Posted by: Richard | December 13, 2009

How fast is the world changing?

When I went to Nepal in 2000, outside Kathmandu there was no internet, no phones, no magazines and in most cases not even tv’s or video machines.  Even in Kathmandu, it was decidedly low tech, with a few internet cafes, but none of the guesthouses I stayed at had tv’s.  While trekking, I was completely out of touch (though I did spend $5 attempting a satellite call to my parents).

In Africa in 2003 I felt if anything that I was less connected to the outside world then in Nepal, with only 7 emails over an 8 week trip being the extent of my connectivity (3 of those emails in 10 days in South Africa).  The influence of outside/western culture was musical (with mutatos from Nairobi to Lilongwe belching out American Rap, Reggae and an East African mix). Finding money was hard, with black markets often being a necessity.

Now maybe I am only getting used to the differences and they don’t make as much of an impression on me, or maybe we are going through a dramatic change in parts of the developing world now, but I notice a change.  It can still be hard to find an ATM (but they all take my debit card), but wifi is everywhere, even where there isn’t mains power, there is still wifi.  TV’s are in all guesthouses, wifi abundant, internet cafes in every corner (in addition to a free computer or 6 at each guesthouse), stores selling pirated dvd’s and pirated newspapers.  Knowledge and information of what is going on outside of wherever we are is constantly available

While I realize I’m on the tourist trail here, I also was in 2002 and 2003.  I’m sure that going into rural towns would not have all the services and information as I see here, but surely these nodes of abundant free information, culture and ideas must exert a growing influence as time marches on.

I wonder if we are losing what makes travelling so unique.  Different cultures, foods, people, ideas, fashion, music…Ironically, it is us as tourists that are causing the loss of the main reason we travel.  At the same time, did somebody think these same thoughts a couple of decades ago with the introduction of telephones, televisions, video machines etc into some virgin paradise?

I wonder what the result of this growing influence of outside culture will be?  Will local cultures become merely nuanced forms of a global culture?  Will we evolve into “regional cultures” that tie a region together but lose a lot of the country sub-cultures as we do this?

While these changes may dampen the mystique of a trip, does this development help or hinder local people?


  1. When we travelled Africa in 1992 everyone said that Asia was WAY more modern than Africa or India. THat was what all the travellers said. Perhaps part of what you are noticing is the Asian effect?

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