The attitude of some Backpackers is inadmissible!

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Given the title of our website, “Backpackers Attitude”, I had to make a comment on the shameful attitude of some backpackers who beg in the streets of some developing countries, such as in Thailand, or even worse, who steal!

This proves again the fact that some Westerners do not realize, despite their travels in these poor countries, how lucky they are to be able to travel! It is a LUXURY that locals in these countries can not and might never be able to afford. If they beg or if they steal, it is to survive, not to travel.


We, the backpackers, even if we want to demonstrate that it is possible to travel on a small budget, let’s not forget that we are lucky to be born on the right side of the world.

We didn’t deserve it. We are among the richest 5% of the world’s population, and we owe it solely to luck.

In fact, if you earn more than $ 52,000 a year, you are even one of the richest 1% of the world’s population. And this calculation already takes into account the cost of living.

Global Income Distribution

Source: Doing Good Better

It also means that 20% of the world’s population lives below $ 1.50 a day.

Everyone who has traveled to the world’s poorest countries knows that even though the cost of living is lower there, there is not much you can do with $ 1.50 a day.

kawa leen indonesie mineurs

Sulfur carriers in Kawah Ijen, Indonesia, do on average two trips per day to the crater, carrying up to 100kg of sulfur on their shoulders, earning the equivalent of 85 euros per month.

Even the middle class in these countries, with a good job in a multinational, earn a salary that will allow them to visit the beautiful old Europe only after many years of savings (not to mention complications to get a visa). Often they will never visit it.

We tend to blame  the rich, the shareholders of multinationals, for example, or traders, saying that they should take their responsibilities. But when we compare ourselves to the South, we are all “rich”.

So when you travel, take your responsibilities. At least, because I know you are on a budget, respect these countries, and support the local economy – eat local, for example.

It is our duty to all of us to give back to the South a little of what has been taken from them over the last centuries . Because, historically, we owe more to the South than they owe us.

Just by giving $ 1.50 a day to the poorest, this doubles their current income. That does not mean anything to us, and yet it makes them twice as rich.

If, back home, after your travels, you want to continue helping these countries, consider donations. Donations are a way to help fight the extreme poverty and it doesn’t affect our lifestyle that much (especially as they are tax deductible). But a few euros can make a big difference in the lives of these people.

Of course, to have the maximum impact, the choice of the charities to give is important. I was very inspired recently by the book “Doing Good Better” written by William Mackaskill, the founder of the movement “Altruism Effective”. Based on rational and non-emotional arguments, he asks the right questions to choose a cause, a charity or a career to maximize your impact, and his rational reasoning gives sometimes counter-intuitive answers.  The “GiveWell” organization analyzes charities to help donors choose the ones that will make the biggest difference.


Hampi, India


There is an even more effective way of reducing global poverty, unfortunately very controversial currently: immigration.

The following figures come from the book “Let Their People Come” by Lant Pritchett, an American economist.

  • We transfer about $ 70 billion a year in development aid to poor countries.
  • A 2005 World Bank study estimated the benefits of an increase of only 3% of workers from poor countries in rich countries by easing restrictions on immigration.

    These gains are $ 300 billion – about 4.5 times more than development aid.

  • It should also be noted that the residents of rich countries would in fact benefit from this immigration – the cost of immigration is actually a net profit of $ 51 billion according to the same estimates.

And that does not even take into account the spending of rich countries to prevent the labor movement, which is estimated at $ 17 billion for just 5 countries. It is a substantial fraction of what is spent on development aid.
The potential gains from a small increase in immigration are therefore much greater than any other measure on the international agenda – whether in terms of aid or trade.

These immigrants often transfer a large part of their wages to their families or to their country in the form of donations. I visited Educate Lanka a few months ago on my last trip to Sri Lanka, a country ravaged by a war that ended in 2009. This organization helps sponsor young students. I was surprised to learn that all their donors were actually Sri Lankans living abroad!

A school in Sri Lanka

Yet many Westerners are even not embarrassed anymore to say that they are against immigration. Solidarity stops at the borders. We fight against gender discrimination, religious discrimination, racial discrimination … why does nationality – which is not chosen – remain a legitimate basis for discrimination, a legal obstacle to equal opportunities?

Globalization must not be one-way. Should we recall that 1.6 million French people live abroad? An increase of 60% since 2000. We do not bother, we Westerners, to take advantage of resources or employment opportunities beyond our borders. But the word “border” does not mean much to us anymore, who can travel wherever we like, often without even having to take steps for a visa? We tend to forget how privileged we are.

Why does globalization only means free movement of capital and goods? What about the free movement of people?

The real obstacle is political. The fear of “the Other”, of the difference, that they rob “our” jobs. The real obstacle is our prejudices and our lack of solidarity. Lant Pritchett proposes in his book policies that support development while remaining acceptable to the richest nations.

Diversity is beautiful, and solidarity is an indispensable condition for peace.

There is so much to learn from others and other cultures. Whoever has traveled, met and had an open conversation with locals in other countries, is aware of that. Traveling really opens your mind.  And how many multicultural couples have been the results of these travels?

Let’s celebrate diversity instead of being afraid of it. Let us be in solidarity. It is up to us to make this world a little more fair.


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