is something called decency. You apologize when you make a mistake. It's called decency and basic manners.
Ric, instead of answering my points, just changed his introduction, put up my answer to his mails on FB and let all my comments there.
Now... This is just such an awful awful manner!
First of all, pasting a response somewhere without the proper background gives the wrong impression. I am totally aware how I come off.
Second of all, being dismissed is one of the most hurtful things. His non-answer to my, once again, totally valid questions and points makes me the "nutcase."
Yes, it is true: I go on rants! But why?? Why do I need to go on rants? Did it ever occur to anyone??
How come no one can just come out and state what is wrong about the things I say without an ad hominem?
No, I did not take Ric's silence as agreement in my rant but just like this guy watching "crazy" in quiet. Still NO! My reaction was and is totally valid!
If anyone sees what I am doing wrong and shows me, I would be very much obliged.
Ric thinks I am being irrational. Perhaps I am. Could be. But does he give an explanation why he thinks that way? No.
I suppose he doesn't need to. Ad hominems without any reference, without an example. Just like him claiming I was kicked out without knowing anything about what had gone on in the group.
I strongly advise him and other authorities in the group not to have kids at all. They'd make horrible horrible father figures. Blames, accusations without any explanation or reason. They have made the judgement, you don't have the right to know the events to think and evaluate yourself, you just need to take their word for it. Accept what they say. Like this, of course, there is no way to counter-argue. If they give a reason you can say bla bla bla. Then they'd need to discuss and waste their time. It's simple like this.
Their attitude was exactly the same with regards to my “removal” from the group.
I am not saying I am rational according to their standards either huh, don't get me wrong. They are the Americans, they are impacted by the travel ban to DPRK. But as the rational beings they are they do not question let alone revolt against such a ban. I suppose to them, the ban is rational as well.
Well... To me, it is totally irrational. That a stupid 22 year-old died because he did something stupid and I am banned because of that, that I am held in par with such an idiot, that I am told “It is our greatest concern the safety of American citizens,” as if I am not concerned about my OWN safety and I need to rely on them to think for me. As if I am not a mature adult. When even my own mother, the person who carried me for nine months in her belly, who gave birth to me and raised me, when even she CANNOT interfere or have a say over where I can go or not, I puke at the government dictating me that I cannot go somewhere because of safety reasons.
Yes, I am not even an American and I revolt at the DPRK ban. I speak up for it, that is against it. If that makes me the irrational one, yes I am definitely not rational and I accept that “accusation” happily.
If that makes me “attached” and if this is a bad thing, I accept that too. I am attached to certain values. Freedom being one. Justice, truth, integrity, basic decency and maturity being others. Yes, I am obsessed with these.
I am obsessed with taking responsibility and saying sorry when you make a mistake, too.
Ric told me “98% of the people in the group post and comment without any issues or any reporting.”
Yeah, most people are sheeple, they pass through security controls without a problem instead of making a big fuss about it like me. If that makes me irrational, I am more than happy to accept the accusation. In fact, nobody else, apart from me, mentioned any word about this issue in the 70+ Counting Countries podcast. No, I definitely do not fall into the 98 % who has no issues with anybody or anything. In fact, I do not even fall into 99,99 % of any group. And I have no wish to be. If this is your rational world.
No... Please go on with your rational lives and leave me alone.
Tantrums and Rants
To Steph Rowe, Ted Nims, Bisa Myles, Stephen Rothwell, and Adam Hickman..
This is a request from you to STOP supporting his Counting Countries podcast as his patron.
Because he has done a great injustice and has acted unethically. He basically slandered me and did not post any apologies for it.
Those who are interested may go into the details at My EPS Adventure but in short, I had a bad experience in EPS, I couldn't stand the level of intelligence, the arrogance, the hatred and wanted out.
After some time, Ric asked me to be on his podcast and I accepted. We did the podcast in August 2018. I had just returned from a trip and was still tired. I have been on TV and radio programs before but I was excited to be doing an interview for the first time in English. I wasn't too satisfied with it, the way I talked, you know... you criticize yourself. However, I was glad I got to talk about some of the issues I deem to be very important and do not get talked about.
Anyway... When it came out in October, I was in for a big surprise, a very bad one!
"Gülin was eventually kicked out of the group for violating a number of rules that members must follow." Yeah... So easy to smear and not care!
I asked him:
"What were the group rules that I have violated? If you accuse someone of something, you need to explain them what they have done wrong."
"My recollection is your situation was discussed amongst the moderators and you were voted out for numerous violations," Ric answered.
Oh yeah??!! I was voted out for numerous violations, he announces I am kicked out for several violations, but when I ask, he cannot even mention one thing I did wrong!
Sorry but it is outrageous!
No, I take back the sorry, it is totally outrageous!
All he can come up with is "Oh, there were many complaints about you."
Oh great! I am so happy and relieved to learn that!
I'll give it to Ric that I did not walk out on my own, but he didn't know anything about what had happened to be able to say/broadcast that I was kicked out. This is something that is totally against ethics.
There were also so many other issues with the podcast. I mean not with the podcast itself but how Ric portrayed me. I go into that at A Podcast Gone Wrong
Again to Ric's credit, he changed the introduction after I protested.
However, the podcast was still the same of course. And this being a podcast, people generally do not read the introduction on the website but listen to the podcast.
So I said "I'm hoping you are going to be updating that too."
He said it would take some time. But I didn't want people to be listening to the podcast like that. Not one person more had to hear that. So I asked him to take the podcast down.
That is, not right away.
On the contrary, he published it on another portal saying it was controversial and had gotten a threat to be sued. This upset me even more. Because obviously, he was using me, trying to get clicks.
I was also upset about Maurizio Giuliano who had acted horribly in the group and not had any repercussions.
Ric asked me "Who cares about Maurizio, why do you keep writing paragraph upon paragraph on him?"
"I care about that idiot Maurizio because he is still considered a “respectable” member of the society while I am ostracized! And you, too, should care!" I wrote to Ric. "Do you have any idea, I mean can you imagine how frustrating it is to be told I have been kicked out of a group for SEVERAL violations, and this being told not in person but ANNOUNCED PUBLICLY, and when I ask what rules I have violated, you are not able to name even ONE single violation. No example no nothing! “Ah I remember you've been reported several times.” What have I been reported for? By whom?
The damage is done Ric. The damage is done. You posted that thing out there, now everybody (well, whoever that everybody is... I don't know how many people are in your mail-list and how many people actually listen or care, but still... obviously it is high enough that companies pay you or sponsor you thinking some people will care) thinks I am a person who violates rules, who is some sort of, I don't know, a “wrong” person. After all, I was KICKED OUT, right? I want a public apology Ric, I want a public apology from you, in the mail-list and on FB and Twitter as well, I want it cleared. For anybody who could care. I want my name cleared. As I said, I do not care the least bit for whatever people think of me, everybody is entitled to their opinion, but ONLY as long as it is based on accurate facts; I do not like smears. And sorry to say, that is a slur. You know, even if you make a correction after a mistake, you cannot undo it. The stain remains; people remember the first thing they read. They have already registered things. And I don't like it.
I will also ask you to reinstate me to the group. Make Maurizio apologize for his wrong claims (RyanAir) and for his wrong accusations (that I was seeking your pity), or he is removed from the group. I would also like Stefan to publicly scold him for talking about pregnant girls, something that is completely irrelevant to the group topic.
I don't know... I really shouldn't have had to say all these things in the first place. I keep wasting my time trying to right wrongs that shouldn't have happened, that shouldn't be happening in the first place. Or that should have been prevented by people running a community, a company, a country.
Anyway... Again, I know I cannot force any of these on you. I don't even need to say do as you wish. I just wish that one day I won't be disillusioned with my trust in people doing the right thing."
Think of this... Imagine a situation:
One day, you hear from the administration of your child's school that s/he's been kicked out from school because of several violations. What would you do? Mind you, until that moment, you have never, never ever, not even once, have heard of anything from the school. I suppose any parent would naturally ask “What did s/he do?” That's what I asked Ric after I heard the announcement in my podcast that I was kicked out from school, sorry EPS. So this was even worse, imagine you heard it blasted from the city radio that your child was kicked out from school for several violations. Anyway, so you ask the most natural question, wanting to know: “What did s/he do?” The management, who blasted this news, tells you “Well, there were many complaints about your child.”
???? And?... What were those? I suppose you'd naturally want to know what your child did.
The management says “Oh, I don't know. But many people complained.”
Now... This would never ever happen to you. You would never ever send your child to such a shitty school. If your child does anything, if there is any complaint from any other classmate or parent of a classmate, you'd naturally expect the administration to inform you about it. Give you a chance to evaluate and discuss the issue. No. You are not given any such opportunity, you are just considered a shitbag, and your name is slandered. Oh great!
So, if by any chance you have enrolled your child to such a school, you'd be glad s/he was out anyway and would not want your child to attend such a shitty school anyway. Ah, if you say anything against the administration, question their competence, ah they label you “an irrational player.”
Perfect civility. From the citizens of the greatest country in the world!
I am sick and tired of people accusing me when I react to their mistakes and my reaction is totally valid!
