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Travelling to the developing countries

Hi guys! I hope this topic is within the appropriate guidelines! I am a travel junky and I am currently writing my Master Thesis on the value based approach in travelling, or basically why do we travel! Besides having rest, cheapness and "getting away from it all" I have been wondering long time - what motivates people to travel to the developing countries? For me, my most memorable travels were South Africa and Cuba. Lately I have been travelling in Europe a lot and I do not feel the same as I felt in these countries. I feel more framed, more bored...I was wondering, do any of you guys feel the same and for that reason prefer to travel to the developing countries? What is your reason to go? Do you think we are missing something, perhaps some values, in the Western Societies and what would it be? When I asked my boyfriend, he said that travelling to the developing world he sees people kinder and more caring towards each other - is it so?

Posted by
203 posts

My favourite travel of all the places I have been is South America 20 years ago. For me it is multi layered. The combination of the simplicity's in areas with very little. The work ethic of those that offer to help. The people were so genuine - I guess they didn't have the material motives for our poor behaviour. The enormity of the contrast to my cushy life in Australia.

Posted by
81 posts

Hi Malinka -
That sounds like a fascinating topic for your thesis! We travel quite a bit with our family (7 kiddos, hubby, and me), and a great deal of that is to developing countries. We have traveled to El Salvador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and most often Guatemala (we go there about once a year). We have also been to Europe and all over the US. (We just returned from Christmas in Guatemala and are planning a summer trip to Europe right now).
Our reasons for travel are mainly to educate our children, help them to become world citizens, and to create memories for our family (as opposed to giving them more 'stuff'). I love traveling Europe and seeing all of the amazing history and art. Developing countries, however, to me add a whole new level to life. In addition to the obvious of our kids seeing what poor really means, there is so much wonder and beauty in these countries. We have traveled both to see and take in the wonders of the land, and also to help in humanitarian aid (my husband works in medical clinics often when we go, and I work on nutrition projects - currently working on a garden project in Guatemala) The kids have worked on construction projects, and over Christmas my son helped build and instal some solar lights for 2 medical clinics. I have loved the opportunity for my kids to see how they can really make a difference in the world right now - that life is so much more than just 'what can you give me - what can I get from this situation' but they, even at the age of 14 (and younger) can really, truly contribute to helping others, even complete strangers.
Overall, I have found people in developing countries to be so much more helpful and kind than those in certain european countries. Also, there is a happiness found in so many of the latin american countries that I haven't seen in general in other parts of the world. In some cases it's as if they are in a whole different universe, and I feel like I have just stepped into a back edition of national geographic - time kind of stands still and people completely live in the moment (in both good and bad ways). It always grounds me to visit developing countries. It gets harder and harder for me to come back and be completely comfortable with all of my comforts.

Posted by
5500 posts

I have been to 70 countries and many so called developing countries.

1) There are different levels of developing. For example, there is a huge difference between a country like Mexico and a country like Egypt. Mexico is more developed than Egypt and the poverty there is not as massive. An Egyptian friend once told me that over half of his country's people have dirt floors. There is a much larger middle class in Mexico and even a tourist can see the difference.
Other countries at the poorest end of the scale include countries like Chad. My Son in Law has been to Chad and said that flying into the airport at night that the only lights he could see were the ones at the airport. Chad is even poorer than Egypt. If you plan to visit a country, it is important to know the general economic state of the people. Yes, when I visited Egypt on two occasions, I stayed in five star hotels with all the amenities, drank bottled water and nice restaurants, but I could see the incredible poverty.

2) If you travel to a developing country, be prepared to drink and eat carefully. Don't drink the tap water (even in countries with significant development like the PRC, India and Russia). Also, be more conscious of your personal security and where you stay and were you go. Not all developing countries have high crime, but some do. Research this before you go there.

3) Visiting a developing country can be fascinating, as many of these countries are more different from the USA than countries in Europe. It is fun discovering a different culture and learning about that culture.

4) Whether or not people are friendly or more caring probably has more to do with their culture, but I think people in poorer countries may be more solicitous if you are spending money there. Twenty dollars in some countries is a week's pay.

