How to use your influence as a traveler and help people.
Do you have influence?
Maybe you’re an influencer in your job, country, online. Maybe you’re not.
But what I can tell you for sure is:
As a traveler, when you travel in certain places, you have a lot of influence you can use to help the local people.
And to achieve so, you even don’t need to have a ton of online followers.
In this article, I will show you how to use your influence as a foreigner when you travel, and how you can easily do a lot of good things for the local people.
1. How I became an influencer without noticing it first
It’s not easy to know what to do when you suddenly have a strong media coverage.
How to use this sudden popularity and influence?
How to find the right voice?
A sudden media coverage
As a solo female foreign traveler, I use to be featured in the newspapers, as on this front page of Baskhar Dainik during my first trip to Bastar in 2012.
But in 2015 the situation evolved, as people were both proud and happy to know I was promoting Chhattisgarh worldwide.
Each day during my journey in Bastar, I was in the newspapers, on the TV or on the radio.
And at the very beginning, I didn’t know how to deal with it and use this influence.
Saroj Mahanta Stephanie, you now become a rockstar, you too coming in the Indian newspaper, just like our prime minister… Keep doing the good work of making underprivileged live’s better. God bless you with more strength and more happiness. Oh yeah, and a strong stomach too…
Imagine this kind of coverage and kind message suddenly inundating you.
How would you react?
I began to understand I could use this influence to help people
I had created an Instagram account to cover my trip and only had a few loyal followers, mainly from Chhattisgarh and India.
I used to post my best pics and, once arrived in Bastar, it was full of Tribal people, markets and festivities of Bastar Dussehra.
I was explaining the local traditions, the Adivasis (Tribal people) beliefs, their life, and was never talking about me. Why?
I wasn’t the topic. Adivasis and their customs were the important ones.
But quickly, my friends from all over India were asking me for my personal thoughts.
Someone asked me to talk more about me. First, let me tell you that it's a very difficult thing for me. French people don't like so much to talk about themselves. Especially me, I prefer to share what I learn about others. It's very difficult for me to express my feelings. I'm comfortable if people ask me personal questions here, but it's something we don't do in France. We never ask questions about family, job, money, religion, etc. As I'm very familiar with Asia it's something I deal with. That means that some foreigners can feel uncomfortable with these questions, and also that we won't ask these kind of questions. It doesn't mean that we are not interested in. But it's only not in our culture to dare to ask personal questions to strangers. Generally I can deal easily with that. But it can create confusion when the links are deeper. I already introduced you my indian family. They are very important for me. And on the day I arrived in Jagdalpur, I was very nervous to meet them again. I was both very impatient and afraid of their reaction. I love them as if they were my family. They consider me as a family member. But I hardly express my feelings. I don't ask personal questions. That's why they thought that I haven't the same feeling for them. Even if I said it is the same for me, they hardly believe it... #jagdalpur #Bastar #Chhattisgarh #India #culturaldifferences
I decided to use this sudden influence to spread some important messages I strongly believe in : respect the tribes and their culture, respect people who are different, be careful of people doing good in the name of a religion (we don’t need to convert to be good)…
Today, one of my friends asked me which foreign country I prefer. This is always a difficult question to answer, but it's difficult to deny the power India has on me. And of course Chhattisgarh has a very special place in my heart. So I started to answer India. My new friend looked at me, seriously believing I was joking ! As he couldn't believe it, I told him : This is my 4th time in India, and 2nd time in Bastar. Why would I come back if I didn't like India ? What I noticed everywhere in the world is that people hardly see the Wonders of the place where they live. We always look for the interesting things somewhere else and forgot to look at the ones we have in front of us. I was born in the north of France but I almost know nothing about this place. The main attractions tourists visit are unknown from me. At the opposite, I live in the Southwest of France since 2000. And I know more about the traditional festivals and places than most of the people who were born here. So my personal message tonight is : be concious of the beauty of your district, region, country, culture, traditions. You have serious reasons to be proud of it. Please, keep it alive. Stay these lovely people who love to interact with others, who take time for their relatives, who open their heart so much to the foreigners. There's so many fascinating things here : the tribal life of course, but also the world longuest festival Bastar Dussehra, your unique culture and believes, your ability to smile so easily... Of course everything is not perfect. But perfection would be really boring 😀 #Jagdalpur #Bastar #Chhattisgarh #wowcg #India #culturaldifferences
Tips: How to find the right voice and use your influence the right way
- Be generous.