Taking responsibility and saying sorry when you make a mistake. I am obsessed with this. My recent favorite is a Seneca quote:
Yes, 'To err is human, but to persist in the mistake is diabolical.”
And so many people insist on their mistakes. That's one thing that makes the world a horrible place and escalates problems that could just dissipate easily if the one in the wrong was courageous enough to accept his mistake.
If only Ric had just acknowledged and apologized, there would have been one less person who felt mistreated.
I know, or rather I learnt that there are so many, in fact too many people who do not know how to apologize but come on... If you are making a podcast, if you are doing public media, there are some manners to go about, to follow when you make a mistake.
“Correcting or Retracting Your Work After Publication” published on August 21, 2019 by Digital Media Law states:
“Responding to a retraction request will vary with the nature of your statements and the details of your state's retraction statute or case law. Generally speaking, to be effective, a retraction must be a "frank and full" withdrawal of the defamatory accusation. Merely stating that the subject of the statement denies the accusation is not enough, nor is a weak, grudging, or half-hearted correction. Additionally, the retraction must appear in a manner comparable to that of the original publication and be disseminated to the same audience.”
Yes! Exactly! Ric should retract his words, not just change them on his website so people do not even understand my reaction. Plus, you don't just delete the podcast and unburden yourself of responsibility. The wrong information you broadcasted and the correction needs to be disseminated to the same audience in the same way!
Ric still needs to broadcast the retraction on his podcast.
This is the New York Times. On the article “Make No Mistake, but if You Do, Here’s How to Correct It” by Margaret Sullivan published on January 16, 2013 it says how they do NOT change articles when they realize they have made a mistake, they add a correction. If they ever do change it, they “without exception, acknowledge and explain at the bottom that 'an earlier version of this article'.... screwed up whatever. (Let us count the ways.)”
So Ric had to count the ways he screwed up saying I was kicked out for several violations. He still has that responsibility and obligation.
“Greg Brock retired from The Times; he was not fired.” Any person so maligned would want The Times to point every reader to that correction – in huge type.
Yes, I was maligned and I want that correction in HUGE TYPE. And I want it disseminated to the same audience!
Call to Ric's Patrons
What do I need to do to have Ric apologize to me in public? What is the practical solution and the pragmatic approach? What is the better way to accomplish my objective?
To me, the only way is to pressure his patrons. He knows he is wrong too. But he will never acknowledge it on his own. If he was decent, he'd have done it long time ago, on his own in the first place.
So this is a request from you to face Ric about his public slandering, to make pressure on him to make a public apology and to STOP supporting his Counting Countries podcast as his patron if he does not. For you to Please stop supporting Ric until he apologizes Publicly!
PS: Do I really think that any of Ric's patrons will actually read, care and stop supporting Ric? Not really. Even Ryan, who is someone who understands me, who has said I was a thought-leader in his life, who wanted to get me back in EPS, who is now also a moderator in the group did not care enough to do that. Or rather, he didn't want to compromise his interests. For I believe he has some intentions to grow his audience and do something in the travel industry as well.
Oh well... That's life. That's how the world works. On interests, on where your loyalties lie.
But then why... If I don't think that any of Ric's patrons will care about my call, if I don't think that Ric will ever apologize to me even in private let alone publicly... then why do I still take pains to write all this stuff??
Well... That's a good question. A question that even I am not able to answer. Perhaps it is a way of procrastination not to work on my books which are so important for me, or perhaps it is a way to work out my problems with people and to understand myself better. Perhaps it is to idly amuse myself to pass the time, or perhaps it is psychotherapy to get over my grievances. Or yet another perhaps, it is much more than that, it is an attempt at conveying a greater message to people. Or it is simply a push I have.
Whatever it is... I wrote it. What you want to do with it is none of my business. That is left to you.
My EPS Adventure- Behind the Scenes
Asked to Come Back
Threats and Controversy
A Podcast Gone Wrong
Tantrums and Rants
Months had past after my adventure in EPS- Every Passport Stamp.
It was summer time. I had forgotten all about EPS and was into my life arranging our summer house in Kaş, Turkey. One night, to my astonishment, I received an e-mail from Ric. He was asking me if I'd be on his Counting Countries podcast.
You see, I had written to him asking to be on the podcast before. I had wanted to promote my ideas. I was a different voice, a Turkish woman with Muslim origins and had something to say about travel. He had not responded to any of my requests. But, I am used to being ignored. So I had not thought much about it.
Now that he was asking me, I was perplexed. It was something I had not expected.
I said ok. Here is a chance.
Some time later, I got a message from Stefan too.
He was saying they were thinking of taking me back into the group, if I was interested. He said they welcomed different points of view but then ended with:
"If you can agree to our group rules and participate in the spirit of them, we will reinstate you. If we feel you are breaking the group rules or that member complaints for rule breaking rise again, we will be quick to act. We have had several other members that for similar reasons we have issued two week mutes on posting to cool off and see if they can come back to the group."
Now... This, being an invitation to come back to a group that had hurt me, should have been flattering. However, I was not. In fact, I found Stefan's "tone" to be too authoritarian to be even called despotic; I certainly did not appreciate the threatening manner "If we feel you are breaking the group rules or that member complaints for rule breaking rise again, we will be quick to act." He was literally showing me a stick! Just in case!
"Thanks for your offer Stefan but I'm good like this. I believe you've got me wrong and did not get to read my last posts. I asked to be removed from the group. You may say 'Why didn't you simply leave yourself?' It's because I have left too many groups and for once, I wanted not to do it myself."
Then I went on to tell him about my experience in the group as I was sure he didn't follow and did not know about it as Petro had removed my last comments.
"You may have your rules but I too have my own rules and the group does not abide by them," I told Stefan.
"What about obliging people who make ridiculously wrong claims like RyanAir 'choosing to' compensate passengers to apologize for example? Act mature, accept your wrongs, or be kicked out of the group.
Are you aware Maurizio dared say I was seeking your pity?
Seek your pity??? For what? For what for God's sake??! I have told from the beginning that I have been REFUNDED!
Again... PEOPLE MAKING BASELESS ACCUSATORY CLAIMS SHOULD BE EITHER OBLIGED TO APOLOGIZE PUBLICLY OR BE immediately REMOVED FROM THE GROUP."
Then I made a case about their running the group:
"May I also say I do not appreciate your threatening 'tone of voice' or manner stating you'll be quick to take action if I do not abide by your rules. (I do not take kindly to authority, especially when it is issued as threats. I had told you before, I'm not a 6 year-old that you can scold.) If you were quick to take action to defend me from baseless attacks before I had to answer them myself, this might not have happened. I'm aware you are not very active on FB, neither is Ric. Petro interferes, she does the policing in the group. But her way is very irritating as well. Like her making a post about wanting to 'nip it in the bud'. I don't like insinuations. Be direct if you want to say something. Her arguments are all illogical as well."
There was palpable double-standards in the group moderation. I said:
"There really should be a rule for acting maturely and apologizing when you make a wrong assertion etc as in Maurizio guy. I wonder why you didn't scold him publicly like you did with me, he was TALKING ABOUT PREGNANT GIRLS FOR GOD'S SAKE. I am curious if you have at least issued a personal warning to Maurizio. I hope you did. If not, I believe you need to give some serious thought to your double-standards."
I also made a general comment about world travellers:
"Just like Ric's podcast the group talk is all about our exploits. Yeah, sure, it's nice to listen to adventure stories, share them, but those do not really interest me. I'd like to talk about the politics behind travel. I'd like to discuss visas, security issues... There is an enormous amount of accumulation there. But I do have a huge amount of experience that I can draw upon anyway. I need like-minded people, I need people to support me; when I say me, it's of course not about me but the idea of a stateless political world. Obviously, none of these issues can be brought up in the group. Which is a shame if you ask me. We are world travellers, we should care about the world we wish to see!
In your podcast with Ric, when he asked how you were going to do Syria you said “They have serious problems, ours are so insignificant.” I felt that was such a good point to get the discussion going. Ric did not even make a comment and that was the end of an opportunity.
Anyway... Last point... I suppose we probably do not agree on what a “rant” is. These things are so relative and depend on your definitions like one man's terrorist being the freedom fighter of another. You may call this or my posts as a rant, I think of them as well thought out analysis and expressions of ideas/opinions. If you believe you can adjust your definitions and rules to coincide with mine, I'd be happy to join you. Otherwise, all the best.
PS: I used capitals not as shouting but as using bold character."
Stefan replied saying "Thank you for your thoughtful comments. To address all of your feedback is beyond my capacity though I have read it all, will work with moderators on issues you mentioned, and that will inform group work going forward whether or not you participate. There is a nuance that I believe you have not fully considered which is that any group or community has norms shaped by the members. Within EPS this has meant that I have gone along with, for instance, a normal around not engaging in political debates as the collective membership prefers other outlets specific to that. That is not my natural preference, however I have adopted it in the spirit of comity of the group. A similar one is that the group is not to be the group for heated debates between a handful of members that dominate discussions and shout out others. We recently had to work with several members acting in this way, some of which have chosen other forums as their future outlets."
