One of the greatest joys of third world spiritual travel is the rawness of life. The people don’t have the luxury of first world distractions, so every day is real. They can’t afford or can’t get an aspirin for their aches much less a Xanax or Percocet so there is no escape from their feelings. This makes life rich. They delight in small things like rain on hot day. A feast day is a huge celebration. It doesn’t matter how much is on your to do list or who you’re mad at. Those things can wait. Today we feast.
The view of the world always depends upon where you are standing. If you are standing in a sterilized world of plenty, the photo of these children may look pitiful and heart rending. If you are standing within a space of gratitude and acceptance, you may see a family that has a lot of love and connection.
For example, one day I was at a cultural fair at a college campus. I overheard a mainstream young woman talking to a young Middle Eastern woman. She was asking how it feels to be oppressed. She mentioned social restrictions like not even being able to wear popular clothes or show her hair. The Middle Eastern woman asked her how it felt to live in a culture that doesn’t offer protection for young women. She wanted to know how a so many people could be so unrooted with no connection to family, the past, or the ancestors.
Everything comes at a cost of energy exchange. In the west we are used to trading money and time for material goods, education, and entertainment. We don’t see other things as having value. In the third world, they are used to exchanging social support for survival so they have stronger familial, social, and spiritual connections. Loneliness isn’t the problem there that it is here. Fear of death isn’t either because they see it up close and personal.
I’m not trying to romanticize the third world. They have their share of problems. No doubt. I am just saying that spirituality is everywhere. Sometimes when you get the “stuff” out of the way, it’s a lot easier to see and feel it. So don’t rule out the third world when thinking about spiritual destinations. You often get a lot more value than the price in dollars.