After I filed this article for publication, I thought a lot about that aspect you mention — that most of the “fun” I describe comes from serious problems that these countries are working hard to improve. I wish I’d spent more time addressing it in this piece.
You’re absolutely right — these countries are home to millions of people who are having no fun at all with the lack of access to health facilities and clean water and non-corrupt law enforcement.
In all honesty, I’m worried that this article makes me come across as a patronizing first-worlder who doesn’t take other countries’ problems seriously. As I said in response to another comment, I don’t want to give the impression that I think of these countries as amusement parks, because I don’t. I’ve formed very close ties with people in many of these places, and I’ve done what I can to help ease some of their problems — usually with limited success.
I have a tough time reconciling this aspect of traveling with my love of adventure. I don’t really have a solution. Since I’m a writer, I do my best to tell the truth about everywhere I visit — the good and the bad; the hospitality and the corruption; the beauty and the violence.
And I hope that if I can encourage other people to travel to these places, they may form connections with people there, too, and realize that the world is bigger and more complex and more in need of help than they’d ever understood from the safety of their clockwork home.
That’s not much of a solution, I know. I feel this conflict every day. I felt it while I wrote this piece, and I may feel it for the rest of my life. It’s something I’m still working out.