I replied saying thanks as well and added I was not a group person. I've known that for quite some time. My ideas are not the generally held ones, I am out of the norm. Therefore, do not fit in.
"I see it that people cannot really grasp the fact of someone doing something for unselfish reasons. I could not care less about Cassie, but I do care very much about fairness. That's why I spent all that time writing and defending her.
I understand very well the group dynamics. Believe me when I say I had no intention to even speak up in the group at all. I know very well not to put my political ideas in such a group. Even if it was not moderated, I'd never have posted anything about my project. I don't need needless controversy as much as you don't. It drains my energies and eats my time. However, I thought this Djibouti visa thing was something that concerned all travellers and I could never have imagined people coming back with such attacks. Now I know a bit better. People in groups behave awfully. It easily turns into a mob mentality.
Even if you do not address all my points, could you please let me know if Maurizio was issued any warning at all?
Anyway... I haven't found my tribe yet. I hope I will one day. Perhaps I'll form my own. But I realized I am perfectly fine in my solitary life with my 3+1 small family. It's peaceful like this.
I had got myself the nickname Nomadic Turtle almost two decades ago. I stick out my head once in a while to see what is around, then see how cruel and immature people are and tuck my head back in.
I have heard that there was some discontent in the group and a new formation. I suppose it's natural as well. It's very difficult to get along in a group of people. I hope things will change one day and we will learn how to live peacefully side by side, but I'm not holding my breath on that. A fish rots from the head down; have a look at the “leaders” of the world, or have a look at most micro families, it doesn't seem much promising."
I ended with a quote I believed fit our conversation topic perfectly!
I did not hear back from Stefan. Not even a yes or no if Maurizio had been issued a warning. Yeah, I take it personally. If this much discrimination is so obvious. Yet, I know it is not personal. People are just too busy with their own lives and do not care about some random stranger, someone they have not met and are not interested in. They do not bother to read and understand the details of some random person's grievances.
But, that is exactly the point! That is the big thing that is missing in groups. A sense of community that makes everyone included and cared about.
As I said, you need not even care for people especially. (I did not/do not care about Cassie either.) But you should at least care about values. Because without them, you are just a bunch of robots, avatars, and not humans with an intellect to distinguish between right and wrong. And that makes all the difference.
Following Posts in the series:
A Call to Ric Gazarian's Patrons
Threats and Controversy
A Podcast Gone Wrong
Tantrums and Rants
Level of Intelligence
It all started with the argument of Cassie de Pecol and her being the first documented woman to go to every country or not.
Janice Lintz, who was one of the most active members of EPS* at the time had written a post about Cassie on Huffington Post. Finding her post devoid of logic, I had to speak up on defense of Cassie. (You see, I don't care the least bit about Cassie but I care for injustice.) So I wrote a piece The First Documented as a reply to Ms Lintz's piece. As I was at it, I also wrote The Fight Over First and The Pissing Match in Travel. (You see, I find all this fight over being the first and the pissing match deplorable.) People are travelling the world with no dent in their ignorance. They are Playing the Every Country Game without even realizing they are playing a game and understanding anything about the reality of the world beyond themselves. They live in a world apart.
(* EPS- Every Passport Stamp is an extreme travellers Facebook group)
Anyway... Going back to the level of intelligence of the group... I'll spare you the unbearable details and just get to the heart. This is the exchange when a moderator "walked in" to interfere in the conversation which was getting heated.
Ryan Gazder was the only one who put a like on my answer. However, he had put a like on Petro's post as well. I told him that he was on my side ;) but he said he didn't take himself or anything seriously... It sort of is a shame when the few intelligent/smart people who get things do not care and do not take a stand. But that's life. That's humanity!
Now... At this point, I normally would have left such a group. A group where some "stupid" person refers me to a podcast and a personal book as documentation by authority as an argument and gets 5 likes!!.... No no no... That shows the quality, or rather the non-quality of the group. Or should I state it openly?... The imbecility of the group.
Or it is the immaturity of accepting a wrong.
Whichever it is, I certainly wish to have nothing to do with such people.
Plus, what makes it all worse is this person is a moderator in the group! Come on!...
I would never be "ruled over" by such a person unless I have no other choice. I detest any sort of authority over me let alone an imbecilic one. I am obliged by the political system of the world to abide by many idiotic rules and to be ruled over by power hungry individuals but I don't suffer fools gladly.
Still... I persevered. I had got out of so many groups before, this time I wanted to stick around.: at least until the end of my mission.
But the same issue continued at another level with other people as well.
Jessica and Dumb!
There was a post about a podcast with Jessica Nabongo who was trying to become the first African-American woman to every country. In the podcast, Jessica had talked about Cassie without even mentioning her name and oh, there was so much hatred towards Cassie, especially Janice Lintz, and she didn't miss the opportunity.
I was so very much bothered with this snickering and mocking of Cassie, these two women talking so obnoxiously: Janice hanging on to some mysterious obsessive grudge against Cassie, and Jessica not looking at herself,
This woman, that is Jessica, was running to 90 countries in 13 months herself; I mean that was her plan and she was boasting about this. Yet, she was criticizing Cassie for being to every country in the fastest category!?? What is the point of travelling to 90 countries in 13 months and how different is it than just going to the airport?
Yeah yeah, she interacts with people and experiences the culture!
Rudeness or Incapability or Immaturity?
Now... I take it to be extremely rude not to answer a simple question. However, I have come to learn very well that if someone does not answer a simple question it is because s/he cannot answer it.
Plus, of course, it means they are not mature enough to take back their words when shown clear evidence of their irrationality.
Dumb and Dumber
Then there was this conversation where Jessica retorted with the following response to people making a valid point about her.
Yes, it is a wonder that such "prestigious" media outlets found this to be "newsworthy" even without her accomplishing the task.
Jessica was just one of those self-entitled ego-centric travellers and I responded with A Black Woman versus a Poor Afghani
While I do not doubt that it is difficult to travel as a black woman, it is indisputable that the main challenge of travel is not your gender but the passport you hold and Jessica has an American passport plus a Ugandan one. End of discussion.
I still endured the group. However, there came another red light. This time from the founder of the group himself.
Mogadishu- An Open Scolding
I had been wanting to go to Mogadishu for a long time but it was expensive to go on your own as you needed to pay for armed guards. So I decided to put a post asking to see if anyone would be interested to share expenses.
Jason Thomas responded:
To me, we were having a friendly "tiff" if that is the right word... and this time Stefan walked in! Which is something unheard and unseen of, let me tell you. There had been so many arguments and bad-mouthing in so many other posts but in none did I see Stefan say a word. In fact, he rarely contributed to the group, he basically wasn't around.
So when he did this, it hit me; it hit me hard.
What was this?? Why were we being singled out?? I was seriously taken aback by such a scolding out in the open for everyone to witness.
I wrote the following answer to Stefan but cannot find the screenshot for it:
"Petro, Rick, Caroline Santina Lupini, Alexander Fleming...
Sorry but why are we singled out with Jason to be reprimanded like children here? Especially given that the discussion had ended for us, after the thread has been idle for so many days?... Especially given that there are so many insults going on in other threads in this group.
I have nothing against Jason. Don't know about his view of me but I even like him in a way. The meme I posted was not for him, it was referring to other people in another thread, I'm hoping and believe he got it.
Why did you feel the need to single us out here Stefan? Or am I wrong, are there other people you did this? If so, sorry, I just haven't come across any.
Sebastian said “Are you on drugs?” I wasn't offended, didn't feel the need to take it personally as I am not. However, is that a fine thing to say? No warnings for that? Or somebody had called me “dolt”, I did not know what it meant and thought it was some misspelling, then by chance, found out the meaning. I believe it has been removed, but why not warn people who use such words? Are they fine to use, are they civil?
This conversation is DUMB! (Not my sentence. I copied from Jessica Nabongo. But I suppose it is not an insult and it is not uncivil as it didn't get any comment from any moderator. So I suppose it would be fine if I use it too?)
In my first round-the-world tour Jody and Sally went to the mercato in Ethiopia. They were looking for t-shirts. They went into a shop. The man looked at Jody and said “Okay for you” He looked at Sally and said “No, you are fat.”
They went into another shop. The man said “Yes for her, but no for you. You are fat." When the same thing happened a third time, Sally started to get irritated. She was protesting "Don't these people know it's an insult to call a person fat?" That's when she realized that we were in Ethiopia: a country where there was famine. So it actually was a compliment for them to say that she was fat. Her plumpness was a sign showing she had food to eat and was healthy.
So perhaps we have a cultural misunderstanding here. Would be nice if you please clarify things a bit more on what is appropriate and what not.
And do you believe making false accusations without any proof is fine? I suppose it is as it has been tolerated in this group without any reprimand. Or is it fine and tolerated if the false accusation is directed to a person identified en masse as a hate target?
You have put rules for us, what about rules for moderators? What about not using double-standards for example?"
I ended my post like this:
Mind you, here I clearly stated that I would normally get out of such a group but wanted to leave them the pleasure of removing me. "Nip it in the bud" was Petro's way of getting back to me for her stupid comment. She had made a separate post reminding the rules, not responding to me directly but obviously insinuating
At that point, I had grown very disenchanted with the group. Yet, I wanted to persevere. For once.
