Written by The Leap on 19 / 01 / 2017
Gap Year Advice
Our unique, miraculous world: if Trump only knew
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Donald Trump, the newly elected president of the United States, is entitled to his. I am entitled to mine.
Believe me, this is by no means a political blog post. I just want the world to know that our Earth is beautiful. Every culture, every country, every religion, every being. It’s the huge diversity we have which keeps us all going: keeps our world spinning.
I simply wish Trump could know all this. It would save him (along with Mexico and a few more unsuspecting countries I’m sure) a whole lot of money when it comes to wall building.
Clearly, Trump is a little confused…
While the planet is warming overall, climate change means that throughout the world climates are becoming more extreme. So yes, some areas are becoming colder while others heat up.
A stunning country currently renowned for its diverse culture, spectacular architecture, flavoursome cuisine and World Heritage sites. Yet it is soon to be famous for going underwater, literally.
Bangladesh, located in the low-lying Ganges Delta, boasts some of the most fertile agricultural plains in the world. Over 80% of the tropical monsoon country is less than 10m above sea level and is thus one of Earth’s most flood-prone areas. That fictional global warming isn’t helping either; Bangladesh is suffering from ever-increasing rainfall, cyclones and rising sea levels.
As a result, soil degradation, erosion and deforestation are creating huge problems for food and water security. With both humans and wildlife under threat, please don’t wait for the county to go under! Bangladesh’s floodplains are astonishing sights, and while the endangered Bengal tiger still roams here, now could be one of your last chances to experience the country’s magic.
Similarly in the Caribbean island of Haiti, thanks to the 1915-1934 US occupation, less than 2% of Haiti’s formerly lush forest cover remains. This deforestation for plantations has left very few tree roots to bind topsoil, thus rendering landslides inevitable in heavy storms.
The biggest problem climate change is bringing, however, is a hotter and drier future for Haiti, with decreased precipitation overall. Half of all Haitians work in agriculture, an increasingly unstable industry as droughts continue to cause widespread crop failure each year. Haiti is a Caribbean dream and I would hate to see gap year’s soon skipping it entirely!
After the horrific 2010 earthquake, hasn’t Haiti suffered enough? The US is the world’s second largest emitter. Without them totally committed to the climate change agreements, do incredible places like Haiti and Bangladesh really have a chance?
For Haiti, your visit to its pristine beaches and bustling marketplaces could be that chance. By giving the country the funds it needs to make vital changes, tourism could save the economy, environment and people of Haiti.
If you say so…
In reality, some of the world’s most breath-taking countries and happiest populations are way down in terms of economic development. Plato once said that ‘the greatest wealth is to live content with little’. This quote rings true across the globe. On my own travels, through Central America and Africa, what hit me hardest of all was how the happiest people are often the poorest.
In terms of world happiness, many of the wealthiest nations came noticeably far down the 2016 ‘happiness chart’-Germany at 16 and the UK at 23. Professor Jeffrey Sachs, a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, sees significance in this. He alerts the US that ‘for a society that just chases money, we are chasing the wrong things’.
Some of the world’s wealthiest nations are simply watching helplessly as their social fabric, public trust and faith in government deteriorate. Their neglect of social and environmental objectives is causing the anguish of people and nature alike. To those lagging economically, however, it all matters: every grain of sand. For countries like Nepal, Borneo, Ecuador and Cuba, while money may be lacking, they are rich instead in untouched nature, remarkable history and ever-smiling faces.
They make the perfect backpacking destinations: affordable and made for exploration. Volunteering abroad in one of these destinations can be the most rewarding experience out there: a stripped-back and authentic adventure await.
This one is just a lie. Science proves it.
In reality, the culture across Africa renders its nations some of the world’s most active. Principally black nations dominate a recently compiled list of the most active nations on earth.
Take Mozambique for example, where 77% of the workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. Their flourishing agriculture provides livelihoods for the vast majority of nearly 26 million inhabitants. Mozambicans really are at an optimum peak of physical activity. They certainly put our 30-minute gym sessions to shame!
Daily, a Mozambican will fish, log timber and cultivate cashew nuts, tobacco, tea, cotton and fruits. Of course, that’s before you add in the miles they walk to work or school each day, the endless games of football and the lively ritual dancing and traditional ceremonies.
Throughout Africa, and across the globe, this active, exciting culture is mirrored. In comparison to our sedentary, westernised lives, it is a truly enchanting culture to bear witness to. If you’re lucky enough to travel to Africa on your gap year, I highly recommending immersing yourself in a life unlike your own. Find something out of your comfort zone, let go and just enjoy it!
Perhaps, President Trump, this is not entirely fair?
Mexico is notoriously known for being home to some large drug gangs yes, but this should not mean that its cheerful people and exceptional attractions should be overlooked. In fact, Mexico is the world’s fourth friendliest country and it’s this aspect of its population that should be making the news.
Along with its delectable nachos and tacos (and of course the sombreros!), luxury beaches, all manner of water-sport activities, historical colonial towns and ancient temples are in abundance.
Contrary to the perception we receive from the media, crime across Central and South America is not as widespread as shows like Netflix’s Narcos might suggest. In countries like Honduras and Columbia, crime and violence are still the biggest issues being faced, but please don’t write them off as gap year destinations.They are actually some of the best!
Out in the Americas, countries contain some of the world’s most miraculous natural and man-made wonders. Should Mexico’s Pyramid of the Sun, built around 100 AD, really be missed due to fear? Are we honestly going to bypass Rio’s unique carnival atmosphere and Guatemala’s Mayan sites of Tikal, deep in the jungle just as a precaution?
Being alert and sensible is crucial to any gap year travels, but by keeping safety at the forefront of your mind, the world is yours to roam free!
On the whole, while America may have a new president with some indoctrination desires, each of us is still entitled to live life as we choose it. When planning your adventures, remember that the entire world is worth exploring. You simply have to figure out the budget, consider the safety aspects and find the time to see it all.
We live in a time when travel is offering us an unfathomable number of opportunities to experience life through another’s eyes. All you have to do is choose one!
on 19 / 01 / 2017