For kids, a trip to a de­vel­op­ing area can be one to grow on.

For chil­dren, vis­its to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries can be trans­for­ma­tive — and worth the risk

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY AMIEE WHITE BEAZLEY travel@wash­ Beazley is a writer based in Aspen, Colo. Her web­site is aw­bea­z­ Find her on Twit­ter: @aw­bea­z­ley.

In the heat of the Ecuado­rian Ama­zon, my 10-year-old son and I fol­lowed a farmer named Mr. Bar­gas along a dusty path, past groves of cof­fee, ca­cao and ba­nana trees, and down a hill where, af­ter about 20 min­utes of walk­ing, we ar­rived at a slow-mov­ing stream.

“Here is where I come ev­ery morn­ing at 4 a.m. to col­lect clean wa­ter,” Mr. Bar­gas told us through an in­ter­preter pro­vided by Me to We, the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that we co­or­di­nated with to vol­un­teer in this re­mote com­mu­nity. Bucket by bucket, he scooped the wa­ter into one-gal­lon plas­tic jugs. “The wa­ter from the river is not good,” he ex­plained. “It makes us sick.”

That night, as my son and I lay in our beds be­neath mos­quito nets with bot­tled wa­ter by our sides, the visit to Mr. Bar­gas’s home lin­gered with my child.

“Why is the wa­ter pol­luted?” he asked, dis­tressed. We sat up talk­ing about clean wa­ter and how ac­cess to it con­nects to re­al­i­ties such as poverty, health and the en­vi­ron­ment. Nearly two years later, I still re­mind him about Mr. Bar­gas any time he stays in a hot shower too long.

Trav­el­ing in de­vel­op­ing na­tions, where in­fra­struc­tures, se­cu­rity and economies are in stark con­trast to those in the United States, can be some of the rich­est ex­pe­ri­ences for chil­dren. These are of­ten the same coun­tries where for­mal tourism has yet to ma­nip­u­late ways of life, an­cient cus­toms are strong, eat­ing means be­ing ad­ven­tur­ous and the op­por­tu­ni­ties for mean­ing­ful per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions are plen­ti­ful.

For Daria Sala­mon, a novelist based in Win­nipeg, Man­i­toba — who re­cently re­turned from a trip through 20 coun­tries in South Amer­ica, Asia and the South Pa­cific with her hus­band and chil­dren ages 5 and 8 — the chal­lenges of trav­el­ing in de­vel­op­ing na­tions were far out­weighed by the re­wards of con­nect­ing with the peo­ple, land­scapes and cul­tures of those re­mote coun­tries.

“At times, there were safety is­sues,” she ac­knowl­edged, think­ing about a bus trip late at night in Colom­bia. “There were mo­ments when you ques­tion whether or not putting your kids in those sit­u­a­tions to ex­pe­ri­ence these places is worth the po­ten­tial risk. But we wanted to show our chil­dren the world and how other peo­ple live. Some­times, the most re­ward­ing places where you see the most in­ter­est­ing things and learn so much are those places, which tend to be more dan­ger­ous.”

Pre­par­ing for travel in a de­vel­op­ing or re­mote coun­try may take a bit of ex­tra plan­ning, some pre­emp­tive vac­ci­na­tions and trav­el­ers in­sur­ance, but more than any­thing it sim­ply re­quires pa­tience and an open mind, said Jac­qui Lewis, pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of North Amer­ica for Aud­ley Travel, a com­pany that of­fers tai­lor-made jour­neys.

To pre­pare chil­dren, Lewis sug­gests shar­ing age-ap­pro­pri­ate books and movies with kids ahead of the de­par­ture to start con­ver­sa­tions, whether it be about Nel­son Man­dela and the his­tory of apartheid in South Africa or an­i­mal poach­ing in Botswana.