5) One thing, you can't throw all developing countries into one basket. Even visiting Latin America. I have been to many countries in Central and South America and all were different to some degree, even though the common language was Spanish and culture was similar. Chile is not really a developing country, but more like the US or Spain. Peru, Ecuador and Colombia are developing, but still have significant middle classes, as does Mexico. Also, Venezuela, because of its disastrous turn to collectivism is an economic basket case and not save to visit at this time.

Posted by
5558 posts

It is interesting so far what people define as a developing country. I wouldn't put Mexico and Egypt into this bracket!

I think that travel to developing countries shows us different cultures and a simpler way of life, perhaps how the developed world was in the past. I have travelled to developing countries to view their wildlife, scenery and to experience different cultures (countries I have visited include Tanzania, Swaziland, South Africa, The Gambia, Malaysia, Bolivia and Peru). I wouldn't say that people here are necessarily more caring.

Posted by
13564 posts

Developing is sort of a subjective term. You didn't enjoy Europe as much? Europe extends to Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria; all somewhat "developing countries" outside of the main cities. Maybe if you haven't tried it, you can head east? I've been to a few countries in Africa and a few in Central America. Yes, its a different experience. Nether good nor bad, just different.

Are the people nicer? In general probably not. In specific, since you aren't dealing with a culture that has been exploiting tourists for a thousand years you probably come into contact with more average people who in most of the world are pretty decent folks. So you meet more of the nicer folks.

I've slowly adapted a philosophy over the years that takes me to countries that are in change. I want to see them before they get homogenized with the rest of the world. There is a lot out there and its all beginning to change pretty rapidly. But I cant just walk into one of the countries, knowing my weekly income exceeds their annual income, without giving something back. So now finding where my money or my work can contribute is one of the focuses of every trip plan. I think every tourist should find a way to return the value of the experience. What's $1000 out of a $10,000 trip? One less day? So be it.

Soap box going back under the bed.

Posted by
2526 posts

There are many reasons to travel to less economically developed countries. Culture, sights and food are good reasons for me. Some of the best memories are of meeting folks, however briefly and superficially. Treat people with respect regardless of their circumstances and they reciprocate.

Posted by
13564 posts

Treat people with respect regardless of their circumstances and they
reciprocate.

My significant other is a much better person than I am. If we spend as little as two days in a city or town or village; by the time we leave my significant other knows the names of no less than 6 people and they know our names as well. Often departure begins with hugging and tears. You have no idea how that changes a trip. When home my significant other keeps in touch with some of these people and I even have one working for me now.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you so much to all of you for such kind replies, for sharing your thoughts and having a different angle! I would really like to share with you why I think the “developing” countries are making me tick! I was born and raised (until my 18th) in Russia which was slowly recovering from communism, the 90ies was harsh – once we were robbed and our money we would have saved up got devalued twice. Long story short, already 10 years I live in the Netherlands. Sometimes I come back to Russia and every time I go, I pass by the blocks where I grew up. They look horrendous for me right now and I can see how difficult it was for my parents. Yet, this place also associates with the pure childhood happiness (like in your example @slavender). Back than, I did not see that it could be better, I saw it as it was already the best! So when I travel in the developing world I regain this simple happiness and the material things become less important. The instrumentalism turns into value and you just want to do good and give something you have to the others as @createyourhome2003 and @James E. have mentioned.
For my boyfriend – he is a Spanish architect, travelling to the developing countries means respect to whatever work you do. He explains that in the developing world everyone seems to matter – shoemaker, baker, accountant, whereas he feels like in the western world we are becoming a number and it is difficult to feel the contribution. That is what he really longs for.
I absolutely love education @createyourhome2003 gives to her children <3 Perhaps it is the way to get away from judgement and create more universal love! Yet, I see your point about it getting harder to “re-integrate” as the cultural capital we gain also needs to be shared as it is a shared good. Maybe an interesting book to read about it is a book from my professor Arjo Klamer which is called “Doing the right thing”, very inspirational! I truly believe this type of traveling should be subsidized for people who can not do it, our education has become very institutionalized. Yet, I believe the type of discussion we have on this forum are very helpful to try to talk about it and see what we can do

I love the post from @Bruce, @geovagriffith and @Jennifer about the differences we long for as globalization takes place and the cultures get commoditized and very similar. Something to contemplate on! Maybe the craftsmanship should be more valued? I am studying with a lady who is a goldsmith, literally I never even heard about this word (I am 28) before I met her – but what an interesting thing to do!!!

