I fully support cultural development and economic improvement customarily. Advancements in agriculture, medical care, self-government, technology, etc. are generally beneficial to the people of the world. But the traveler should be alert to the impact of such changes on the uniqueness and history of the places and people they wish to visit. The most enlightening and interesting aspects of Third World Travel are the differences in how people live in various places. We Third Worlders look to learn from others and how they have adapted to the challenges that life offers them in their environment. Most of the recent changes in those cultures have been the product of assimilation into a larger, more homogeneous culture and these, in turn, tend to weaken the singularity of the group that offers the traveler and the world a special experience. We know how languages are disappearing rapidly from the world's richness and history and the same is true about distinctive subgroups in remote areas.
So, travelers, the moral of this tale is Do Not Wait for some Future Time. So many of us put journeys to the Third World (or any place for that matter) in the back of our minds seeking a perfect time. Often that time is an anticipated retirement or some other life event that may make such travel more opportune. While we are waiting, however, the world is changing rapidly around us. New governments rise and induce conformity in many places, i.e., Afghanistan, Libya, Venezuela, Ethiopia, etc., where indigenous tribal life morphs into nationalism. New technology introduces information to isolated peoples about the rest of the world and lures the group into competition to match what they see. Much of Africa fits this category. The internet, in addition to its being a very valuable new tool for knowledge is also a powerful culture changer. Who among us does not want to see more representative government in Egypt or Somalia, Zimbabwe or Cambodia. At the same time, adventure seekers who want to learn about the world with its incredible cultural diversity better get moving. It is still a challenging and exciting undertaking but the prospects of such adventures diminish as small cultural groupings with their unique ways of being, talking, honoring traditions and believing reliable narratives, etc. disappear from the earth we live on. Get going, fellow travelers.
Smile and Sadness, Lombok Island, Indonesia