I cried myself to sleep the first night I returned from this trip, and many days after. I’ve been broken before – this was different. How do I have an entire bed to myself when there are people less than 2 hours away (by flight from Miami) who don’t even have a roof over their head? How am I able to make breakfast, lunch and dinner in the convenience of my kitchen when people 2 hours away are working all day to earn less than $2 to feed their family?
These are the types of questions that continue to circle my heart . You will hear that remote countries like Haiti aren’t safe to visit. You will hear that 3rd world countries are meant to be seen from afar. You will have every reason not to go, which is exactly why you should. In the upcoming weeks I’m going to share my lodging suggestions in Haiti, Kenya and Malawi, the orphan villages that would make my heart warm if you visited, as well as the testimonies that broke me into who I am today – Until then, let’s equip you for when you say “YES!” to a trip that will change your life!
To encourage the “YES!”, I’m going to share 10 tips for safe travels in a 3rd world. Keep an open mind when reading these – This is a simple list of ‘do’s’ as you venture into new land! Let’s do this!
1.) Always travel in numbers: When I went to Africa in 2013, my group helped a woman who was lost, confused and crying in the airport. She was traveling from the states to Africa alone for a missionary purpose. She couldn’t find her driver, there was a language barrier and she was afraid. Things happen – Make sure you have a companion or an easily accessible resource throughout your stay! She ended up finding her driver and we ended up with a new friend. Win-win!
2.) Lodge in a high-security facility: In Kenya and Haiti I stayed in fenced-in hotels. In Kenya, the hotel employees checked for weapons beneath our vehicle before we were allowed to enter. In Haiti, the guards at the door and on watch had guns to protect all who were sleeping. Although you may not be in a threatening area, it’s always best to take precaution. Go on trips with organizations who know the grounds – My rural travels have always been with trip leaders who are a part of The Global Orphan Project.
3.) Have a strong male presence or a body guard with you during cross-country travels: In Haiti, we had a Haitian body guard with us wherever we went – Even if the majority of our group was male. Although our body guard didn’t have to protect us from anything on my trip, it was comforting to have him with us every step of the way.
4.) Study local traditions: To have a better understanding of the country’s culture, do some research! It’s important to know the acceptable dress code, the predominant religion, how you should greet strangers and the cultural “norms.” This will help you breeze through any and all interactions as you make new friends quickly!
5.) Eat and drink cautiously: In Africa, a member of our group got the stomach flu from her dinner one evening. It’s suggested that you only drink purified water (unopened water bottles are your safest route) and to steer clear of anything creamy – Salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, etc. I always bring protein bars with me just in case I need to skip a meal!
6.) Don’t give handouts to children: As tempting as it may be to connect with a child through the simple act of giving, it’s important to realize that it could be one of the most harmful and selfish things a well-meaning tourist can do. Many know that giving actually enables the cycle of poverty to continue. We also don’t know if the children are begging for themselves, or if they’re forced to beg by traffickers. Organized begging is one of the most visible forms of human trafficking.
7.) Don’t take pictures unless given permission: Although all of the sights will be new, interesting and possibly jaw-dropping, remember that the 3rd world isn’t a zoo. We’re all humans here!
8.) Learn: You will go with the intention to lift the lives of others, and you’ll be the one leaving with a changed heart. Let it happen. It’s okay. Ask more questions. Hear stories. Be vulnerable. Let it all sink in. This is what life’s all about.
9.) Make time for reflection: It’s easy to forget to breathe when you’re amidst the hustle and bustle of a trip. Make time to reflect, write, pray – Whatever it is that helps you process. For me, no matter how much reflecting and praying I do, it hits me the hardest when I came back to the states. I cried for weeks after visiting Africa and I was so emotionally unstable after returning from Haiti. Make sure your loved ones are aware that you may need some time alone to process and pray before being your happy self again.
The stories you hear, the things you witness – They smack you so hard that it takes a while to get back up. That’s the beauty of it though, you rise as a new person.
10.) Arrive with an adventurous spirit: In my opinion, there are more ironies than parallels when comparing the 1st world and the 3rd world. The 1st world has everything material, yet not a whole lot of joy. The 3rd world doesn’t have a lot of material, yet an abundance of joy. We have everything we physically need and they have everything they spiritually need. Who has it better? Make sure your heart is vulnerable on this trip. Your life is about to be shifted for all of the right reasons. Enjoy the ride!
Keep that adventurous spirit, friends! This world is meant to be seen –
Until the next time!