Tips on travelling to a developing country…

Although I haven’t done many travel posts, I love travelling. I was born and raised in Malaysia, went to New Zealand when I was 16 and spent a year there and lived in Canada ever since.

My first long distance flight was when I was 4 years old and my parents took us to Australia and New Zealand. Then we travelled to different countries every year or every other year. Sometimes, back to the same country.

So far, I’ve been to Australia a few times (spending about 2 months of total trip time there) and Thailand (all over about 3 months total). Some other countries I’ve visited include India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, America, Mexico, England, Republic of Ireland, Spain and Portugal.

This list isn’t exactly extensive, but mind you I’m not a “cross-it-off-my-list” kind of traveller, meaning that I actually have been to most of these countries a couple of times to different regions to actually see what it’s like and not just “been there, done that, let’s go somewhere new.” If I like a place, I tell myself, “The next time I’m here, I’ll see that thing I didn’t get to see this time.” This makes me visit different countries at an alarmingly slow rate because I keep going back to the same ones.

I am NOT the kind of traveller who exclaims excitedly things like, “In India, they are so poor they like in houses made of poo.” Although that may be true for lots of unfortunate Indians, saying this is to an Indian, or anyone from a developing country, is very rude and ignorant. They have more than just poo houses. India is full of diversity and they also have plenty of billionaires. They are actually number 3 when it comes to having them – billionaires that is.

There is a huge disparity between rich and poor in developing countries, but that’s why they are called such (by the way saying third-world is way outdated and wrong in this day and age). It is developing, meaning they are working on it and becoming a better place for their citizens. Yes there is corruption, yes there is poverty, but pointing at it and mocking it will not help. Think of slavery in Americas, ruling of kings in Europe, these are growing pains of a country. Yes, it shouldn’t be happening in this day and age, but European powers had invaded most developing countries in the world, where they found independence only in the last 50-60 years, while others are war-torn. They had a late start and still figuring things out. They’ve endured some horrible politicians and yes, they do bad things. But please do not lump us all in the same category as our politicians.

This issue is so dear to my heart, because as an immigrant in Canada, some of the things I hear Canadians say makes me want to buy them a good book and force them to read it all the way through, so they understand how to see things from a different point of view.  Sometimes, when people find out I’m from Malaysia they immediately say my English has no accent at all. They think that I must have worked so hard to speak English. This hurts because English is my first language and to be honest, my family is actually more wealthy than most Canadians I hang out with, my first international trip was when I was four, which not a lot of people can say. The first time I flew business class when I was 12 (with some connections). My international tuition alone, minus rent and cost of living, cost $80,000. Yes, just tuition. I’m not bragging about how rich I am, I’m just trying to get through to some snobs out there, that immigration for some, like myself, is a choice. I am lucky to have that choice, yes, but I was not desperate to see the bright lights of Canada, the Kuala Lumpur skyline is so much more amazing. And I feel that it’s my responsibility as an educated individual from an undeveloped country, to educate you this matter.

Do not misunderstand me. I love Canada. But Canada is my second home because my first home is under renovation. But my first home is where all my childhood memories are, and it is what makes me who I am today. Sure, it needs some fixing up, but it’s still my home so don’t you dare call it a dump.

Another strange thing is the moment I pick out problems in a developed country (after they’ve insulted mine), they get very defensive and start to use the “why don’t you go back to your country then” tone. They don’t say this to the Australians, Kiwis or Europeans. It’s so discriminating and unfair. I have to remind myself, this is just one Canadian, and not everyone thinks like he/she does.

My point is when you pick on the pollution that developing countries create, tell me what about the Industrial Revolution? And how come with all the political stability and education on environmental issues, how come each Canadian on average produce 4 pounds of garbage a day, totalling to 30 million tonnes annually? North Americans are largest producers of waste in the world as well as methane. Yes, it is still wrong and it is unacceptable. But before condemning the developing countries, look inwards to your own and realize that at every stage in the world there is room for growth. Every country can be better and this fact alone should stop you from pointing fingers at what everyone else can do better.

To end this post, I urge that you please do not come back from your vacation claiming how strange a culture is, like you just came from the zoo. Be better than that. Read up on how old the country is and its history. As I’ve mentioned, most developing countries have been either war torn or colonized. In other words, they haven’t had the time to blossom into what is deemed a developed country. Malaysia is turning 58 this year while Canada is 148 this year. That’s a 90 year gap. A lot can happen in 90 years. Change takes time and of course good people can make that happen faster. Be encouraging and travel wisely and respectfully.

Finally, I do want to spend a month backpacking Europe though, but it will have to wait as I plan my 5th trip back to Thailand.

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