I had written what I thought and Stefan did not respond. I took this silence as acceptance of my criticisms and let it go one more time.
But then, Djibouti denied boarding happened.
Djibouti and Reaching the End of My Limit
For more than 25 years, Djibouti had VOA-Visa On Arrival for every country and that's what I was told by the French Embassy and the Honorary Djibouti consul here in Italy. However, when I went to the airport, I was denied boarding because Djibouti had, at a whim, decided to cancel VOA.
What is more annoying is that they reversed the decision and went back to VOA five days later. So my misfortune was that I had my flight on one of those days.
Now... As this is an extraordinary circumstance that is beyond my control, Turkish Airlines should have reissued me my ticket even though it was non-refundable. However, they did not and kept parroting "Visas are the responsibility of the passenger."
Thinking this to be an issue which interested all travellers, I wrote an article about it and posted it in the group. That was where the donkey fell- that is, the moment of truth hit.
When I had joined the group, I had said to myself that I'd never be getting into such issues about visas and passports. I know that it gets me into trouble if I say what I believe out loud in groups. I know the topic is controversial. So I avoided bringing it up. It was my challenge to stay in the group until I finished my mission. Apparently, I couldn't succeed. I thought I had posted something innocent. Thinking people would back me up on this. After all, they are all travellers and they could be in my shoes any time. I got reactions I'd never have expected from such a group. It opened up the Pandora's Box.
I was surprised at how people started attacking me and holding me responsible for something that was beyond my control. IATA rules provide for extraordinary circumstances and obviously this was obviously an extraordinary situation, being changed for only 5 days and going back to VOA.
People started pointing fingers at me, blaming me. Again... This is a travelling group, I thought they would all be backing me up on this. Because, duh! the same thing can happen to them any time! And it sure is not right that visas change on a whim without any prior notice.
I told them I had been refunded by the credit card because businesses are not supposed to charge for services the customer did not get. What's more, I was also rewarded the ticket fare by the Consumer Rights Court on the grounds that it was against the normal flow of life for me to know about a five day change in a visa scheme that had been going on for so long.
I also brought up the topic of how RyanAir had to look after its passengers and pay for their accommodation and food when the volcano in Iceland erupted and flights were cancelled. Even though I believe that in this case it goes to extreme, there is something called passenger rights.
Maurizio Giuliano started claiming Ryan Air did it because it wished to! Hahahaha! Ridiculousness of the claim! We are talking about an airline which tries to milk money from its passengers who do not comply with rules. Mind you, I like RyanAir, I support RyanAir, it has its rules and if you are proper you are rewarded for it. However, it certainly is not an airline that would dish out money to its passengers unless obliged to.
Then this douchebag Maurizio said "Did you try to solve your issue creatively? Apparently not. You just wanted to be victimised and have a fight with the airline and then seek our pity” and he went on about pregnant girls and how one girl in Kenya or some place in Africa got pregnant and was claiming that the government had to look after the child as they did not let her have an abortion.
I was like "Wohaaaa!"
How dare anyone make such a claim without knowing all the details?? How can anyone accuse me of “seeking pity” after I stated I have ALREADY been REFUNDED? Why should I appeal to anyone's pity? People really have no comprehension of someone wanting to do something for the overall good of people and for principles! Idiots!
And pregnant girls??? Now we are discussing legality of abortions and government interference in our lives in a travel group?? Wohaaa!!
But you see, I do not live attached to Facebook and by the time I saw those messages and was about to answer, the comments were turned off by Ric, the moderator.
At that point, I decided to leave the group. This, definitely, was not a place for me. I did not enjoy being attacked but I could have endured that; however, I could never accept my right to answer being taken away from me.
True, other posts were closed to comments before, but those were just bickerings about the way people travelled. So they went nowhere. Whereas here, I believed I had a right to defend myself and say a word or two to those imbeciles.
I wanted out of the group, that's for sure. But I didn't want to get out myself. As I said, for once, I didn't want to just walk out and leave.
Stefan had made a post after this issue talking about rules, restricting comments to three sentences bla bla... So I decided to answer that in a provocative way and make them remove me.
I, unfortunately, did not think of taking screenshots at that point, I was so pissed off. But here are my last posts to the group:
"With all due respect Stefan... I don't believe anything worthwhile can be discussed in three sentences. Apart from short specific information that is. If you want, please restrict all comments to three sentences and let's see how the 'quality' increases.
I know I am the one insinuated with long rants. I deem them to be well-thought out arguments but I'm aware most people have other opinions which they are, of course, entitled to. I believe most people do not have the capacity (or the desire) to read and more importantly try to understand what is written before responding. And that causes most of the troubles.
I also know this will be harsh but some people are so tiny that they cannot imagine someone wanting to do something for others. I really wonder how can anyone even think I am after my own interest when I have explicitly stated in the post that I have been refunded!
I believe this is a very important issue indeed, and concerns all travellers. We are still bound by contracts which talk about “In case of lost tickets”! Which age are we living in?
It's NOT ONLY ME, YOU ARE BOUND by these contracts too. But I see that people prefer to just cover themselves by insurances or eat it up. So be it.
Sure, I am selfish too. First, I want to cover my ass. But after I have done that, as I have done with passports and the Djibouti ticket, I want to cover other people's asses too.
I prefer to do the Smart Donkey... but in this case it is not so easy and I need people like you. I see nobody is interested. There are 269 likes on my website on that post. All came from here. Still... Putting a “like” is the laziest and lamest passive support. Just SPEAK UP and say you agree or something at least. Anyway... This is what I get from a group whose interests are concerned. May I be damned if I try to get anybody involved again!"
Petro had said: “I want to encourage you to go read the group rules on self promotion. This is your warning now.”
And my head had hit the ceiling at that too. That that woman with no brain (see above) was giving me a warning!!!
"I have many issues with this. Starting from the fact that there is no WARNING for people who talk about ABORTION for God's sake!
I will NOT take accusations of self-promotion. I'd have hoped that everybody in such an elite group would be able to see this by having a quick look at my website. Apparently not. So even though I loath to say the following, I'll need to spell it out for some people to understand.
I have done three round-the-world tours, one by land, one by sea, one with my family. I met my Italian husband on my second rtw tour. I have a very romantic story to which I can add some really sensational details like starting the trip running away from a marriage where a gun had been taken out, ending the trip I started solo as three, a man by my side and a baby in my womb. I did the third around the world in 99 Days returning on my daughter's 4th birthday. So... If anybody does not see it and I need to state it: If I wanted to self-promote, I'd have easily been a celebrity definitely in Turkey and in Italy too. I did NOT take that road.
Perhaps I should have. If I had spent my energies on finishing that world tour book instead of concentrating on the stupid things travel entails, movement around the world we were all born, I might have been somewhere by now. Then, people might have taken me seriously or listened to me.
I have hundreds of pages, almost all on different aspects of freedom of movement; articles on other related issues connect to the right of free movement, other issues are all related to philosophical essays on world politics. Nobody would go to such great lengths to write about this stuff if s/he did not really care about it. If I chose to spend my labor on this, it shows where my priorities and loyalties lie.
Nobody would write all these hundreds of articles, spend so much time and effort on these matters just to self-promote. That would be a ridiculously laughable claim. It's obvious that the way of self-promotion for me would have been emphasizing my travels and life. That's where the glamour is. Where all the glory and fame is. Okay, let's not call it fame but all the praise is. I'd have had many fans if I took that road.
Where I stand is lonely.
If I'm promoting anything, I am only promoting ideas. And they are all travel related ideas. If you wish, feel free to update your rules as “No idea-promotion either.”
This brings me to other rules that are missing in your rules:
* What about knowing your place?
Again from Petro: “Please focus on your travels more than your personal views.”
I don't know about you but I do not take orders, even if they come with a please in front of it, from nobodies in my life and no authorities on anything. That right/privilege/entitlement is only reserved to my mother, husband and a few of my trusted friends. I could have taken it as a parently suggestion if it was somebody elder or if it was said with a different tone, but I consider that insolence. Especially coming from someone who is two decades younger than me, a novice traveller, not to mention someone who admittedly is on drugs and has mental issues. Sorry, I wouldn't have liked to bring this up, not to make anyone's situation worse, but seriously, this is crossing the line. You may not like or agree with my views, but I came to this after so much experience, reading, thinking and writing, so they deserve some respect at least.
My travels and my personal views on travel are INSEPARABLE, they make up an integrated whole. My travels made me who I am today. I was a “normal” person not questioning much and taking things the way they are as granted at the beginning of my second round-the-world tour ten years ago.
Ah, sure. You'll be saying there are rules in this group and I need to respect them. If you believe I'm breaking the rules, please feel free to remove me. As I said, I am not leaving myself, but I sure vote for my expulsion! ;)
* Whatever I shared here are at least all related to travel, visa stories, or airport security searches. I believe this should be a part of the general discussion in such a group. At least once. Just to get a general view.
