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Giving back: traveling in developing countries

Picture of Exploring Bhutan with local guides

As soon as you start traveling to so-called developing countries, it is virtually impossible not to be confronted with poverty and with living standards that simply cannot to be compared to those you are probably used to.

Especially those first times you find yourself moving around a country where you easily spend more every day than their monthly income, or carry stuff worth more than the entire belongings of a local family, can cause a very uneasy feeling. The gap between you and the inhabitants of the country you're visiting can feel enormous, and it can easily invoke feelings of guilt, of indignation, of wanting to help, of solving, or of being unsafe. After all, won't the most straightforward solution be for one of those poor guys to just steal everything you have? And if you would want to give something back, how would you do so?

After having been to many of those countries over a long period, I can still have any of those feelings described above. The reactions of your visit to the locals really depends on several factors. Are you one of the few visitors, or are you visiting a prime tourist destination? Are you behaving like you own the place, like you don't care about local customs and manners, or are you behaving like a guest, genuinely interested in your hosts? During my travels, I have always taken a low-profile approach, at least for the first few days, to get a feeling of the country, to see how people reacted to my presence - to test the waters. Moreover. I don't travel to tick off sights, but a prime goal of traveling for me is to get to know the locals. Try to speak a few words of their language, try their food, try to get in touch, see how they live, how they think, what they think.

This has resulted in my travels to be quite easygoing. I have hardly been confronted with violence, thiefs, assaults, or other annoying situations that might occur. Instead, I have often found that almost all those people who live totally different lives from mine, are the most beautiful people around. They often have a positive attitude, no matter how difficult the lives they live may be. They often have a surprisingly open mind, and genuine interest in knowing more about the remote places you have been to.

Picture of Buying vegetables at a market in Tajikistan

Since a long time, I have decided that just traveling around developing countries, meeting amazing people, experiencing hospitality that can sometimes be very touching, should not remain unanswered. Instead of donating money to large western organizations, I have come to travel in a way that directly supports the local economy. Staying at local hotels, eating in places where the locals eat, buying stuff in shops where the locals shop, has hopefully supported the locals and their economy. I try to avoid, whenever possible, those shiny shopping malls that continue to appear in an increasing number of places, the international chain hotels, eating in the big restaurants. Yes, I am after the hole-in-the-wall places - but with some caution. As long as there are many people around, and I see that the kitchen is reasonably clean (but then again, there is always some margin here - the hungrier I am, the blinder my eyes are to suspicious conditions...

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Around the World in 80 Clicks

Welcome to Around the World in 80 Clicks! Through this site, I intend to inspire you to travel, to inform you about places you might have never heard of, to show you the beauty of our planet, through images and text. Here, you can find thousands of pictures taken in every corner of the world - all for you to explore. The pictures are accompanied by my personal travel impressions.
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