In less than a week, I’ll be on a plane flying to Ireland. By far, this will be the richest country I’ll have traveled through. Up to this point, I’ve kept to poor and developing countries around the world. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding rich countries; I just haven’t had an opportunity to go to one yet.
The fact that I’m well-traveled and have never been to a rich country before seems to make me somewhat of a curiosity to many people. When I converse about travel, I often get asked what draws me to poorer countries. So I decided that I would make a list of all my reasons. Now the next time I get asked this question, I can just point them to this post.
1. They’re cheaper
Cost is a big factor for most people when deciding where to travel. For me, it’s not so much of an issue. The reason is simple. Poor countries are extremely cheap to travel within.
Traveling doesn’t necessarily need to cost much. I remember spending $5 for a nice room in a hostel for one night in Hanoi in Vietnam. A meal there costs just a couple of dollars. In total, my entire daily expenses there equaled what I would spend for just a place to stay in a richer country.
I’ve had people disbelieve the price I’ve quoted before or argue that the hostel conditions must have been atrocious. But this isn’t the case. The room was far from luxurious, but it wasn’t horrible either. Most rooms are about as basic as you can get. They’re small with one or two beds, no TV, no appliances and no amenities. The rooms are for storing your stuff and sleeping. They are not gross in any way, simply functional and therefore cheap.
I know that you can get rooms in rich countries that are cheap too. But they’re not often as cheap as these places. What hostel in a rich country can offer a place to stay for $5 a night? Plus, for places like this in rich countries you often have to sacrifice cleanliness. This is something I prefer not to do.
The biggest benefit of cheaper travel is you can travel longer. With such low expenses, you burn through your money at a slower pace. This is the big reason why I could travel through Southeast Asia for several months at a time. If I had spent that much time in Western Europe, my savings would have been wiped out.
2. There’s so much to see
One thing people often don’t consider is how much there is to see and do in these countries. Just because a country is poor doesn’t mean there isn’t anything of value there. In fact, I find the opposite is true. Some of the most amazing sites in the world can be found in poorer countries.
Most people seem to know about the pyramids and the Taj Mahal. They’re big names with a lot of attention and popularity attributed to them. They’re well-known to most travelers and non-travelers alike. So if I were to tell someone I’ve been to Egypt, they can relate to it and ask me if I enjoyed seeing the pyramids. The same isn’t true for most countries though.
Most poor countries don’t have a big name tourist attraction everyone has heard of. Many people stare blankly at me when I tell them I traveled through Nicaragua. Their first question is usually to ask why I went there. They’re even further amazed when I tell them how much I loved it there and want to go back.
I understand it takes up a lot of time to study which tourist attractions are in each country. So when some people ask me they genuinely don’t know and are curious. But I feel as if many others assume that unless a third world country has a big name tourist attraction then there isn’t anything worth seeing there.
This is something I feel doesn’t happen in the same way for rich countries. So far I’ve haven’t been asked why I want to travel to Ireland. And I’m sure I wouldn’t be questioned about why I wanted to travel to Australia or Western Europe.
3. Different ways of living
Culture is often said to be a big reason for traveling. You go to another place to meet new people and experience new ways of living. This is probably the biggest reason I travel to poor countries. I find cultures in these countries to be really far removed from my own. I value their differences as being both unique and intriguing to me.
This is something you can experience in richer countries, but to a lesser degree. In the United Kingdom and Australia, they speak English. Many watch similar television shows and our cultures mostly overlap. Since many European cultures immigrated to the US, we’ve become familiar with many of their customs and languages. Of course there are some differences, but not as much as in poor countries.
Exploring a New (Third) World
I don’t want to appear as if I don’t value travel to richer countries. I do. And perhaps my views will change once I start traveling to more of them. But I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving travel through third world countries. Their affordable destinations, unique cultures and sites are not something I want to give up. But travel to those countries will have to wait, for now I’m on my way to Ireland.
P.S. I have posts scheduled to release for the next few weeks while I am in Ireland. However, I might miss posting something one week while I am on my trip. I will get back to my regular posting schedule when I return.
photo credit: 14983