Even if not... Where is the WARNING to people talking about ABORTION for God's sake!? Where is it?
Please... Please... Take responsibility and show some proper standards when applying rules. The place is full of people criticizing other people's way of travel even after that rule was put in. There is only one general “reminder” for everybody, no singling out or no blocking or removing such comments. If you expect respect for your rules or yourself as rulers, you should at least be fair and consistent in application, not have double-standards.
* Same goes for Cassie... Being civil and fair should be applied for every person even if we do not like them personally. So let me come to the next issues:
* I think one of the most important rules that is missing here would people being obliged to act like adults and say sorry when they make a false accusation/claim. Just think how different the conversation had been if people had said:
“Yes, you are right. I said 'documented means an authority has written and documented your travels. Which is the case for other females', but no, they don't actually have documentation.”
“Sorry for attacking you about the chargeback without knowing anything about the process.”
“Sorry for the Ryan Air assertion” etc. Just think... Just think of what a better place the world would be if people were mature enough to admit their mistakes and knew how to say sorry.
* Or of course it's even better not to speak or not to attack people without knowing things in the first place.
* The previous closed threads related to ways of travel arguments, but in the case of Djibouti, I have an issue... Okay, so you close topics to comments... What happens to the people who have been accused and attacked? So you feel it's right and okay for you to take away their right to answer? Where in the world do you see that happen? Yes, in autocratic countries. So this is an autocratic group? Can be huh, I'm not saying it shouldn't be. But I seriously think that it is really easy for people bothered NOT to read a thread. On the contrary, it takes effort to follow it up. So why do people go, follow something that bothers them and ask for the discussion to be closed? This is a real innocent question by the way, because it's seriously beyond my comprehension.
What about informing people of the posts you delete and the reasons for your deletion? Because my totally valid and related posts have been deleted and I do not take kindly to that kind of censor either. And the most ironical part that gives me a good laugh it is under a thread where the admin says “I could have just turned off comments for this post and been done with it. I’m allowing people to speak their mind freely. I don’t believe in removing posts or comments unless absolutely necessary. I prefer complete and transparent accountability.”
So I'd like to know what was it that made my post ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to remove?
You have removed my posts. I believe I have given you enough reason to remove me from here too.
Happy and safe travels everyone."
Deletion, Removal and Banning
Then, as expected and hoped for, I was removed. By, I believe, Petro.
It was a relief.
However, I had not expected, that is, not considered one thing: That Petro would be deleting my posts too.
So she did not let anyone get a chance to even see and read them. You see, contrary to Stefan and Ric, Petro is always on FB and on the watch.
I was sort of upset at this but relieved that it was over.
I was wrong! This was only the start of another episode of blame and shame.
This is the beginning piece of a seven article series on the EPS- Every Passport Stamp Facebook group and Counting Countries podcast. The following episodes are:
Asked to Come Back
A Call to Ric Gazarian's Patrons
Threats and Controversy
A Podcast Gone Wrong
Tantrums and Rants
Prescript: This was a post I wrote for TripAdvisor which did not get published because it gets to greater social issues. It was my first post there and I had signed up only to help out Visit Mogadishu which arranged my trip there. I understand TripAdvisor's policy and not wanting to get into controversial issues, but for me, any post is meaningless if it does not discuss important topics. So here is my view on travel to Mogadishu, Somalia:
Going to Mogadishu should not be something to do light-heartedly. Or perhaps, on the contrary, you should only go there if you are or can be light-hearted. If you can take what comes, if you can do like the locals and live life with a certain degree of fatalism. Even though the security situation has improved and the country is reconstructing, there is always a risk as the recent deadly attack which took place three weeks after I was there shows.
It is also true that risks are everywhere in the world. One should always keep in mind that anything can happen anywhere given all the news around the world. One is never safe from mass shootings or other attacks be it in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Turkey or any other place.
As for me, I took this chance even as a mother of an 8 year-old and my husband supported me as I am on a big project to go to every country to protest against global apartheid and categorizing people according to the imaginary lines they happen to be born in, lines that were drawn by either a bloody war or by bloody politics.
For me, Somalia always had a special fascination as a land of anarchy. I believe that most of the trouble there originates from outside forces interfering with the local structure and trying to impose their way of ruling. For anybody interested, “The Law of the Somalis” by Michael van Notten is a good place to start.
I could have just gone to Hargeissa, Somaliland and consider it as having visited Somalia but for me, going to every country is not about counting countries or checking out a list. I fell in love with the photo of the Lighthouse on the cover of Andrew Harding's book “The Mayor of Mogadishu- A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia” and since that day I've been wanting to go to Mogadishu. It's so romantic to imagine the glorious days of the city recounted in the book, times when people used to go to open-air movies, then take a stroll by the Lighthouse. Being there and seeing the beauty of the setting with my own eyes was very rewarding. Of course, I'd have loved to stay there for hours sitting on a rock and gazing at the ocean, the horizon, the people and the buildings. Even though battered and full of bullet holes, their grandeur is still there, just like an elegant lady who has aged, with whites in her hair, wrinkles in her face but her posture and the way she carries herself tells a captivating story. I wish to see the day that Somalia is peaceful, the ruins in Mogadishu are renovated and I return with my family to the same places I have been.
Lido Beach is still lively and for some reason safer I suppose as we got to walk the beach, be among the locals without too much rush and have lunch there.
The fish market was also a very special experience. I've been to many fish markets but the one in Mogadishu really stands out with the volume and variety of the big fish that is pulled out of the ocean, carried on people's backs, loaded and downloaded from trucks by huge men.
Somalia has such great potential. Like Diyarbakır in the Southeast of Turkey which has the longest city walls in the world. Unfortunately, it is mostly off-limits to tourists due to the Kurdish issue. Visiting places like Dubrovnik and paying to walk the city walls I cannot help but think that there should be toll-booths in Diyarbakır as well with people walking around and enjoying the good food and the culture there. Similarly, it is such a shame that places like Mogadishu which have so much to give to the world are mostly off-limits.
“Warriors: Life and Death Among the Somalis” by Gerald Hanley is an account of a British soldier working with Somalis during war time and gives an idea of Somalis, their way of life, their outlook and values. Even though you don't need to share their sentiments or even agree with their views, it is so enriching to learn about them.
I believe Somalia deserves much more than what it gets on the news as the place of car bombs and gun attacks. The Somalian people seem very friendly and smart. Most of all, they are resilient. Even though I detest security measures and being so heavily searched, the air there, or should I say the general impression I got was not one of fear, but of life. Living life with a certain degree of resignation, accepting what life throws at you, surviving and enjoying life in spite of the circumstances.
I am Turkish by birth, Italian by marriage and I don't like classifying people according to their nationalities, I believe people are people, there are all kinds of people among every nationality, but it is also true that people carry some special characteristics depending where they come from, our environments shape us. Anyway, I am not a nationalistic person at all. In spite of that, I must admit that whatever criticism people may hurl at Erdoğan, I am “proud” that “my” country is supporting and investing in Somalia.
I wish all the outside help could be done without self-interest or imposition of certain values, without interfering in the internal dynamics of a place and everybody could rule themselves the way it suits their society.
One day Somalia will be attracting many tourists to its many beautiful beaches with its lovely people. Hopefully just not too many to ruin its essence.
For now, Visit Mogadishu is your way into the country. You need to go in with an agency, with armed guards. It is not cheap but I believe it is worth because they take a lot of responsibility, plus, it is a way to help the economy of the country. Visit Mogadishu has been very precise and attentive when arranging the trip. I've been wanting to go there for a long time but could not arrange it due to personal constraints. Omar kept up informing me so that we finally made it a reality in the end. So a big thanks to them.
At the end of our family trip to Madagascar, we had a very bad experience, we were swindled at the airport. We had hired a local guide for the trip, Jean-Claude. And I had even asked “Jean-Claude, is this a scam?” He answered “I don't know” and went on checking his phone.
We were so upset when we found out it in fact was a scam; we faced Jean-Claude, but he denied any responsibility. As Jean-Claude worked for ToursByLocals, we took it up with them. Unfortunately, their response was disappointing as they said they could not do anything for people who did not book through them. Upon which I wrote a piece on ToursByLocals and Integrity and I tweeted it. I at least wish to warn people. The following conversation ensued:
When they said “We do care about our guides, hence our reaching out to you again”, I actually felt like rebuffing with “I would have appreciated it more if you had taken the issue more seriously when I first contacted you.” But realizing that, even if late, they were caring and trying to do something about it, I wrote to them in private in the direct messages and added “Thanks for reaching out, I appreciate it a lot.” After all, most companies do not even bother to answer; if they do, it just stays with one move and then forwarded to the backdoor out of public sight. Booking did not bother at all, Turkish Airlines used the backdoor tactic. So even though ToursByLocals seemed like doing a similar thing suggesting DM instead, I wanted to see if they'd do anything differently. Then they said something that struck me:
“We are all just trying to do our best.”
“We are all just trying to do our best.”... It echoed in my mind. Yes, they probably were. And perhaps I was unfair to them with my criticism. Perhaps it is too much to expect so much care and attention from that level of Customer Care. And the management level is generally not interested, doesn't get involved. Perhaps that's the doom of companies or the unluck of us customers. Nobody hears us who has authority.