“Have con­ver­sa­tions about what to ex­pect,” said Lewis, who re­cently trav­eled with her chil­dren, ages 12 and 13, to Africa. “Ask them what they think they are go­ing to see. Give them a glimpse of where they are go­ing and what the norm in that coun­try is.”

Prepa­ra­tion also means par­ents should un­der­stand the risk of ill­nesses such as malaria, yel­low fever and di­ar­rhea, and how to treat in­juries where ac­cess to medicine and hos­pi­tals may be lim­ited.

“There are more than 1 bil­lion peo­ple trav­el­ing an­nu­ally, ap­prox­i­mately four per­cent of whom are pe­di­atric-age trav­el­ers. But a quar­ter of all trav­el­ers who be­come ill are chil­dren,” said John Chris­ten­son, a physi­cian who spe­cial­izes in in­fec­tious and trop­i­cal dis­eases and is a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Travel Medicine who serves on the coun­cil of the so­ci­ety’s Pe­di­atrics In­ter­est Group.

“Trav­el­ers’ di­ar­rhea is a se­ri­ous prob­lem in chil­dren trav­el­ing to high-risk ar­eas. Par­ents must be pre­pared to ad­min­is­ter oral re­hy­dra­tion so­lu­tions, and in some in­stances an an­tibi­otic may be ben­e­fi­cial,” he said.

Un­der cer­tain con­di­tions, par­ents may want to in­vest in travel in­sur­ance and med­i­cal-emer­gency-evac­u­a­tion ser­vices such as In­ter­na­tional SOS, Chris­ten­son sug­gested. They cover things such as 24-hour as­sis­tance, vis­its to doc­tors and hos­pi­tals, and trans­la­tion ser­vices — as well as those evac­u­a­tion needs in worst-case sce­nar­ios.

Par­ents who have chil­dren with a his­tory of health prob­lems, or those trav­el­ing to re­gions with lim­ited health care re­sources or par­tic­i­pat­ing in ad­ven­ture-travel ac­tiv­i­ties such as ski­ing, moun­taineer­ing or div­ing might want to in­ves­ti­gate this.

Travel in­sur­ance made a dif­fer­ence for Theodora Sut­cliffe, a free­lance writer based in Bali, when her 9-year-old son was in­jured while rid­ing a horse in Mon­go­lia.

“My son’s sad­dle slipped and he was dragged be­hind a gal­lop­ing horse, re­sult­ing in a bad frac­ture of his up­per arm,” Sut­cliffe said. “There aren’t any roads in that part of Mon­go­lia, so evac­u­a­tion meant a four-wheel drive to the near­est clinic, which was very ba­sic, with elec­tric­ity but no run­ning wa­ter, fol­lowed by a he­li­copter to the cap­i­tal and an air am­bu­lance [pri­vate jet] for surgery in Hong Kong.”

In­sur­ance not only paid for get­ting the med­i­cal care her son needed but saved her tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in ex­penses for the evac­u­a­tion flight alone.

De­spite the chal­lenges, chil­dren who have em­barked on im­mer­sive travel in de­vel­op­ing re­gions say the ben­e­fits of their ex­pe­ri­ences last well into adult­hood.

Tyler Jenss was 11 years old when he and his fam­ily set out on a round-theworld trip that in­cluded 28 coun­tries. Now age 20, Jenss said that his trav­els, which stand at 45 coun­tries, changed his out­look on the world, and opened him up to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, food and ex­pe­ri­ences — as well as the com­mon ground on which we all stand.

“One of the main things I learned is that peo­ple all over are the same,” he said. “As kids, you don’t think much about words like wealth or poverty. When we were in Africa, we vis­ited with tribes­peo­ple and my brother and I would still be play­ing with the kids. Kids are kids wher­ever they are in the world.”


In the Ama­zon Basin of South Amer­ica, a tourist shows lo­cal chil­dren from a vil­lage by the Madeira River pic­tures that she has taken of them on a dig­i­tal cam­era.

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