Chile has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 43!
My excitement about leaving the United States was not unmet with trepidation. After all, I was leaving a highly developed country, in pursuit of what I thought were “less developed” ones. I guess I assumed that “less developed” meant I would not have internet everywhere. It also meant there would be less food-hygiene, dirtier living conditions, and less-than pristine roads. Sure, those expectations were all met; however, I found that the line between “developed” and “undeveloped” is actually a lot more subtle than one would expect. One is not necessarily superior to the other, even if it seems so on the surface.
First, the bad. In my experience, “underdeveloped countries” do have lower standards of hygiene, dirtier living conditions, and crappier roads. One does not always have access to Western comforts such as internet, phone service, and electricity. For example, finding reliable internet on Don Det has been a struggle, and the island experiences frequent blackouts. The countries I have stayed in also have much higher rates of Malaria and Dengue Fever (amongst numerous other diseases) than in Western countries. Hospitals are not as good as they could be, and many people suffer from untreated accidents and ailments. To make things scarier, keep in mind that there are countries far less developed than those in Southeast Asia. I have yet to experience the devastation of ongoing warfare, through-the-roof HIV rates, and Ebola breakouts. The countries I have visited are actually moderately developed when compared to the world as a whole (not just Western countries).
Ok, so I have focused on the dark side of underdevelopment. But are there any advantages to living in a “less developed” country? Furthermore, are there cons to living in a “highly developed” country? The answer to both questions is yes.
The problem is, “highly developed” countries are sometimes too organized. Everything is signposted and structured to the extreme. It is hard to appreciate nature when a city feels like a sanitized Disneyland. Outside of rural areas, we rarely get to see edible animals while they are alive. Chickens, cows, and pigs are kept in farms, or by meat industries. This is not so in most Eastern countries. The chicken I had for lunch today may just be that chicken I saw walking around earlier. Also, think about city parks; how is it nature, when they mow the grass every day? Cities such as Pai (Thailand), Kratie (Cambodia), and Don Det (Laos) excite me because they are “less developed.” Nothing sucks the personality and charm out of a place more than structure.
Yes, developed areas tend to be safer and more comfortable. However, it would be a shame to miss out on some of the world’s best regions because they are less developed. The more I travel, the more I am learning to embrace the ever-present chaos on Earth.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write music and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.