Something extraordinary happened with ToursByLocals. They wrote “We've brought this issue to the attention of our Quality Experience Manager. He would very much like to get in touch with you to hear even more.” This was new. Someone at a manager level wanting to understand the issue. In fact, he wrote a very nice, detailed and courteous letter saying he was made aware of my blog post by someone in their social media team, he read it, and completely agreed with everything I had said. He also went and located my original mails to ToursbyLocals from back in September 2018 to have full grasp of the situation.
“Wooow!” I thought to myself. That's exactly what I would have done. And someone going into detail and trying to understand a situation was amazing.
The Quality Experience Manager Gavin also agreed that that correspondence was not dealt with correctly. “But I would now like to do what I can to respond appropriately to your feedback. I found your account of your experience with Jean-Claude balanced and insightful,” he wrote. Then he advertised a bit about his company and how they strive for 5-stars.
“We always endeavour to conduct our business in the most honest and ethical manner, and when something does go wrong, we take this seriously. This is why I really appreciated your detailed feedback, as I see this as a valuable learning opportunity, and I assure you I will now personally follow up with our guide partner Jean-Claude to ensure that this feedback is taken on board.”
This was really something. Seriously? Someone taking a customer complaint so seriously and responding in such a decent manner? Interesting...
I had stressed that this wasn't about money, I wanted Jean-Claude to understand that his behavior was wrong. Still, Gavin offered us a 100 USD promo code to be used as a discount for any ToursByLocals tour worldwide, valid for 2 years. He wrote “I do realize that you did not request any compensation; however, I would still love for you to consider giving ToursByLocals a chance to impress you the next time you travel - we do have full confidence in our process and our guide-partners’ abilities to deliver 5-Star tours.”
Of course I thanked him for the promo gesture even though we probably would not be using it because we have stopped travelling for some time. I wrote back saying I was already impressed. Impressed by his detailed and caring response. I confessed “I never expected to hear from ToursByLocals after one answer to my tweet, especially not after time passed.” The rest of my email:
“I understand that at the basic level your customer service agents cannot take up responsibility for someone who has not booked through you, it's not a part of their job or at least not a standard procedure. And the people in higher positions generally do not deal with customers and do not get back to them personally. So I am totally aware that this mail of yours to reach out to me is very out of the ordinary and worthy of praise/respect.
On the other hand, to be any meaningful, I would like to know the end result with Jean-Claude. I would like to see that he has really understood that the way to do gas is going full tank and leaving full tank. And that letting guests to be swarmed by unsolicited attention of locals is unacceptable and is failing of his duty.
The fuel cost was not the issue. Even if I would not have liked it, I would have accepted it if he charged us properly. After all, he said it, that that fuel was not included. What upsets me is the way he did it, getting 30-50 USD more out of us, charging a premeditated amount of 200 USD instead of what was actually consumed.”
Then I wrote something about money. I don't know exactly why, but to me this is very important. I don't want money myself, but I don't want people whom I believe did not deserve the money they got, to keep that money...
“I said money is not the issue, and it really isn't. I don't want money, what I want is to see that Jean-Claude has understood the above. On the other hand, I don't want Jean-Claude to keep the money we gave him, because I believe he definitely did not deserve it. So I don't know... In such cases I offer the person to pay a charity, somebody else. I think it's the best way to solve a money dispute. That neither party gets it, but it is given to a third party. My choice would be ihfonline.org , a place I've found after long research and feel I can trust. But of course Jean-Claude can give that money to someplace in Madagascar to help the country. I know he'll be spending the money in Madagascar and it will be going to the economy there, but I wouldn't want him to make use of it for himself. I'm sure you have the authority to make him do it, or the creativity to come up with a different solution to satisfy both ends.”
Gavin wrote back saying he was going to talk with Jean Claude during the week and would get back to me.
The week passed. I didn't bother. It is travel season, people might be busy. Two weeks passed. I still didn't bother much. These things take time. Then three weeks passed. I felt like dropping a line. Gavin got back to me saying he was following up with Jean Claude. He had the phone call, and then gave Jean-Claude time to absorb the feedback. Okay.
However, the rest was disillusionment. I try to understand their perspective. I understand that they are a business, that Gavin is doing things on behalf of a company. Still... I suppose that's where I have an issue. It was once again all about ToursByLocals, how great they were and what standards they expected for their customers and not about the right way to do things, a general moral and ethic code to follow in interactions with any tourist/guest.
Also, he got to the main point of his interest in taking up this issue. My removal/retracting or updating of my post! I understand, it is normal for him to expect that, but it makes the whole thing a big disappointment for me. My shoulders sank. Because I am not after interests, I am after integrity!
Here is Gavin's email, emphasis is mine, and my comments to him in parenthesis:
“I am happy to say that I have been able to reach a consensus and that Jean Claude has accepted the learning opportunities presented by the feedback you provided to us. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to connect with Jean Claude and to reinforce the expectations of ToursByLocals and our customers."
(To me, this should have been “to reinforce the right way to do things with tourists/guests.” Any tourist, any guest. Not only your customers.)
"I have advised Jean Claude that we would of course always expect him to include fuel costs (and any other such expenses) in the overall tour cost for any ToursByLocals tour; this is in fact part of ToursByLocals model. ToursByLocals customers would always expect all expenses to be included and/or disclosed on their booking form and we would never expect any of OUR customers to be overcharged or blind-sided by extraneous costs in the way that you described."
(Again... The only emphasis is on ToursByLocals customers. No guest likes unexpected expenses. Besides, Jean-Claude includes the fuel cost in your tours anyway. I was expecting you to tell, to instruct him the right way to charge fuel if it's not included. Come full tank to the airport, fill up the tank while leaving. It's simple.)
"I have also discussed the incident at the airport car park in detail with Jean Claude and have made it very clear that it is our expectation that he will always do everything in his power to warn and protect our customers against unscrupulous vendors or other 3rd parties."
(I'm sorry, this disillusions me so much. Why is it always about the person involved and not in general? It's ethics, it's morals, these are universal values. Guides are there to protect guests, it's an integral part of their job. Jean Claude has to always do everything in his power to warn and protect anybody who is visiting his country, not only his customers either, against unscrupulous vendors or other 3rd parties.
When I worked as a guide, I mean even when I wasn't working, even as any simple local, we interfere if we feel a tourist is being cheated upon by some local. It's just basics. Basics of being a host.
Plus, he was our guide. What's more, I asked if it was a scam. I mean, think about it. Imagine, you are in your country, there is a tourist family next to you and they ask you “Is this a scam?” It is only natural you'd say “What's going on?” and ask those people. Jean-Claude, let alone doing that, just brushed it off with an “I don't know,” and went on checking his phone! It's INEXCUSABLE!
And may I say, writing now and thinking about it again, it seriously makes one question if he was in on this scam.)
"This was a very important matter for us to clarify with Jean Claude as we would always expect our guide partners to utilize their local knowledge to enhance our customers' trip and to avoid any such unpleasant experiences. Jean Claude has assured me that going forward he will be vigilant to ensure that ToursByLocals customers do not find themselves in such situations."
(Again... To ensure ToursByLocals customers do not find themselves in such situations! What about other people? You just seem to say it's fine if others find themselves in such situations. This is what I call integrity, what I've been trying to say. That you are fine with your guide putting other people in such situations as long as your name is not involved.
Of course you cannot surveil him for his private customers but you could definitely tell him that he be vigilant with all his customers, all guests in his country not to find themselves in such situations.)
"I am satisfied that Jean Claude has taken my feedback on board and that he is moving forward positively and professionally from this incident - I have full confidence in his ability deliver 5-Star tours for ToursByLocals in future."
(Again... The 5-Stars service only reserved for ToursByLocals customers! Jean-Claude delivers 5-Star tours for ToursByLocals anyway. The problem is he should be delivering the same 5-Star for anyone, even without any authority over him. Perhaps I am expecting too much. But that's my goal. To have people behave the right way even if it's not in their interest. That's why, as you might have seen on my website, I am campaigning for freedom of movement even though I have nothing to gain from it myself as a holder of a European and a Muslim passport. It's about doing the right and just thing.)
"I did advise him that I believed it would be appropriate to make a financial gesture to apologize for the lack of clarity regarding the fuel costs; however, to be honest, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to pressure him or instruct him to take certain action with funds that are not associated with a ToursByLocals transaction. But I did advise him of the promo code gesture we had already provided to you and he was happy that we had done so."
(To be honest, I do think it is appropriate for anybody who has the power to pressure anybody who has done wrong. My child may be an adult; if I believe she has done wrong, I will be pressuring her to correct herself, to make up for it. I won't say “She is an adult, I cannot interfere.” I won't try to wash my hands off, I will take a stand. The stand on the right side, the just side. Of course, if it was something disputable, if Jean-Claude had denied the issue, if you had any doubts regarding my claims, then it would have been unfair to expect you to pressure him. But it's not the case here.
