“Twenty years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.” -Mark Twain
Traveling to developing countries
is like an adventure of a lifetime. It can give you some of the most authentic cultural exposure and human interaction. If you’re a first-timer, you’d probably feel a mix of emotion. Excitement, ambivalence, perhaps fear of what awaits you. You may have preconceived belief about developing countries in general but it is still best to do your homework and research.
Unlike touring around first world countries, you have to be extra patient and flexible in traveling to developing countries. Here are some things to remember before you book your next flight.
Do your research.
I understand that you want to get the rawest possible feeling in seeing a place for the first time. However, it will save you a lot of distress if you inquire about a certain city or country you want to visit. Ask friends or relatives who’ve been there so you get an idea of what’s in store for you. You can set up Google Alert to get the latest news of the place or browse social media sites like Facebook and Instagram for other travelers’ and tips.
Be respectful of the culture.
Being a tourist does not give you the license to disrespect another country’s culture and traditions. It’s great to observe and be mindful of the people’s practices. Do not impose your own beliefs to others and don’t argue about religion. Learn to listen. Pay close attention to the sentiments of the locals. By listening, you might learn a lot from their principles or viewpoints.
Try local restaurants but eat and drink cautiously.
The worst thing that could happen to a tourist is to get sick or be a victim of food poisoning. This is why you have to be very cautious in eating local or exotic foods. It’s a good experience to try local restaurants but make sure the place is clean. Drink only from sealed water bottle and bring with you some protein bars as energy booster in case available food is not of your liking. If you are being invited by a local family for a dinner, avoid eating raw food like salads especially if the source of water is questionable.
Learn a few words from their dialect.
Do not assume everyone speaks English. While English is one of the most widely spoken language, many still does not speak English fluently. It is good to learn a few basic sentences and words that you can use to start a conversation with locals.
Always assess risk.
Do not be too complacent even if the people in the community is very welcoming. Traveling to developing countries will require risk assessment management in a daily basis. Just like being cautious to your food intake, also be vigilant of your surroundings. Always put in mind this mantra “Safety first.”
Don’t give money to beggars.
I recognize that you may want to feel a little better by giving money to the needy. However, supporting this kind of trade is like teaching them to be more dependent. While the money you give will not make you poor, it can be a machinery to the widespread number of people trying to hush-rob money from tourists. If you really want to extend help, coordinate with the local leaders in the community of available programs and volunteer. It would be so much fun and fulfilling. Travel ‘voluntourism’ is one way of maximizing your trip.
Do not stress yourself too much on the things you have to be cautious about. Enjoy your vacation and make the most out of it. There are many wonderful places and sight to see that travel advertisements from a local website failed to take full advantage of. Explore and experience the culture and traditions. Did you know that more than five hundred of the nine hundred eighty-one UNESCO World Heritage Sites are situated outside of the US and Europe? Some of the most breathtaking sights are located in developing countries.
Photo credit: http://www.sostinternational.com/index.php/african-impact-south-africa/3/