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Naked tourists need to respect sacred rules—even if rules are ridiculous

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. July 7, 2015

Travelling is all about taking risk. The whole idea of travelling is built upon adventure. What travellers forget—especially Western travellers—is that our vacation grounds are other people’s homes.

On May 30, a group of Canadian, Dutch, and British tourists visiting Malaysia decided to strip down on Mount Kinabalu for photographs. The mountain was considered the most sacred peak in the country. The act was not only considered disrespectful, but also thought to be the cause of a magnitude 5.9 earthquake that ended up killing 16 people.

It’s hard to argue that the earthquake and the obscene act had any correlation. In my mind, the two events were just an unfortunate coincidence. The movement of tectonic plates—not tits and penises—causes earthquakes. Nude photography is a popular trend; just ask the celebrities who have had their phone hacked. We all love thrills and what is more exciting than nude pictures and travelling? It’s totally a memory worth having, right?

There’s nothing wrong with naked pictures if you are willing to take full responsibility for them. For the tourists in Malaysia, they paid for it heavily. It became a criminal offence and it cost lives. Anytime you disrespect sacred rules and suffer immediate consequences that must cause some remorse. It reminds us that while travelling we are guests in someone else’s country; we need to acknowledge their rules and customs and abide by them.

Getting in trouble abroad is every tourist’s nightmare. So why put yourself in a bad situation? I don’t blame those tourists for “angering the Gods and causing an earthquake.” They were just behaving like idiot tourists and got linked to a tragedy.

If you are travelling and you want to be adventurous, be sure you learn the rules first. General laws and ethics are not universal. You can be certain if something is deemed sacred that the rules are stricter. Don’t fuck around. It’s okay to break through your comfort zone and do something daring, but breaking the rules can put you in a tough position, especially where language barriers are involved.

There are plenty of places to be naked in this world, plenty of places to act the fool. The key is to know where and when that is okay. Being a good traveller is not just about being adaptive, but also intelligent and aware of the ever-changing rules.

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