A few weeks ago, Jennifer Lawrence appeared on The Graham Norton Show and recalled the tale of how she had used sacred rocks in Hawaii for "butt-itching." She has since apologised for any offence caused, however I don't think that this should be looked at as the isolated actions of one person.
82% of Brits admit that they would take part in more adventurous behaviour when in another country. Obviously, the majority of these actions wouldn't cause offence in the same way as J-Law, but it is true that people, and students in particular, tend to focus on the strange or dangerous parts of their travels abroad when recounting to other people.
We all know the stereotype of a student who goes on a 'gap yah' and then won't shut up about it afterwards, but perhaps this is actually more common than we would like to admit?
I am definitely guilty of this myself. I spent five weeks working at a summer camp in China, but instead of telling people about the beautiful mountains, the food we ate or the interesting people that we met, I tend to start my story-telling off with the tale of how I burned my leg getting off a motorbike, leaving a big scar down my leg.
Why do we do this? Do we think that we gain some sort of status in other people's eyes for having done something risky and got away with it? Is it that our social media generation cares more about appearing funny and exciting to the people around us, than about the reality of what our time travelling was actually like?
With this in mind, I've come up with three questions to ask yourself before going abroad.
1) Is what I'm doing mildly stupid or is it culturally offensive?
Perhaps it is inevitable that young people will take risks, both to save money and because it seems so unlikely that anything bad would actually happen to you. However, Jennifer Lawrence's story shows complete disregard for another culture.
Before travelling, it is important to be aware of the laws and customs of your destination country. We tend to make assumptions about the places that we're visiting, but often they are simplistic and actually offensive.
2) Am I only travelling abroad to have crazy stories to impress other people?
Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about your experiences to other people, if this is your sole motivation for going to another country, maybe you should reconsider?
There are so many other wonderful reasons for travelling; there are amazing people and places all over the world, but there are much cheaper ways to do dangerous things to impress your friends!
3) Will my friends actually care as much as I think they do?
Although I don't think that you should travel because of other people's expectations, I also think that people don't care about dangerous or crazy stories as much as we think they do. They would probably be just as interested in you talking about a beautiful place that you visited or something that you learned to say in another language.
In fact, often the more 'gap yah' that you act, the more other people will get tired of you talking about your trip.
Overall, maybe we think that we do gain some sort of status from telling our dangerous stories? Maybe we think that we've won a competition of who has survived the worst situation?
But, I think that this is mainly more in our heads than an actual reality. People don't think about us as much as we think that they do!
In a time where lots of countries feel divided and angry with one another, it seems to me that it is more important to be respectful and united with the rest of the world, than for some short-term significance amongst your friendship group.