9 WAYS TO TRAVEL THE DEVELOPING WORLD WITHOUT BEING A JERK
Bin the tube socks, Hawaiian shirt and fanny pack. Here are twelve easily avoidable cliches related to traveling to the developing world which too many people fall prey too.
- •Don't think that everyone is poor.While many people in developing nations live in poverty, many are also wealthy, or even, boringly, middle class. 1/3 of Africa’s population, 3/4 of Latin America’s population and almost 1/2 of China’s population are now classified as middle class. Most people you encounter in the developing world will have much more in common with the middle class in the West than you might think.
- •Don't be Karen Smith.Assuming everyone in Africa is black (South African Afrikaners are the caucasian descendants of the European Boer colonist) or that all Latinos are Spanish (many Argentines are the descendants of German and Italian immigrants) is very wrong. It's always good to remember that race isn't as easy to conceptualize as it might seem on tv and in movies.
- •Don’t think the developing world will kill you.Anyone who has traveled a lot has surely had people in the ask “why are you going there?” or “isn’t it dangerous?” Just because a country is poor doesn’t mean you’re going to be robbed or kidnapped the moment you leave the airport. Many developing nations are actually safer than the United States whose homicide rate is higher than Uzbekistan, Martinique, Niger & Djibouti.
- •Don't be this guy.Don't be this guy. While your photo shoot pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa may seem harmless enough, avoid desecrating landmarks or disrespecting cultures. Be respectful and take your cues about what's appropriate from the locals.
- •Learn how to haggle.Markets are some of the most wonderful places to explore while travelling. The plethora of local food and art that you can find there is often unbeatable. Haggling however, is often an important part of how these institutions operate. If you're unfamiliar in how to do it, it can get very awkward, very fast. Make sure you know exactly what you're willing to spend and that it's ok to say no if the price isn't right. Just keep your cool, smile, and cordially move on.
- •Don't succumb to 'Poverty Tourism'.If your motivation is to “bear witness” to the plight of others you may want to reconsider your trip. Too often we hear of ‘poverty tourism’ or traveling to the developing world to see the level of destitution that the “other” lives in. Humans are not zoo animals to be photographed and what some consider a shack is actually someone’s home.
- •Don’t be difficult about transportation.Patience is key when traveling to and throughout the developing world. Try containing your panic when the taxi driver lets twenty people in a van which would normally hold only six where you come from. What you may forfeit in transportation luxuries you will make up for in the new friends you’ll make while they’re sitting on your lap in the back of a pick up. Like always, just smile and laugh it off.
- •Don't assume everyone speaks English.Part of the fun of traveling is experiencing new cultures, including some of the over 6,000 languages spoken throughout the world. It doesn't have to be awkward either. When dealing with an unfamiliar language, the best course of action is usually to smile and be patient - it's more fun that way I promise.
- •Support local business.While giving your money to people on the street should be avoided, supporting local businesses is an important part of travel. Engaging the local economy is the best way to avoid your money ending up in the hands of corrupt government officials and supports your hosts in a more dignified manner. Fight the increasingly impossible task of avoiding McDonald’s and eat a local delicacy; it makes for a better story.
- •Read more on Global Citizen!