- Listen to your audience: They will tell you what they want to learn from you.
- Write for them, not just to fulfil your own guts or by trying to guess what they want.
- Ask them if they don’t tell you by themselves.
- Don’t act as if it were all about you. People don’t love you because of who you are, but because of what you say, you write,how you say and write it and how you manage your influence.
Debayan Sarkhel I love it. I salute you both for your attachment and commitment.
When someone becomes influential, people want to know how is the feeling. This is the moment when we have to remember who is really important and to reaffirm our cause.
My feelings about the articles. Some of my friends wanted to know my feeling about this popularity. My answer is simple : I'm both happy for Bastar people as they feel proud to know foreigners can be so interested in their culture, know it, respect it and even promote it. And it's also a very strong feeling to feel as part of this community. People always do everything to make me feel like at home in Bastar. Of course my indian family living in Power House chowk has a special place in my heart. One of my friends even see me as a kind of super hero and role model. For me, the super heroes are all these people, especially Tribals, living with almost nothing but who love lives and are happy. They are able to give the only things they have. It's very easy for me to leave my comfort as it's only for a few weeks and not for my whole life. A role model ? I don't think so either but I feel very happy when people tell me I inspire them to discover their country and culture. I also hope people will realize the importance to keep their tribal culture but also their asian traditions alive. In most of european country - the basque country where I live is an exception - we lost it and I feel as if our values also disappeared with our traditions. I'm also moved each time someone - indian people - ask me how they can help physically or by a donation to the causes I support. It also makes me feel that I use the right way to touch people ' s heart. #thoughts #Bastar #Chhattisgarh #wowcg #India #windowonthetribes
2. How to know if you follow the right tracks
Three main sights will show you’re using your influence the right way.
People will join your cause
Pankaj Patel Thanks, Mrs.Langlet. It’s awesome & our grand pleasure that you arrived in our State #chhattisgarh. Really you inspire us to save & support our Indian culture especially our traditions of Chhattisgarh. Thank you once again & again to visit here. You know I’m feeling joyful since I see your posts, comments, and your miraculous #Photography
Your friends and supporters will help you
My friend from Odisha, Saroj Mahanta, did an awesome work by translating the article of Shailendra Thakur, adding my dog and cat.
And Shailendra used it to write the last article before my departure and promote my instagram account. During my trip, I both used Instagram with Facebook to post pictures and comments every day, spreading love for India, tolerance and respect for everyone.
You will get more and more feedback on your work
Such a coverage makes local people feel proud of their culture. They realise how much it’s important as foreigners also participate in the local events.
Some people also learn more on Bastar.
Tips: engagement is the key
The number of your followers is a vanity metric. It’s not by having thousands of passive followers that you will get some influence. It will only work with a few brands that still ignore the right metrics. Without the ones who feel involved in your work, you will achieve nothing.
Again, generosity is important. Don’t play the “follow / unfollow game” on the social media. It will only demonstrate that you don’t care about others.
Catch each opportunity to help others. It’s better to be known as the one who always helps others without any compensation, than the one spending his / her time in auto-promotion.
But be clear on the things you can’t do or you will quickly be overwhelmed by the requests.