Plus, it's not the “lack of clarity of the fuel costs”! It's the sneaky way it was done. What's more, the more important financial gesture to apologize for is not the gas money, it was his lack of service, falling behind/failing miserably in his duties, the nonchalant way he answered and let us be swindled.
As for your advising him of your promo code gesture code.... Why would you do that? This gives the signal that you have already covered up for his mistake and he doesn't need to do anything more about it. I'm sorry to say that that is NOT the case. I had told you it was highly unlikely that we'd be using that code as we stopped travelling for some time. Under these conditions, we will definitely not be using the promo code, you may cancel it. Promotional gestures are exactly what they are called, they are for promoting your company, not really compensating the customer.
I understand you are partners with Jean-Claude. You work together. You make him money, he makes you money. We are just someone who might be a potential for you but he is your main partner, the person you need to look after. And I understand very well that the reason you are interested in this issue is the negative post about you, that as a 5-star company you don't want any negative thing on your name.)
"I trust this concludes this matter, and I am glad that you have given us the opportunity to fully address these issues. I am so happy that this has changed your perception of ToursByLocals and that you would consider giving ToursByLocals a chance to impress you in the future too."
Ah, he trusts this concludes the matter; he is the one to judge if the matter is concluded, not us, not the party who suffered the damage. He has done his part, so let's get to what I have to do in return!
"I would also be very interested to know if you are considering updating or retracting any of your comments regarding ToursByLocals on your blog. As I do appreciate and agree with your statements regarding integrity - I am in fact very grateful to be part of ToursByLocals as I can confidently say from my experience that we are a company that truly values integrity and honesty, and that we live and conduct our business by this philosophy. I would appreciate it if you could let me know your feelings on this matter and if you agree it would be appropriate to clarify the comments on your blog in anyway?
As always, I am at your disposal - please let me know if there is anything more I can do."
So he had done all this only in the self-interest of the company!
I said I'd certainly be updating my blog. But the issue was not concluded for me. I wrote:
For it to be concluded, I need two things:
You say you are satisfied that Jean Claude has taken your feedback on board and that he is moving forward positively and professionally from this incident. I take your word for it, yet I have to see that this is the case for myself as well. I was looking for something concrete from Jean-Claude himself instead of you. I was expecting some evidence, something in writing, either from your exchanges or better yet, a message to us from Jean-Claude to see that he really got the points I was trying to make.
And the second... As I said, he doesn't need to refund us necessarily, but he certainly needs to refund that money. Given his responsibility and unacceptable responses it should be more like all the money he earned but he should refund at least a 100 Euros. Or more appropriately 150 Euros. That's how we feel.
And we don't feel this is unfair the least bit, given that we are not asking him to give back much considering he got paid very handsomely for his services which involved two gross faults. There is no compensating for all the trouble we went through and all the time I wasted writing all these emails to you and the posts. As I said, it's not as if we are asking him to pay something he has not already received a lot of. Just to give back a small bit of it which he has not deserved. Only then, will he have showed that he has taken responsibility for his “shortfall” let's say.
This was Gavin's answer and my replies to him in paranthesis:
"Thank you for your thoughtful response; and certainly, yes, it is our hope that our guide partners will of course learn from the ToursByLocals' best practice which we try so hard to instil and maintain for every ToursByLocals tour.
I do believe that guides who join ToursByLocals benefit from the experience of delivering tours for our customers, and I would certainly hope that our business practices will have an ongoing positive influence on how our guide partners conduct their business with respect to both ToursByLocals and any other endeavour they pursue in their private life.
However, it is important for me to maintain this distinction and to be conscious of what requests it is appropriate for me to make of our guides; and as I said, in this case I do not agree it would be appropriate for me to pressure Jean Claude to take any certain action with regards to his private funds which are not associated with a ToursByLocals transaction. This is simply the dynamic of our partnership in which we respect our guides’ private commitments which they may have outside of ToursByLocals."
(I understand you Gavin. Nobody puts any pressure on anybody if they have a symbiotic relationship, if they have an interest involved. Nobody ever does. So my expecting you to put any pressure on Jean-Claude would be very unrealistic. I suppose you couldn't do any more than what you did without hurting your own interest. And why should you hurt your interest for something the person you work with did to someone who means nothing to you? I understand, it's no concern of yours. Not beyond the “stain”, a negative comment on your name on the internet.
Still, you didn't need to comfort Jean-Claude and take credit points for yourself by telling him you provided a promotional code for us. I understand, it is whatever gets you credit for anything you give away. That was just a good move to promote your business through a customer, plus strengthen Jean-Claude's bonds and loyalty to you. Two birds with one stone. I'm sorry I'm not the bird who falls for those stones. I understand perfectly well where your loyalties and your interest lies. This doesn't make you bad of course. It just makes you pragmatic and businesslike. And it makes me despair more. One more layer added to my unsuccessful tries with institutions. I understand asking for integrity at the cost of one's interest is asking for too much and it is only the rare few of those like me who do that. Perhaps I care about this so much because I grudge that I have given up so much for my integrity and principles. Or because the world is not a place for the likes of me. Or because I am left so alone...)
"Thank you again for your considerable efforts to provide feedback and enact positive change - your dedication to moral and ethical improvement is admirable. As per your request, I have cancelled the promo code previously provided to you and have instead arranged for the funds to be donated to the International Humanity Foundation."
(Thanks for arranging for the funds to be donated to the International Humanity Foundation. But again, I still have difficulty in understanding. Okay, I take your word for it but I'd never expect anybody to take my word for such a thing and I'd have provided a receipt to back up my word when I made such a claim to anybody. Why is it so difficult to do something properly without the need for prompting? And you probably are the best of the best possible. At least you care and respond. At least you tried to do something whatever your motivation may have been. Thanks for all your efforts.)
I left the most significant part of Gavin's response for last.
"I believe I have fully addressed the issues you have raised about Jean Claude, and as I said, I am confident that that this has been a learning experience for him. I believe everybody is capable of making mistakes and is entitled to a second chance. I do not believe it is necessary to pursue this matter any further with Jean Claude; I have accepted his contrition and I am happy for him to now move forward positively from this incident."
(Yes, I agree, everyone is entitled to a second chance. After they make up for their mistake. You are not the father paying for the window your son broke. Jean-Claude is an adult and he faces the consequences of his actions.
And what he did about the scam is NOT something light. Coming up with excuses, trying to shift the blame on us by saying ah we exchanged money through his friend is not acceptable either; let alone that, it's more outrageous. It's total bs trying to whitewash.
You may be “confident that that this has been a learning experience for him”, I am not. As I have not seen or heard anything from him.
You say “I have accepted his contrition and I am happy for him to now move forward positively from this incident.”
Sorry??? You have accepted his contrition??? You are NOT the person to accept his contrition! He did not violate your contract, your trust, he violated ours; he did no damage to you (I mean apart from getting your name involved indirectly), we suffered the damage he caused. Sorry but you have no right to accept his contrition in our name. Only we have that right. And we have not accepted anything as we have not seen any gesture or heard any word of redemption from him.)
This is so important, so so important that I cannot emphasize. Whenever someone does something wrong, they should make up for it, they should make amends. To the person who has been hurt. To the person who has been the object of the damage, the one subjected to the damage.
As far as I know, or as far as I don't know that is, Gavin might not have talked to Jean-Claude at all. How do I know he did? I mean of course I believe him. But I have no single proof, no single evidence that Jean-Claude got what I wanted him to get out of this incident. But Gavin writes:
“I am satisfied that Jean Claude has taken my feedback on board and that he is moving forward positively and professionally from this incident.”
Oh good, I am glad Gavin was satisfied! So it was about the satisfaction of ToursByLocals after all from the very beginning and not mine! Their satisfaction is enough! And Gavin's satisfaction with Jean-Claude understanding should be enough to satisfy me I suppose.
I'm sorry... It doesn't work that way. I know I am hard to satisfy. I know I am expecting too much. But I am not actually asking for much. I am not asking integrity over self-interest from people who are struggling to make a living. I do not expect a poor man to act with integrity at the cost of his and his family's well-being. But yes, I do expect integrity from people, companies and institutions who are well above the standard. I expect integrity from people, from companies who can afford it.
I do not blame the people who actually swindled us. Why? Because as much as it is not correct what they did, as wrong as it is that is, I believe they needed the money. Sure, there are other honest ways, but not always available to everyone. Sure, there are people under dire circumstances who do not resort to fraud, scams, thefts etc. However, I still have clemency for them. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning them, I'm not condoning any cheating, BUT, yes, no, I do not blame them. At least not as much as I blame people with means, people pretending to be civil doing wrong things.)
For Jean-Claude, I don't have it. Giving back some of the money he has made a lot of was not much to do. As for ToursByLocals, I'm not sure if their involvement served anything. What did Jean-Claude get out of this incident? Of course I don't have any knowledge of the conversation between him and Gavin, but what I gather from Gavin's account is this:
“Oh, okay. Even if it's not a ToursByLocals customer, whatever I do may get back to me. But, ToursByLocals will cover my back.”
The exact opposite of what I wanted him to get:
"I should be careful with every single one of my customers, not just ToursByLocals; otherwise, I might be losing my bread."