Last but not least, I agree with you @geovagriffith! There are certain risks and dangers involved in travelling outside. In Russia indeed we always drink only bottled water and I had a very bad stomach flue the other time I did mistakenly drunk from tap. Also, the countries which depend on tourism income do sometimes change the locals. It was very difficult in Cuba when on the streets once a person see you are not local they try to be your “friend”. We did bring clothes with us and gave money to those who asked. Yet, how could we encourage them to be themselves and to realize that people will help even more when it is genuine? I ask myself this question but still haven’t got a solution to it. Again I think we can learn a lot from @createyourhome2003 way of travel.

In general, I am wondering what can we do, how can we do something about it? Or is it just a “time travel” we are doing when travelling to the less developed world which values seem to be less instrumental and at one day all world will be the same? Somehow I doubt it

Posted by
3551 posts

Frankly, travel is diff for everyone. And it costs money. So sometimes it is truely budget driven. Me I have done the developing country thing and my comfort level is at risk. In other words been there done that prefer to be home than take risks. I would rather save my $ and go to where I am comfortable afterall it is a vacation.

Posted by
8 posts

I've been going to Cambodia aprox once a year for last 6 years- amazing to see a country actually developing.

Due to chinese investment they have been developing very quickly, so the capital still doesn't have a McDonalds but they do have a Porsche dealership.

I like developing countries for the fact you see how simple life really is- and how we in the West have over complicated it. Sitting on the floor sharing a beer and a couple of plates of simple food, some rice maybe a bbq local fish.

A great insight into asian/ buddhist thinking is the thai phrase 'mai pen rai'. So if something goes wrong or a plan falls through- no matter how bad it is sure the is disappointment they say mai pen rai which basically means 'oh well' and they forget about it and get on with their lives. No psychologist needed!

Posted by
4695 posts

I lived in Ghana for 7 years. Developing countries like Ghana do not need voluntourism or donated anything. These are band-aids. Go to these countries and stay in an expensive hotel, pay for services and buy locally made items. Let the countries thrive on their own. That's want the people want - not a crappily built school constructed by high school kids with a savior complex which need to be rebuilt when the party is over.

Posted by
2526 posts

Wow, Emily's post is quite blunt. I do wish more teens from here would visit less economically developed countries and see what life is like and that all the comforts we demand in life do not translate into a happier life.

Posted by
4695 posts

By all means, kids should travel and see the world. Travel to a country like Ghana and see the country as a tourist, spend your dollars - just like you would in Spain or England. Putting them in a situation where they gawk at African kids to learn about gratefulness is just sick and twisted.

Posted by
6872 posts

Emily,
I'm not sure what to make of your response to Bruce's comment, which seemed neither ill-willed nor naive. Kids interpret things differently than adults do - and I don't believe any kids are exempt from "gawking" as they're trying to gather new information and try to make sense of it. I've been "gawked" at myself when traveling in the developing world, and I'm fairly sure the kids meant no harm by it. I do agree there is value in seeing how other people live and how adaptive they are, in spite of meager resources. Admittedly, even some parts of the US would be quite an eye-opener for some adults and kids alike.

Posted by
4695 posts

The developing world is so much more than poor people.

Posted by
6872 posts

The developing world is so much more than poor people.

I don't think anyone here suggested otherwise unless you're reading something into these responses. There are cultural treasures (of all kinds and sorts) all over the world that shouldn't be missed - that's why I don't skip the developing world and will continue to go there. This forum is Euro-centric by design, but that doesn't imply other places in the world aren't just as interesting, IMHO.

Posted by
13564 posts

not a crappily built school constructed by high school kids with a
savior complex which need to be rebuilt when the party is over.

That is one of the most uncalled for comments I have ever read on here. It’s mean and condescending towards everyone young and old, that has attempted to put their efforts where their mouths are. Thank G-d there are high school kids that want to do good in the world. Where would the world be in 10 or 15 years if an entire generation grew up without those values.

