Advice for Women Travelers:
Developing Countries

 
Some of the most astounding, exciting travel destinations are in developing countries. By "developing", I mean countries that might not yet be full (or even partial) democracies, where the infrastructure (roads, trains, electrical systems, plumbing, etc.) aren't as good as "developed" countries such as those in North America, in Scandinavia, in Western Europe, Japan, etc., where poverty may be pervasive and even extreme, where crime and pollution may be pervasive, and where women may not have equal rights, nor equal access to education, employment and life choices, as men do.

Standards of living and safety vary hugely among developing countries. I believe that some are, per current political and cultural conditions, off-limits to women travelers, particularly those from the USA (such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Iraq), while others are wonderful destinations for such (Egypt, Jordan and many former Soviet-bloc countries in Eastern Europe are some of my favorites).

Also, the infusion of cash from travelers to developing countries is vital to their economies, so by traveling to them, you are actually providing direct help to the people there, in addition to treating yourself to a unique travel experience.

Consider this excerpt from: "The Missing: Why Americans need to rediscover the world" from the book Planet Backpacker by Robert Downes:

Over and over, I found the Middle East and Asia brimming with backpackers from Australia, France, Germany, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Brazil, Holland, Russia, Britain... but amazingly few Americans. I’d scan the registries of guest houses and hostels, finding pages filled with visitors from other countries, but few signatures from the U.S.A... As months passed by, it made me wonder if Americans are simply afraid to travel in the Third World, imagining terrorists hiding behind every espresso machine outside our borders... So, who cares? I did, because it bugged me that my countrymen weren’t part of the action out in the great beyond... Compared to their backpacking cousins from Europe or Australia, Americans are groping in the dark when it comes to understanding what the world is really like. We lack the kind of personal travel experience that no amount of reading, web-surfing or trolling the Discovery Channel can replace. Millions of couch spuds in America have seduced themselves into believing that the stagey episodes of Survivor -- which don’t involve an ounce of risk -- are actual adventures.

You do NOT have to backpack to visit a developing country, nor do you have to go with a highly-structured tourist outfit that will keep you behind high walls and tinted bus windows. There are hotels for a variety of budgets in most developing countries, and a variety of ways to travel through that country. Do what makes you feel most comfortable in terms of safety but, please, by all means, GO.

I choose country destination possibilities based on natural and historic sites that I have seen pictures of or heard described and now want to see for myself. But if the incredible statue or gorge or temple or cliffs are in a developing country, how do I decide if the destination is appropriate for me, as a single woman traveler (I don't always travel with my husband, and even if my husband is with me on a trip, I may want to go somewhere that he doesn't).

Here's how I decide for myself what developing countries I might travel to:

I also have to acknowledge that countries, including Germany, often issue travel warnings about cities in the USA, supposedly a fully-developed country, because of high crime rates, the targeting of tourists in particular for robbery, and hot-button political situations that could/have lead to riots. And so far, we've been robbed in just one place: Berlin (pick pocket in a bar). There's crime and safety concerns in EVERY city on Earth! It could be (and has been) said that every country is developing.

If you are from the USA and are not an experienced traveler, particularly if you have NEVER traveled outside the USA, then I strongly urge you NOT to travel to a developing country (that includes Italy) -- not yet, anyway. Get experience traveling to developed countries first!

When all is said and done: do what is right for YOU. Don't let a person bully you into traveling to a country you don't want to, or talk you out of a trip you have researched extensively and feel isn't a risk any more than walking out your front door.

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Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing -- without comments, I start to think I'm talking to cyberair.

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