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Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else This is an opportunity to ask any question, and post any notice you wish that doesn't fit into one of the other sections.
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  #1  
Old 3 Jul 2010
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Does it matter to you?

I mean visiting dodgy countries.

The sort of places which, for example, invade other countries, kidnap, take hostages, kill indiscriminately, take political prisoners, torture or assassinate those they dont like and which generally have a poor record on human rights.

Do you take this into consideration when trip planning? Do you say it's none of your business and anyway what difference does my visit make? Does it matter?

I refer to countries which practice many or some of the above actions, such as some of the 'Stans, Myanmar, India (in Kashmir), the US, Libya, Israel, Egypt, Syria, and so on. There are many more.

So how do you calm your conscience? If it needs calming at all.
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  #2  
Old 3 Jul 2010
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haha, I find it hilarious that you lump in the US with the Stans, Libya, Syria, and other countries that "kidnap, take hostages, kill indiscriminately, take political prisoners, torture or assassinate those they dont like and which generally have a poor record on human rights". While we're at it, what do you feel about countries that negotiate with, and pay ransoms to, terrorists?
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  #3  
Old 3 Jul 2010
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Probably better to answer the (very interesting, I think) question than derail the thread by debating which countries should be included in someone's list.

FWIW, I make efforts to assess the effect of my visits and my spending--buying locally from people and organizations I respect rather than indicriminately for example--but I've never managed to work out whether my visit to repressive places helps or hinders those responsible for the repression. Am I offering support by my presence and spending? If so, to whom? As far as I can tell, repressive regimes (including in my home country, the USA) have tended to fall due to increased availability of information and dialogue, not boycotts and ostracism. However, I'm far from certain about the validity of my interpretations of events.

I do think it's important on a smaller scale that we assess the impacts of our tourist presence and actions. If not careful, we tend to convey an attitude of disdain and disrespect for local cultures--"Hey waiter! I ordered a 5 minutes ago! Where's it at? What's wrong with these people?" (a direct quote from an overland motorcyclist I met). If determined, I think it's possible to communicate respect and value instead, of which virtually all people and cultures can use all they can get.

There are also issues of precisely when during normal seasonal cycles to travel--I try to avoid the hungry seasons which precede harvests in many places, during which my purchasing power will drive up the cost of scarce food for locals--and what sorts of merchants to patronize, with preference given to buying as locally as possible so that funding is directed to local people, not middlemen or outsiders.

And lastly, I think it's important that anyone traveling in and enjoying the Developing World find ways to give something substantial in return. By this I mean more than the bits of cash you leave behind--rather, something enduring in the form of good works, ongoing relationships, donations to charities, or whatever.

Interested to hear what others have to say.

Mark

(lounging around in tropical Panamanian heat on my return trip northward)
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  #4  
Old 3 Jul 2010
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If I were to start compiling a list of countries to avoid because of actions they have taken which I object to, there wouldn't be a single one left for me to visit. If people think about it honestly, I'm guessing I'm not alone in that view.

Consider also that one of the primary reasons many people travel is to broaden their horizons, meet the locals, and find out for themselves what other countries and cultures are like. Finding out the truth of such countries is the reason such people do visit those places.

Personally, I will only avoid countries because of safety concerns (e.g. war zones) or because the country makes it more difficult to enter than it is worth to me (China maybe, haven't decided yet).
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  #5  
Old 3 Jul 2010
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There are no countries not guilty of those crimes !!

The US is probably the biggest criminal invading country in the world and Britain has a DREADFUL history of rape, murder and pilage throughout its colonies. Would you avoid Spain because it was the last country to abolish slavery or maybe avoid France because it blows up pacific islands with Nuclear weapons ?

The western countries are far better at putting a spin on it all aren't they ! The west murder with a smile and handshake.

Anyway, I don't visit a country to see its polititians, government and generals... I go to see the REAL people who generally never represent their government, especially in the 3rd world.

Governments, borders and politics are best left ignored when travelling. Just my 0.2p worth.
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  #6  
Old 3 Jul 2010
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Bravo! Well said Ted ..
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Old 4 Jul 2010
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I agree Ted, "Politics" is a dirty word and best never mentioned. I even left this subject alone when I was in the US, even though I have strong thoughts on their foreign policies.