I believe Gavin should have pressured Jean-Claude to pay us (or any ONG), made him write to us too. Or alternatively, he could have provided me their phone conversation recordings. Some kind of solid feedback to make me see Jean-Claude got what I was trying to say. The best would have been, of course, Gavin writing to Jean-Claude, and BCC me, so that we could discuss it openly. With Gavin doing the intermediary.
Was he obliged? Sure not. Would it have been nice? Sure yes. Should that be a standard? I sure do believe it would help for a better world if things were done like this in every area. Courts and the justice system is just so crap. Howard Zehr's “Changing Lenses” should be standard compulsory reading for everyone at school, our methods for solving conflict/clashes should be updated.
Would such a thing have damaged ToursByLocals relationship with Jean-Claude? Probably yes. Still, as I said, I think companies can afford that. They should be able to put their interest at risk for doing the right thing. They should impose right behavior on their employees. Anybody who has any power should impose right behavior. Actually, it works in the other direction as well. I believe people should be resigning from their jobs if they witness the company they are working for is doing unethical business. So anybody who interacts with someone acting wrong should cut contact with that person/company if they do not correct their ways.
Perhaps I am wrong. But I feel this strongly.
Whatever... I seriously do not wish to deal with such things any further. Life is too short to spend trying to correct all the wrong in the world. Yet I know I cannot just accept and shut up. I need to speak my truths. Only then can I have a quiet mind.
So now, with your permission, I go on with my life.
Moral of the Story: Nobody puts any pressure on anybody if they have a symbiotic relationship, if they have an interest involved. And we will never achieve civility, civility in its true sense that is, unless we can overcome this obstacle and put integrity above our interests.
There is a very nice answer from Paul Melhus, the founder of ToursByLocals about their response to a challenge with a guide in an interview on Leisure. They are a 5-star company, if there is any lower evaluation for a guide they take it seriously. What's more, they even go further. They see how many customers provide feedback. Because people generally do not bother to comment if the guide is not especially good or especially. ToursByLocals seriously seek perfection, at least in theory, that is what they aim for.
“We’re not into average. We’re into awesome.”
That is such a nice and strong statement. I really wish they had owned up to their aspiration and showed they were into awesome.
The story goes like this:
Chris, an Australian citizen, is travelling around in Asia. He wishes to go to Indonesia. He needs a visa. At the time he is in Thailand, so he goes to the Indonesian Embassy there. The lady at the embassy informs him:
“We do not issue visas here to third-world countries. You need to get it from the embassy in your home country.”
Chris is stupefied. He thinks to himself: “I knew our economy was going down and we had problems, but I had not realized we had sank down to the level of a third-world country.”
Of course, what the woman at the embassy meant by that was totally different to what Chris understood. First-world countries are your neighbors, second-world countries are countries in the same continent as you, and the third-world are all the rest.
It is now sort of politically incorrect to call a country third-world. They are rather called “developing” countries. And the way we use the term first and third-world today has nothing to do with how the term originated. It was during the Cold War era: The US and the countries aligned with NATO were first-world countries, the Soviet block was the second-world, and all the rest was the third-world. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, first-world came to signify developed countries with high standards of living and strong economies, the rich and the “civilized”. In contrast, the third-world was the poor, under-developed ones.
In his article “Tra Bosnia e Croazia, Il “Gioco” dei Migranti per L'Europa”- The forgotten land migration route: “We all want to go to Italy”, Fausto Biloslavo writes that migrants call what they are doing the “World Game”.
While young migrants play this game, there is another game very similar to theirs played by a different group of people. That game is called the “Every Country Game”. And it seems to be getting popular every day if you have a look at the increase in number of the members of Every Passport Stamp group on Facebook or the news about someone being the first, youngest, fastest etc. to be to every country.
"With a membership of only approximately 100 people, it’s one of the most exclusive clubs on Earth. In fact, more people have been to outer space than have earned their way into this, the ultimate travel club..." announces Ric Gazarian in the introduction of his "Counting Countries" podcast interviewing the 193 country chasers.
Others playing this “Every Country Game” make similar claims: “5,000 people have climbed Everest whereas there are about 300 people who have been to every country in the history of mankind.” Emphasis is mine, just to show how people elevate their status by such exaggerations. What's our history, how long have we been around? It's just so short. Besides, a century ago there weren't countries like we know today. So who was to go to every country? Even if there were countries, people simply didn't have the opportunities we have today. It's just recently that we have these commercial flights, even the buses and cars to make it all possible. So now more people are joining the "club" of people who have completed the “Every Country Game”.
People in this game try to elevate their status with the number of countries they've been to. The basics is 193 UN countries. Then there are those who add the two observer states: the Holy See and Palestine. Some add Kosovo, Western Sahara and Taiwan to their list.
There are different travel clubs partitioning the world into different numbers. The oldest most known is the Traveler’s Century Club, which says the world is composed of 327 sovereign nations, territories, enclaves and islands. The Most Traveled Person divides the world into 891 unique parts. Nomad Mania divides it into 1,281 regions. And SISO says there are 3,978 places to visit if one wishes to see the world.
It sure is a game. Some play the basic game, the 193 countries. Others have more money, they play the game of going to every “territory" spending tens of thousands of dollars in order to get to some rocks in the middle of nowhere.
I don't know if it needs to be stated: The people playing this “Every Country Game” all have first-world passports, or at least some sort of strong passports. There is a whole range of nationalities that are missing among the “Every Country” chasers. Have a look at the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index- Global Travel Freedom at a Glance or at the info-graphic “How powerful is your passport?” by Ricky Linn. How do you expect an Afghani to play the “Every Country Game”? How can you expect any Pakistani to overcome all the hurdles to obtain a visa for the 160-165 countries that is required of him? As most people playing the “Every Country Game” agree, visas are one of the, if not the main obstacle to travel. Keep in mind, the people who are saying this have obtained only about 20-40 visas max. The rest was visa free or VOA (Visa on Arrival) for them.
So the game these people with first-world passports is basically this: Go to every country. Whereas migrants play a totally different travel game. Their game is: Go to this one country with the third-world passport you have. Without being caught and being too much beaten up by the police, without being robbed on the way or cheated by smugglers if possible. And of course, make it in one piece and alive!
Their challenge is the passport they carry. Their challenge is to cross borders and make it to one special country that is in their heart without the right passport. For the hundreds of thousands of people who are faced with barriers to go from one place to another, for those who are faced with deportation, who are put in detention centers, who die in unimaginable horrible circumstances... it's not a game. For them, travel and crossing borders is a matter of life or death.
The sad part is that the first-worlders are oblivious to the tribulations and the plight of the third-worlders.
First-world citizens play the “Every Country” game, third-world citizens play the “Reach This Country With This Shit Passport If You Can” game. They both form groups and share information amongst themselves, give each other tips on how to get around the troublesome points, give advice, names of places to stay, people to contact and maps to use. What both parties have in common apart from that is this: They all want to move around the world they were born on. However, it's not the same world they inhabit; they belong to two different worlds. Just like the menial first-world problems are much different than the real problems of the third-world the games they play are very different too.
PS: This piece was originally written for and published by InsideOver
Take the “The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Perfect Kid-Friendly Road Trip" on Misadventures with Andi. This woman has tens of thousands of followers on Twitter.
Let's take a look at this “Ultimate” guide on travel with kids. What does it say?
- Make the Journey Part of the Fun- which basically says “Bring games and take detours if it seems interesting.”
- Break Up Long Drives
- Bring Plenty to Do
- Pack Accordingly
- Plan a Budget and Stick to it
I know... There is the classic stupid American stereotype, but is it really that ubiquitous? Do people really need to be told these things? This is not an “Ultimate” guide to anything, it is just some common-sense suggestions.
There are 13 comments. Let's scan them:
“I love your tips for traveling with kiddos!”
“These are such great tips for vacationing with young ones. Thank you so much for sharing”
“These are great tips.”
“What great tips!”
“These are fantastic tips.”
“So many great tips.”
“These are fabulous tips!”
I am appalled how... but I should not be appalled with such things anymore, I should know that this is how the world is and this is the capacity of the majority of people. When I was reading the comments to Carlo he commented: “You know there is an industry providing fake comments, right?”
I said “Yes, I know,” with a sigh of despair. Yes, it really makes me despair. It makes me despair, not for myself, but for the state of our world. We call ourselves homo-sapiens (how stuck-up is that?) when we actually are homo-banalus.
* I called this “The Ultimate Bullshit” but of course this is not the ultimate bullshit and banality. You may find much worse on the internet. In fact, the internet is full of so much bullshit and banality that it gets tiring to bump into them.
The ultimate guide to travel with children would be:
Know your child. Know yourself. Travel is not a must. Postpone it until both your child and you are ready. Wait until you can all enjoy it. Or, if you still choose to go ahead and travel, try to find something worthwhile in the experience, be it in the form of wisdom or relief that the trip has actually ended. Know that time passes and children grow up. And one day not too far away from now, you will be wondering where all that time went. Treasure every memory.
Bonus Tip: If you see anybody who has posted an ultimate guide to anything, just run away from that site!