Bought something online recently? Literally, anything? Were there positive ratings and reviews?
Made this for giggles
There’s a high chance that you bought it because of those reviews. Let’s say you bought a pair of fur-lined boots and it delivered, but it’s not as fantasmical as you thought, so you leave a 3.5-star review. It did a decent job. With that, the purchase and marketing cycle is complete – kinda.
I don’t know how many other people depend on ratings and reviews when discovering new things (Me! ME!). We can’t help it and more often than not, we don’t even have a choice because of the huge selection of things to choose from.
I don’t need to explain to you why it’s a central point in marketing anything, I’m sure you’ve seen the ‘FOUR STARS* says the New Yorker’, ‘Winner of 2016 Sundance Awards’, ‘Dazzlingly Brilliant says the guardian’ or ‘Nominee of the Goodreads Choice Awards’. Obviously, these terms are more linked to movies, dramas, and literature, but the arts are certainly not the only ones to do this. We rate everything from holidays to foods and even a pack of pencils bought at the store.
Rose-Tinted Glasses – Reviews
Now, let’s say you want to buy a service. I’m just spitballing here, but say you decide to buy a solo round trip to a beautiful city like Prague – Cough – after analysing countless positive reviews, blogs, and travel articles. Now then, you’re ready to book the flights. Perhaps you bought it with a cheap airline – Cough, Cough -, only to backtrack when you looked just a little closer at the city than you did the pre-flight booking. You immediately find yourself deeply entrenched in the flight refund policy – Cough -.
Please note – that in this case, cheap does not mean cheap. This flight was ‘cheap’ as in ‘it would be cheap if I had a great salary with little to no bills’. That kind of ‘cheap’. And I have a lot of bills.
From now till then, you begin to plan your visit. And it’s as if the search engine can tell you’ve already booked the non-refundable tickets (I say this in jest, but I have Gmail so I’m pretty sure they have the LoJack on me – Cough – I mean whoever this theoretical person is) and gleefully reveals all the negative reviews of unhappy travelers.
At this point, I’m tired of pretending this isn’t about me. So if you’re not up to hearing my self-pitying regrets, then you may not want to read on, BUT, please do still continue.
The reality is that I used different search terms, and I was too enamoured with the picturesque photos of Prague Castle to think very clearly on the first search. Any who, that’s when the terror sets in and you furiously search for the return policy. I’m sure I’m not alone and I plan to start a petition to get airlines to design a pop up that say ‘ARE YOU SURE?’ before checkout like those scam sites that never let you leave.
Since then I have experienced a multitude of symptoms for an illness I am dubbing – Flyers Remorse.
As I write this, I am at step three for the third time.
The Swayed Mind
I guess you wanna know what changed my mind. Well, I started to think to myself, where is Prague? It’s further than Germany but before Poland. Huh? Eastern Europe? (I know, my ignorance is astounding) But no, I discovered many Czech and other people consider Prague to be a part of Central Europe. I also scoured forums until I came across one that made me go cold. My next search? ‘black people in Eastern Europe’ and then ‘black people in Prague’.
It’s safe to say that whenever you google an ethnicity or race with (insert wherever they’re a minority here) the results are almost definitely not gonna be positive news stories.
It was mostly negative in regards to the black life experience in Czech, with ‘racism’ popping up everywhere. Then I came across a black female travel blogger that presented a clear review of her time in Prague. This shattered me a bit. Before coming across it, the general consensus in Prague was: tourist of all shapes and colours generally accepted and treated well. However, Romani and dark skin foreigners were treated poorly and discriminated against if they lived there and ‘took all the jobs’ apparently. This was worse the further you got away from central Prague.
This is what I garnered from the headache of the search to find out how I would be accepted. I could deal with that; I’d just wear touristy clothes and stay in the touristy areas, my British accent would do the rest.
So, I read her article and I feel my heart literally drop. I head over to the comments and then my stomach does that wibbly wobbly thing as some people sympathised, disagreed, corroborated her experience, or described their own discrimination in other parts of the world.
At this time, I told myself to let it go. I’ll just not go on the flight and. No harm, the flight, hostel and airport transfers only cost me £200 or so for a four-day trip (I’m great at lying to myself). But, I had mentioned it to my boss and colleagues to take the days off, and also my parents. So I’ll just quietly hoof it to Bristol or someplace else and no-one will be none the wiser about my absolutely rational change of plans.
So, I don’t go to Prague.
I don’t go on this adventure.
I don’t take this chance of self-discovery.
I don’t take on this new experience.
I don’t leave my comfort zone.
I do give in to fear.
Warning: Backbone Needed
F*** That. It took me all of one day to chicken s*** my way out of this solo journey. It took me two weeks decide that I would still go and overcome the fear that took a hold of me.
Fear took a spontaneous trip to a beautiful country and turned it into a dark swamp of insecurity. Looking for courage online (as you do), I came across this quote.
“When you eat too much chocolate, you get sick of it.
When you drink too much champagne, you get sick of it.
Gorge yourself on fear.”
by Khang Kijarro Nguyen.
This alone didn’t convince me. It took listening to my co-worker’s four-month solo journey around Asia, my dad’s support when he didn’t even know I was faltering and reading that some Czech people describe Prague as a melting pot (for better or for worse). Most of all, it took me answering this one question – What are you actually afraid of? Discrimination? Standing out? Stares? I get all of that right here! In London! Arguably, the most diverse city in Europe.
I don’t think I’ve ever had much courage in my life which is why I felt the need to write about it.
I decided I wouldn’t be deterred for any reason. Let the stares and the irrational hate come, as I enjoy what I hope to be a wonderful city. It would have been easy for me to choose a more black-friendly country that’s easy on the purse but I didn’t. Being black wasn’t even on my mind as I thought of where to go. Prague attracted me on the photos alone and I refuse to be limited by my skin. That same blogger also inspired me to keep going – I loove her and I’ve subscribed to the Tribe! I don’t regret reading the negative stuff; it’s made me prepared for what could happen. And I can’t wait.
So for anyone doubting themselves because of someone’s not so positive recommendation, think deeply about whether you’re just using that to make excuses for yourself.
To wrap this up, don’t sit back, chill, and stay in comfort. Like this cat.
This is my aunt’s cat Winter, whose comfort zone is under my loving stroking hands.
Instead, take a leap of faith, like this cat.
A random cat. I’m gonna call her Shelby.
You’re lucky there are only two cat pictures – there could’ve been way more.
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