Best to keep a low profile, don't mention the war and just interact with the locals as best you can and of course buy off the street vendors where ever possible so the money goes to the right place.

btw - I am probably guilty of asking for a and expecting it within a reasonable amount of time, after all, I am the customer

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  #8  
Old 4 Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TravellingStrom View Post
btw - I am probably guilty of asking for a and expecting it within a reasonable amount of time, after all, I am the customer
"Reasonable amount of time" is a cultural construction, in the ordering of as in all else. In Latin America I expect service which I'd consider insulting in North America (or Australia), because that's what local culture dictates. When they serve my slowly, they are treating me like the customer. They just define this differently.

That doesn't mean I don't wish they'd hurry the hell up; it means I'm somewhat obligated to be patient as a sign of respect for local culture.

But then again, I like to talk politics wherever I go. I've had some fun times talking about American interventionist tendencies, for example, in Muslim countries as well as throughout the places throughout Latin America which have suffered mightily due to USA support for all sorts of abusive people and policies. I believe it's possible to have these discussions respectfully, and I always learn from them. It's my hope that so do the people to whom I talk. Sometimes they paint a far more favorable picture of my country's history than I do myself.

Mark
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  #9  
Old 4 Jul 2010
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I will not visit Israel until I can visit Palestine. Call it politics if you will, but a person has to have some standards, otherwise who are you?
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Old 4 Jul 2010
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One thing I've found is that golbal 'politics' is too polarised to be reliable. Whaty I mean is that every country thinks their neighbours are a bunch of b*£$ards and the further two countries are apart generally the more distorted their views of what it is actually like.

In Europe Gengis Khan is a muderous bandit who pilaged half the world, in Central Asia he is a heroic leader that united the warring factions and created an iimmense economical power.

My advice would be open your mind and adjust or completely remove your expectations. I had been told terribel things about Albania before I went in, expected the worst, had a run in with the Mafia and they ended up buying me dinner and we all got wasted on the local spirit. Had I expected a eurpoena well served holdiay experience I would have come away a bit shocked, instead I loved the place.

In response to the earlier point 'surprised to see the US grouped in with the Stans I would feel a hell of a lot safer in central asia than in North America - not from fear of the government buit fear of the general gun-toting population robbing me. A lot of places that get a bad rap in the west get it because the government has an iron grip on the population. This in turn means the population are unlikely to give you any crap. Plus outside of 'westernised' countries life may be cheap but nearly everyone has the kindess of strangers that we seem to have lost.

That said I have some limits and the following places are in my 'hopefully they will calm down so I can go' list: Sudan, Somalia, North Columbia (Darien Gap area), Afghansitan and Iraq. Over-riding principle for me is live and let live with customs and politics but don't get yourself killed.
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  #11  
Old 4 Jul 2010
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why do you travel? for changing the world or seeing the real live over there?
every country on the planet has "dark side". i just travel to see the real live, meet the locals. i am trying to act like a traveller and not a politician.
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  #12  
Old 4 Jul 2010
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...So another thinly veiled attempt at trolling. Nice.
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  #13  
Old 4 Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by *Touring Ted* View Post
Anyway, I don't visit a country to see its polititians, government and generals... I go to see the REAL people who generally never represent their government, especially in the 3rd world.

Governments, borders and politics are best left ignored when travelling. Just my 0.2p worth.

Spot on
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  #14  
Old 4 Jul 2010
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I agree with what seems to be the general concensus on here: travelling is about seeing people and places not governments.

This is no truer than when you go to a place that might be on the UK FCO avoid list and find the most welcoming people imaginable.

Your journey, provided it is made in a manner respectful of those you visit, will have a positive impact on locals be it financially or personally, by meeting a new person from another background.

Surely, that is a good thing...

In other words:
No, a country's regime will not affect my decision to visit, unless I feel it poses too great a risk to our safety.
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  #15  
Old 31 Jul 2010
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As expected, some individuals make assumptions about my personal views. Naughty.

I myself have visited countries which I think are dodgy, and I wondered how others squared their conscience. Nobody should be surprised about the inclusion of the US as dodgy. I neednt spell out what the US has done, for many years. The UK used to be as bad , but much less now, apart from dodgy arms deals.Those who say politics doesnt matter - tell that to those who are victims of the above dodgy countries. Or try riding through Afghanistan, and tell me that you're not into politics; believe me, you soon will be. Someone once said "You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you". But I didnt pose the question for political reasons, but for reasons of bike travel and your conscience. We do visit dodgy countries, so it's worth discussing.

The ostrich who said this was trolling needs help and must get his act together.
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