3. What can you achieve with your influence
Here are some examples of how you can use your influence:
You can help people remembering the beauty of their culture and country
Do you really think that the grass is greener elsewhere ? You'll certainly think differently after reading that... As a French, it's always challenging for me to talk about myself. Since I'm arrived in Jagdalpur, people can't help to tell me that I changed in the best case, or that I became fat / big / fatty... I try to compose with that when it comes from my indian family as I know there's nothing bad behind. They even find me healthier. But we have a very different opinion about that in Europe. Not only I don't feel fine with my new body. But, more important, it reminds me these last 2/3 years that were the worst of my life. This is what is hidden behind it : I was very sick because of my job. We call it burn-out and more and more people in France live with this disease. In my company, some of them even commit suicide. This disease affects the more enthusiastic and passionate people, the one who work the hardest. The biggest symptoma is the sensation that the brain is burning. It also makes some easy things impossible to do. As I'm a commercial manager working for the french railway company, I was totally unable to enter a railway station. Yesterday, when my closest friend teased me again with my weight, I couldn't bear it anymore. It reminded me that each day is a fight against burn-out and that I will have to return to work in a company that is bad for my health. And where I have no more function as they suppressed for the 3rd times in a row my previous post. A company I don't agree anymore with the new policy. How would I be able to manage a team again when I don't want to follow the new rules of pressure on employees and reign of money ? Right, I have a good salary. Right, I could offer a beautiful big house. Right, I don't have to fight for money. But I fight each day for my health. So what is money without health ?... Of course I have some projects to live from my skills : my trips, my knowledge of Asian people and my area, my 18 years experience of hospitality and customer satisfaction. But for now it's only projects and I'll have to work for this company at the end of November. Do you still think the grass is greener elsewhere? #culturaldifference
You can be invited for a conference to the schools and universities
A conference can be an excellent opportunity to spread the messages you believe in, even if the main topic is not totally related to your cause.
I just spent one hour talking with some students. We talked about the importance of learning english, but also about time management, lazyness, education, Bastar Dussehra, cultural differences... And of course I talked about respect, especially for culture, traditions, differences, ADIVASIS. I explained the importance of Adivasis for me. I asked them "who are Adivasis people ?". Their answers were very pejorative : dirty, illeterate, bad clothes, etc. I told them that they were the first inhabitants of India and we have to respect them first for this, but also because they have a different knowledge. By example in medecine, natural life. I told them that for me, Adivasis are equal to me. But that's easier for me to think like that as we don't have a castes system in France. And also because I travel a lot and always try not to jugde people according to my own culture. I also explained how I felt uncomfortable in Kumdakot when other people put the hat of bison Horn marias on their head. First because this is the identity of bison Horn marias, second because it's a sacred thing for them, 3rd because some people laughed about it. Respecting others is one of the most important thing. And it's because I respect others so much that I'm always welcome everywhere. #culturaldifference #respect #Asivasis #tribes #India
You can accept to be interviewed by the TV and spread your message
I had a full day interview with several journalists in the important temple of Dantewada, was followed for a few hours and interviewed for the TV and some documentaries, had a few impromptus interviews for the radio.
As I was a manager, trainer and lecturer for 19 years, I could manage these interviews quite easily and use it to spread my message of respect for the Adivasis and the traditional cultures.
It can even lead you to some unexpected and wonderful social projects
By demonstrating such a dedication for the Adivasis cause and the preservation of the local culture, I met a beautiful humanist family from Jaipur.
They proposed me to participate in their dream: opening a guesthouse in Uttarakhand that will have a few free rooms for some local families in need.
Of course, it’s also because of my skills in hospitality, customer relationship and management.
But it proves how travel blogging and the collaboration with the local media can lead to unexpected projects.
But don't forget how much your words and work became important for the local people
It’s not easy to leave a place when you create a personal relationship with the locals.
By showing love and respect for the local people, you will raise hope and proudness in people. They will certainly ask you to come back, to continue what you began.
Don’t make promises you’re not able to follow.
It’s better to say nothing and do than saying and do nothing…
Tips: each time you can talk about your project / dream / cause / passion, do it
Don’t be afraid to see your idea stolen. You injected your personality inside it and you’re unique, so your idea is.
The more people will know about your work or project, the more chance you will have to get a new perspective, collaborator, supporter, a sponsorship, a mentor, a new associate, some future customers.
Isn’t it nice to feel you inspired others to do some good things? So, if someone uses it his own way, that means you can change the mentality.
For this trip, I had a lot of business cards. Each time someone asked me about my work or website, I could give one.
It’s when I gave my card to my associates from Jaipur that they realised we could do a lot together.
4. What you should do and... never do!
Again, be generous
Did I remember to tell you to be generous?
More seriously, this is SO important.
What happens to me today is because I began to promote Bastar after my first trip in 2012.
