HOW TO DEAL WITH EXPERIENCING POVERTY
Travelling to developing countries can be daunting – especially the first time. Knowing that you’re going to witness things that are bound to make you feel uncomfortable is understandably very intimidating.
Seeing the struggles and hardships that millions of people face around the world really puts things into perspective; it makes you realise that this world can be very dark… And that we travellers are more privileged than possibly imaginable.
Before any overseas trip, it’s important to go with an open mind, so that the confronting sights that you could possibly see don’t scare you off for good.
Knowing how to deal with poverty, how to overcome the challenging thoughts and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness is the very first step.
As I’ve mentioned many times, travelling the world makes you part of a minority. 40% of the global population receives less than $2 a day; travel for these people will never be a reality. The fact that you have the ability to fly to a different part of the world for your own pleasure, is more than billions of people could ever possibly imagine.
With more than 80% of the people on this planet living below the poverty line, at some point in your travels, there’s no doubt that you’re going to witness the tragedy.
You’re going to see things that will make you feel helpless, things that will make you feel uncomfortable and force you to question your every intention. The things you’ll see will be sure to snap you into the biggest reality check of your life.
Experiencing poverty is one of those things that will leave you feeling concerned; there will be times when you don’t want to look because of the fear of being insulting, or because of the daunting, graphic and simply unbearable sights that are laid in front of your eyes.
It’s heartbreaking – to say the absolute least. But as travellers, it’s up to us to not let that heartbreak be ignored.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, leaving your home instantly gets you out of your comfort bubble. But when you’re in the midst of experiencing poverty, that bubble is simply burst. Every inch of that luxury is washed down the drain, only to be returned when you enter your front door back home.
The devastating, sometimes unbearable sights that can be seen in developing countries, teach you one very important thing…
When you get back home to your comfort and stability, you will no longer take that toilet for granted; nor your bed, your TV or the roof over your head.
Some days you’ll forget about it, but deep in your mind, you’ll always know the importance of not taking anything in your privileged life with a grain of salt.
So instead of batting away the utter desolation in these countries… I ask you to embrace it.
Look at these people in the eyes. Connect with them. Treat them with dignity and respect.
I’m sorry to tell you, but ignorance is so far from bliss. Avoiding and walking away from these situations is simply creating a false reality. Living in a bubble does nothing for any of us… Everyone on this earth needs to know the deepest of truths about the majority of the population.
We no longer need this hierarchy that is so obviously visible. All human beings deserve a chance at a beautiful life, and by walking our bodies (especially as a white caucasian) through a poor part of society, we are showing these people something that they will more than likely never have.
Travelling to poor countries makes you realise the undoubtful truth that poverty is real; and a problem that most travellers will never have to face.
Don’t use poverty to make yourself look good on social media… Use your privilege in ways that truly helps people, and mean it.
Too often we see people volunteering overseas in orphanages, to take selfies with children in order to look like the “white saviour”. They want to do the volunteer jobs that will be a good boost to their self-esteem.
When in reality, there aren’t enough people doing the things that truly need doing – the office jobs, and the jobs behind the scenes that are very far from glamorous.
As a foreigner, taking away the locals jobs is overly damaging – we need to encourage alternatives that help build up the communities; without the need for a bunch of white tourists.
In many ways the global north really can help, although we don’t want the people we meet to be dependent on our generosity.
We are not heroes. We cannot enter poor countries thinking that we can change them because of our privilege. It’s not up to us.
We need to think of positive solutions that will encourage the people of the global south to not lose hope on fighting for a better life, without causing damage along the way. Difficult I know, but it’s so important.
But before you arrive, learn about when giving to beggars can be right and wrong. Money isn’t always the best solution in some situations, and being educated on the difference is so important.
When you’re in these confronting situations, the most valuable thing you can do is to open your heart.
When you see people overflowing from the crowded slums, don’t look away! Look at them and realise that they didn’t choose this life, just as you didn’t choose your privilege.
You’re lucky to be able to walk away from poverty when it best suits you, but for the people that are faced with it on the daily… That’s not an option. Don’t turn a blind eye, instead, think of new ways that can help these people with positive solutions.
When you get home to the greedy “western world”, first world problems will slowly become painful to hear.
The constant complaints and negativity from such a privileged part of the world will become something that you begin to loathe. Remind those around you that ‘lucky’ doesn’t even begin to describe their situation.
Take your heartbreak and accept it to refine your own life. Do it for the people that you saw on your travels; those that had absolutely nothing, who had no other choice but to deal with their hardships in ways we will never comprehend. Accept that the country in which you were born is the main reason you have the ability to travel in the first place.
Your passport is your power.
Treat everyone with dignity and respect, and remember that entering a country, village or community without any positive intention is extremely damaging. Ask before you take anyone’s photo, and if you choose to post it online, make sure you tell their story – not your version of it. Don’t go on a slum tour, don’t use people as props for your social media gain, and certainly don’t go somewhere with selfish intentions.
Seeing and experiencing poverty will change you, for good… But knowing how to positively deal with poverty is simply what matters the most.
What you do with the unbearable sights, is how we travellers will make an impact.
It starts with this: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
What if the cure to cancer was stuck in the mind of someone who couldn’t afford an education?
What do you believe is the most important in terms of how to deal with poverty? What was it like for you, the first time of experiencing poverty in the flesh?
[ READ NEXT: Putting #FirstWorldProblems into Perspective ]
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