Yesterday I began a discussion of a Huffington Post blog article: "All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Traveling." In the first section, the blogger discusses how much more rewarding it is to meet the people than to simply see the sights. For the most part I agree. The second section is a big problem. She gives it the cliche title "Money does not equal happiness." Ever heard that line before? Sure, their are plenty of unhappy wealthy people, and there are happy poor people. The blogger discusses her experiences in Soweto where the 50% unemployment rate gives rise to "creativity and sheer genius." "Crafty entrepreneurs sell picture frames made from discarded Coke cans, zebras carved from table legs and statues made from bottle caps." Nothing like a little poverty to spur creativity. She sounds like the Koch brothers! No, money doesn't equal happiness, but the look of desperation in a mother's eyes when she can't feed her children is a powerful reminder that poverty truly can cause unhappiness. The well-off have always been drawn to the myth of the "happy peasant." It eases their conscience.
Unlike this blogger, I am always impressed when I travel by the injustice of poverty. People of incredible talent and integrity, with an endless work ethic are born into poverty in Third World countries and most never escape it. Making sculptures from bottle caps won't get them far. Then you see someone of limited talent and questionable integrity flourishing in an economically developed country, retiring to spend their "golden" years on the golf courses of Arizona.
I guess we don't all learn the same things from traveling.
By Kevin O'Neill