I was waiting for nothing in return. Actually, I already felt as if I have had a lot from the people from Bastar.
My work was noticed by Chhattisgarh Tourism Board. They delivered me a certificate of excellence I could display on my blog.
Then, I was recognised as one of the top 7 foreign bloggers on India by Holidify.
For the Indian media and people, it was natural to recognise my influence and to promote me as a loyal supporter and lover of the Indian and Chhattisgarhi culture.
And more popularity and influence means more possibilities to defend your cause.
But don't be stupid
Some people will think they can take advantage of your generosity.
This is not a reason to stop being generous.
But it’s a serious reason to learn to say “no” or simply ignore the requests.
When I was in Bastar during Dussehra in 2015, an Indian reporter I only know online sent me this email:
“I’m writing an article on Bastar Dussehra. I need your pics. Send it urgently”.
Of course, I even didn’t waste my time explaining why I would not send my pics.
Often, you will also be frustrated by the absence of “thank you”. But this is part of the game:
Don’t stop to be generous because of these uneducated people.
Believe in people.
Don't give lessons
Sometimes it’s hard to keep calm when hearing some ironic comments on the tribes and minorities.
It would be easy for me to tackle the speaker but I never do it. Why?
It wouldn’t give any result and will deserve my cause.
One day, I heard “Tribal people are uneducated, wear bad clothes, are dirty”, etc
Instead of a useless confrontation, I explained why I respect Adivasis, the difference of their knowledge.
I also said that I could easily make fun of the Indian traditional clothes, thinking that the reference is the Western clothes.
But why should I think that my clothes, habits, beliefs are superior?
It’s only different…
Yes, this kind of message is much more powerful!
But it's not a reason to agree with everything
I have my own opinion on the religions, the Indian caste system, the place of the woman in a few families, etc.
But confronting this opinion with others would only be judging with my own culture and values.
Instead, I’m listening to the different opinions and try not to judge.
I try to understand what makes people think differently.
Nobody is perfect.
Each country has its qualities and defaults.
Having some influence doesn’t mean you can and should say and change everything.
Your influence won’t last long if you don’t keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Stay far from the political conversations
In France, we say that two topics always lead to a fight:
Religion and politic.
In India especially, people love to talk about politic.
But never forget you are a foreigner.
People will try to involve you in such conversations.
Some will try to see a political act in something you do or say.
Sometimes the border is thin between political and social topics.
Be extremely careful in what you say and do.
It’s better to stay outside these conversations.
5. And you, how will you use your influence?
There are different ways to use your influence.
But if you’re a foreigner travelling in another country, you have to be conscious of the role you can play.
Unfortunately, I met so many travellers who take distance with the local people as they are afraid to trust them.
They often think that people are only interested in their money.
Of course, you will meet some of them on your way, but they are only a small part and you will more often meet people ready to share with you everything they have, even if they are extremely poor.
The way I chose to use my influence is by spreading tolerance and respect and fighting for the preservation of the traditional culture.
It’s not always easy, as it requires to be very active on and offline.
You will also meet some people who want to harm you and make you give up.
And we all know how it’s difficult to go out of our comfort zone and be under the spotlight.
But the smiles along the way, the happiness in the eyes and the positive impact really worth it.
And you, what is / will be your fight ? How will you use your influence?
Use the comment section to tell us what you do or would like to do.
Pin me for later
Stephanie Langlet is called Indie, the female Indiana Jones by her French readers.
She helps the travellers to feel comfortable outside of their comfort zone and to travel closer to the people and culture (read the testimonials).
She is a Trip Planner and a Hospitality and Management Consultant.
Fond of the Tribes and Minorities, she’s specialised since 2012 in the tribes and festivals of Central India and have collaborated with Chhattisgarh Tourism Board to promote it. She’s often interviewed by the Indian medias.
In 2015, she was recognised as one of the Top 6 foreign bloggers about India by Holidify, and as an influencer for Chhattisgarh by Chhattisgarh Tourism Board.
She also runs her own guesthouse in the south-west of France, from May to October.
From November to April, she will be in India to work on a social guesthouses project with her Indian associates.