I took this selfie with a member of the Sri Lankan Defence Force after I was stopped by his accomplice, a traffic police officer.
I had heard that Sri Lankan police were usually pretty nice to tourists. But a look on their faces told me that they were having a bad day. I had my International Driver’s Permit endorsed by the Sri Lankan transport department. But I was riding a 650 cc rental motorcycle that was registered as a 250 cc. I feared that these guys could be in the mood of impounding it.
As they approached me, I remembered the advice given by Spencer James Conway, an adventure motorcycle rider who rode solo around Africa. I turned the ignition off, took off my helmet, got off the motorcycle, removed my gloves and thrust my hand in front of the officers. They reciprocated and the air between us suddenly changed. We got talking about where I was from and what I was doing in Sri Lanka while the police officer flicked through the motorcycle documents. They wished me safe travels and let me proceed.
Too many times while riding in an unknown land, we find ourselves in a hurry to ask a local a quick question or seek directions and continue riding. It helps to take the time out to greet people properly and give them the respect they deserve. We are guests in their land and we should always remember that.