This is a little bit off my normal posts of fashion, food and trying to feel like an adult. People always want to jump on the current event bandwagon whenever something tragic happens. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be that way when something good happens. It’s one thing to say pray for a place that has been completely destroyed, it’s another to think about that place and what life is truly like.
I visited the Philippines in February 2009 on a total whim. I more or less opened Lonely Planet Southeast Asia, flipped to a page and convinced a few friends to book a flight with me. I stayed on Bohol Island which is the island Southwest of Leyte which is where Talcoban City, the city Typhoon Haiyan hit, is located. Bohol was hit by an earthquake last month.
Cutting to the chase: my trip to the Philippines was the first time I had seen a true developing country. (I’m not counting all the random islands that are considered countries and are possibly ‘developing’ in the Caribbean I have been to.) I had never seen a cow’s ribs before or people begging for money in fishing boats right beside the ferry terminal. My memories of the Philippines are very distinct, more distinct than most other places I have been, but it’s hard to put what I saw there into words.
If you’re from a first world country and you’re traveling to a developing country, don’t be stingy. There is nothing more shameful than seeing an American kid with a $200 North Face backpack haggling with a street vendor over a $2 USD plate of noodles. Some of the people I traveled with were a little stingy and it culminated in a taxi driver pulling out a gun when they were refusing to pay (no one was injured, nothing was fired, but I did throw the equivalent of a $20 at the guy to get a move on things). If you were able to afford the $1000 plane ticket there, you can afford to help these people make a living.
A lot of these places, especially the Philippines, rely on tourism and money from overseas to get by. In Hong Kong, many
most families have a live-in ‘nanny’ (maid) and most of the time they are Filipino. Two distinct memories I have of Hong Kong maids: A group of Filipinos graciously invited my drunk friends and me to their cookout when we took a rowboat to the beach they were on. (Boat parties, what can you do?) We ate delicious homemade Filipino food, took photos with them (their request), and assured them we were not their bosses’ daughters. The second memory is walking with my dad one Sunday on the pathway between the HSBC buildings and all the maids were enjoying their day off.
You should definitely give money to help the recovery effort if you can. Most of those people probably needed money to begin with, let alone having their whole lives torn apart. When you travel abroad, think of the people who are letting you visit their country and their home – would you want Donald Trump complaining over the price of whatever you’re selling here in America? To a lot of people outside the US, our wage disparity with theirs is probably the equivalent of our wage disparity with Warren Buffet.
I understand some people have a strict traveling budget but remember – you can always come home, go back to work, and make that extra dollar you spent on dinner back. In these countries, your dollar could be all they make in an hour. I love visiting developing countries because I love feeling like not only am I experiencing a whole new culture, but like I am making an impact on somebody’s life by helping their economy.
I leave you with some old photos of me in the Philippines. #ThrowbackThursday
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Where is the most memorable place you have traveled?