When it comes to traveling to developing countries, I have encountered two types of people in the world: the ones who say, Awesome! – and the ones who ask why.
My father is undoubtedly in the latter group. “Why do you need to see the Eiffel Tower when you’ve got the windmill down on the farm?” he's asked me. Why on earth would I want to visit a place where I have to brush my teeth with bottled water? Where I'll encounter animal and human feces on a regular basis? Where homeless children beg for pencils, garbage is dumped on the sidewalk, and parasites are everywhere?
The look on my dad’s face when I told him of my plans to explore Siberia was priceless – but so is the experience of traveling to a place so different than home.
Here is why I travel to far-flung places and developing countries – and why I will likely never stop:
- Because I long for adventure. I have an amazing life and I enjoy my daily routine – but it’s still a routine. I can’t be a pioneer in the Old West, a Portuguese ocean explorer in the 15th century, or an astronaut (too short). But I can travel to worlds that are very different from my own.
- Because I refuse to live in fear. I woke up this morning to a Worldwide Caution message from the United States government warning me about the continued threat of violence and terrorist attacks throughout the world. But I’m not scared of dying – I’m scared of not living.
- Because getting out of my comfort zone makes it bigger – and makes me a more confident person. Whenever I’m feeling low, I just have to remember how I navigated out of Kathmandu's airport on my own in the middle of the night after being awake for more than 30 hours. If I can do that, I can (probably) do anything.
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- Because of the food. Cover me in curry when I die.
- Because I am vaccinated. Thanks to modern medicine, I am vaccinated against scary diseases like hepatitis A, hepatitis B, yellow fever, typhoid, meningitis, measles, Mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, influenza, and polio. My family has direct experience with polio, and I thank my lucky stars these vaccinations are available to me today.
- Because it helps me to understand that humans are all connected. We all want the same thing: a safe, happy life for the people we love.
- Because it makes me appreciate my home even more. America has its problems – but we also have clean running water, exceptional medical services, refrigerators, and free refills. Whenever I encounter an American railing against their homeland, it’s a giveaway that they’ve never spent much time in developing countries.
- Because I can. For most of human history and for the majority of humans alive today, jetting across the world is a pipe dream. But I can make it my reality. I feel that it is my duty to travel and explore the planet in honor of the legions of women stuck at home now and throughout history who never could.
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Kathmandu image by author