What Moving to the Third World Meant to Me
By Correspondent Robert B. in Bolivia
– I have always had trouble imaging what other people’s lives are like. Sure, I can watch TV documentaries and listen to radio interviews but I can still never work out what it must be like to be in the other person’s shoes.
About 5 years ago I left my home in Scotland and started to travel the world. I didn’t get very far. The plan was to go round the globe but my first stop was in South America and I was fascinated enough to stay here. I made some friends and realised that this might be the one chance in my life to live in a different culture and understand what life is like for someone living there.
After a bit of soul searching I tore up my tickets for the rest of the journey and rented an apartment here in Bolivia. The fact I am still here tells you part of the story but it hasn’t all been plain sailing. So what has moving to the third world meant to me?
More Human Contact
I have only been back to the UK once since I left it. It was only by doing this that I realised what I loved most about living in Bolivia; the human contact. When I walk down the street people look at me and nod to me as though they are pleased to see me, even when they don’t know me. When I want to buy something I go to the market where old ladies sell me food and ask me about the weather outside and where I am from and whether the men there really wear skirts. It was on my brief trip back to the UK that I discovered that I could no longer live in the type of society where it is easy to pass days or weeks without really speaking to anyone or without anyone even looking at you as they rush past you.
More Uncomfortable Moments
It isn’t a nice feeling to walk down the street in your smart clothes and have people begging for money and grabbing at your feet. I used to get asked for money in the UK but here it is different. Here, young children beg with their parents and they seem to genuinely have nothing more than the clothes they are wearing. Sometimes I feel guilty about being European and rich and never having had to go without food. I am not rich by most people’s standards but to someone begging on the street with their kids I must appear impossibly wealthy, and this makes me feel as though the world is very unfair. I now choose my route around town to avoid the areas where people beg, which is the coward’s way out of the problem, I know.
I can’t deny that it is also hugely frustrating to live here. No one ever keeps their promises, no one ever turns up on time, everyone drives as though they own the road and the paperwork is a nightmare. I think the biggest problem with being an immigrant – and I guess everyone in my situation must feel the same way at some point – is that I would like to have the best of both worlds. I would like the people around me to be friendly and laid back but to do their jobs efficiently and be punctual as well. Moving to the third world has taught me that this isn’t possible. I now know what the options are and need to make the decision about what is most important to me.
Robert is a UK writer who moved to Bolivia to sample a different kind of life and to discover more about himself.