Traveling is incredible. It’s an opportunity to see the world, learn about human experiences and in the process, learn about you. For me, as my parents’ last Jamaican-born child before migrating to the “land of opportunity,” each scan of my boarding pass actualizes the unimaginable dreams my parents must have had to sacrifice everything they knew to take a chance on America.
That said, traveling to places like Jamaica, the globe’s second and third worlds—as if people who don’t live like Westerns are extraterrestrial—is no walk in Central Park. I know that. You know that. But still yet others respond with wonder and glee when they hear you’re off to places like Thailand, Malawi, Cambodia, and Haiti. Romanticizing and glamourizing trips to the Global South assumes that travelers are shielded for the true challenges of living in these places. Without permission to express these challenges, travelers are left to hide their frustrations in a guilt-laden shame of feeling hashtag-first-world-problems in the hashtag-third-world.
In solidarity and protest, in the hopes that to show true love for the world means admitting that you hate it sometimes, here are 10 things I strongly dislike about traveling to the Global South:
- Flies. It almost feels like a personal vendetta when, of all the places to go, flies decide to invade my ears. Every time I feel my blood rising in frustration, I soothe myself with the reminder that their life expectancy is only 15 days.
- Sitting in the back two rows of minibuses. I try to be “down with public transportation,” but sometimes I need a break and pay for 2 seats. Then I feel bad about flexing my First Worldness and then I feel bad about feeling bad because I shouldn’t apologize for wanting to breathe. It’s a vicious cycle.
- When friends and family back home forget what time zone you’re in and either (a) contact you at weird times, (b) get mad for you not responding in time, (c) judge you for the times that you’re awake or sleeping, or (d) a combination of all three.
- Calculating time zones for your friends and family. P.S. Your smartphone has a world clock. Sort it out on your own.
- When friends and family comment, “Looks like you’re having an amazing time!” instead of asking, “How are you doing?” because maybe I AM having fun but now I can’t tell you that I had to take a bucket bath in the dark because I haven’t had power in four days, that I’m pretty sure the flying cockroach I killed is still alive and that I’m breaking out in a rash from dousing my skin in 40% Deet deep woods insect repellant on a daily basis.
- Forgetting to bring toilet tissue with me into the public bathrooms.
- Having personal crises each time I have to figure out how much to bargain down at the markets. Like, I know vendors overcharge me because I’m American, but exactly how much should I let them get away with? Should I bargain with vendors at all? Should I just pay the First World tax? How much is too much? Ah!
- Converting currency exchange rates in my head.
- Having American food available to me because I want to experience “local food” but then (a) also feeling bad for sometimes wanting American food to comfort me and (b) romanticizing “local food” as if locals can’t like french fries too.
- Having my period. Period.