Beyond that, I do agree with the concept of encouraging and investing in (spending money) in self sufficiency is necessary if things are going to improve for the long haul. But don't insult people that may not have your understanding of the situation, or whose religious calling requires such things from them. Geee, with that attitude this world will never learn to work together. .

Posted by
8293 posts

I have to say I agree with Emily. When you see a TV programme following a group of do-good first world people digging wells in Africa, or building schools, they all look so smug and well pleased with themselves, so full of self-regard. As Theroux noted, the well gets dug, all the volunteers go home, and no one has been trained to service the darn well or keep it in good order. How is that helpful?

Posted by
2526 posts

"Putting them in a situation where they gawk at African kids to learn about gratefulness is just sick and twisted." Well, my intent in suggesting kids from here should visit less developed countries is not to "gawk" but to observe and interact, just as we do when visiting anywhere else in the world. And also to appreciate what we take for granted...like vast amounts of clean water, for example.. For a number of years, I have been helping some students, coming from horrific backgrounds in a very less developed country, obtain an education and a chance at a better life. Fun in their lives is an uncommon experience, but they are not p***ing and moaning, as they study, study, study in the hope of decent futures as adults, while always remembering their early years. As for extending help to less developed countries, so much of it is misguided at best. Our son worked a number of years in very remote and dangerous parts of Africa. He gave us vivid firsthand accounts of such. Through travel, maybe some of our young folks will have a better idea of what's what and when they assume leadership positions, make better decisions than has been the case to date. [Am now off the soapbox.]

Posted by
13564 posts

What is amazing is that Emily tore me up once because she thinks I threw too large a lasso when talking about terrorists. But she has no compunction about knowing what is in the hearts, minds and souls of all young Christian Missionaries (I assume that is why the "Savior Complex" seemed appropriate) and throwing a wide lasso around them when condemning their attempts to help their fellow man. Its hypocrisy at its worst; but I bet she is a good person and doesn't even realize it. I support a group of savior complex young adults who build ..... SCHOOLS! ..... and I have seen the schools and they do their job. Its the only roof some of the kids have ever known. What, we should wait till Emily has time to do it "right" for us? Or we should wait till there is a 4 star hotel built in the jungle?

Posted by
4695 posts

Heck yeah I'm a good person and realize it. You have no idea what I do, but I saved 14 lives today alone. I am also the granddaughter of missionaries and in my youth I traveled to countries to also build schools. After living in West Africa for 7 years and really understanding the economics of poverty in developing countries, I changed my opinion of this type of assistance. There is much research and proof to validate the harm voluntourism creates. As for your schools, why not help create a way for locals to be paid to build their own schools or work on activism which puts pressure on the government to do their job? Also, I am not suggesting a 4 star jungle experience - travelers should just spend money no matter if that is a tent, hut or luxury hotel. Lord knows I've paid locals to stay in my fair share of huts. They were happy for my business.

Posted by
10 posts

Good comments above.
To me, I visited developing countries because of simplicity, raw beauty of nature and got to admit that dollars go further there.
My thoughts are similar to
1. Malinka: Being born and grew up in Vietnam, living in US for more than 20 years, every time going back there, I 'regain the simple happiness' which is hard to describe...
2. Dave: 'How simple life really is' and 'No psychologists needed!' People seem happy with simple needs.
3. Jen: I also noticed that Latin American countries seem like another world - they 'live in the moments in good and bad ways' - interesting! Even their music reflects that :).

Posted by
1000 posts

Admittedly, even some parts of the US would be quite an eye-opener for
some adults and kids alike.

Agnes, I was thinking this, too. I'll bet where I grew up in the South would be considered "developing" by some on this forum.

Posted by
6872 posts

Celeste,
Yes, I meant the poorest areas in some deep Southern states and along the border with Mexico, and some rustbelt areas as well.

Posted by
13564 posts

You know, I really don't see something "less" only different when I am in places like Romania and Bulgaria or Egypt for that matter. Never occurred to me to gawk, just breath in the differences.

San Francisco on the other hand, ......... wellllllll......