If you could visit one country right now where would you go?
I’m not a mind reader, but based on google search and travel data I can say that if you are an American living in the U.S. you probably thought of a place in Europe (UK, France, Italy, Germany or Spain), or maybe you’d like to go to India. When it comes to warm and sunny places you likely thought of Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The wild card place is likely to be Cuba.
I’ve analyzed travel trends and research data over the past few months to have a look into the minds and behaviors of travelers. Based on what I found and my own experiences, I can say if you are seeking authentic travel experiences you should consider traveling to a developing country (even a poor country) on your next trip, it’s a fulfilling and rewarding experience. The developing country term may not be a clear term, this has even been acknowledged by the UN. As an economics major, I was always baffled by this term, for the purpose of this article I think of countries that are not currently considered advanced (some have emerging economies others are poor countries).
Yes, I know, it’s cool to be seen in photos taken in Times Square, at Musee du Louvre in Paris, next to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, in Old Montreal, and at Church La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. And you should. You should definitely have all these places on your bucket list, they are fantastic. However, developing countries provide five things that are hard to pass:
- Lower price
Let’s get this one out of the way, most people who don’t travel or travel rarely say it’s because they just can’t afford it. So, a lower cost of traveling is highly relevant here. What if I told you, you can travel to Mexico and the Dominican Republic very cheaply? You probably already know that, but did you know you can have a great experience that includes food, culture, and adventure in these places? A lot of these places generally have more to offer than just the beach, at a lower price.
- See things for yourself
You don’t let people tell you what to do, so why should you let people scare you from going to places? Some destinations that aren’t renowned have an unfairly bad reputation, “they are dirty”, “nothing to see here”, “there’s so many better places to visit”, “they are so poor”. I’m not saying that you should go to places that make you feel worried or uncomfortable, but the issue is a lot of the information you get don’t tell the whole story. This place that is not economically rich or has recently experienced some instability may offer a one of a kind experience or access to a fascinating World Heritage Site. The people that are providing the information may already have their own prejudice and fail to tell the whole story.
There’s nothing like discovering something for yourself. That can be one of a kind experience. More often than not, destinations are not nearly as bad as others may say. Like most places there are some good and some bad, it’s up to the adventurer in you to find the good parts. A lot of time, advanced places have more firepower and can market themselves better. After all, the more advanced a country’s economy is the better opinion other people have of this country’s culture. I recently wrote an article about this, see here.
- Happiness is in the air
When you travel to places that are less developed, people just seem less miserable. Even when people are struggling economically, it just feels like an attitude-free, friendly environment. People might smile while you are passing by. It’s a slower pace. People are not trying to bulldoze past you to get to their destination. In the 2016 World Happiness Index, on the happiest places, you’ll see countries like Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama.
- Cultural experiences are more readily accessible
When you think of culture, it’s easy to focus on high culture such as a visit to Le Louvre in Paris, Broadway shows in New York, the Ballet in Moscow, the Opera in Rome, but do you also think about truly experiencing the local culture on your trip? UNESCO describes intangible cultural heritage as traditions or living expressions inherited from ancestors and passed on to descendants of a community, such as oral traditions, performing arts, rituals and festivals.
Wouldn’t it be nice to learn a few steps of samba in Brazil, learn about the making of cigars in Cuba, participate in the Argungu fishing festival in Nigeria, experience voodoo rituals and rara dance in Haiti. Not only these experiences can be fascinating, but they are much easily accessible to travelers than advanced countries. Also, you are helping to safeguard cultural heritage by traveling to these places.
- Art and crafts are generally more affordable (if you know where to go)
One of my favorite things to do on vacation is collect art from each place I travel to. I don’t mean the overpriced items in the tourist sections, I’m talking about arts and crafts from the local people either on the street or at the local shops. If a painting, for example, has gone through the hands of multiple people before arriving at the tourist section, each one of these people tries to make money by the time you get to this painting the price has ballooned up.
At lesser-known or emerging destinations, you are more likely to get a good deal on original art than say a major city. I bought paintings from the streets of Cartagena, Colombia and in Paris, my experience was not only the ones in Colombia were actually original and of higher quality, the Paris ones were fake, they were also more affordable. The conventional wisdom is that Paris, you know, with Le Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, you’ll have better luck there but that’s not quite true.
I hope you liked this piece. If you are interested in booking a trip that involves cultural experiences, personal enrichment and adventure in the Caribbean, visit Boyiotours.com, our tour company.