Have Pants, Will Travel

A key travel accessory when traveling are pants.

It might seem obvious to some and asinine to others, but too often when we travel we a) forget worldwide weather patterns, or b) forget worldwide dress customs.

Personally, I have been burned one time too many on this whole pants thing. I once traveled to Florida and, being from Wisconsin, and inexplicably forgetting that Florida too has night, I regretted it my first evening there. The last thing you want to do when in someplace new is to need to scramble to buy things you should have already brought.

And unlike a toothbrush or shaving cream, which can be procured for little means, pants are a much bigger ticket item. They may need to be tailored.

Apart from weather considerations the more overlooked, but bigger transgression, is the cultural considerations that pants entail. In most of the Muslim world, large parts of Europe and even large parts Asia, pants are the cultural norm and shorts are seen as lesser, crasser attire.

In certain places, nothing demarcates a tourist more than a garish pair of shorts. In certain places, nothing demarcates a person totally unaware of the native culture more than a garish pair of shorts.

We all have the stereotype of the ‘quintessential American tourist’ in our collective minds: the socks and sandals, the camera strapped to the neck, the shorts and colorful shirt. In a lot of places, that is an acceptable outfit. In a lot of places, that is a somewhat reviled outfit. If you find yourself in the latter category, be sure to replace those shorts with pants. And maybe those sandals for shoes– or lose the socks.

This is important advice to heed, especially if you plan on visiting any great mosque anywhere in the world. It’s also important when you consider the role of a traveler.

I think a lot of traveling is done to kill stereotypes that we, the traveler, and they, the rest of the world may have. Being American, I am painfully aware of the connotations that title carries in most of the planet. Travel is most successful when it proves ignorance ignorant and a stereotype just that– a wide held, but false, belief. And wearing pants when culture dictates (oftentimes despite weather) is the first step of many that can be made on our march towards a more civil, transcendent world.

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