Why Living in a Developing Country Can Be a Good Thing…

(Versão em Português)

Some days ago I was looking for footage on YouTube; I clicked in a video that I had already watched many times. Probably you have also seen it before, which known by the name “Wear Sunscreen”, or “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. It tells the story of a grown up man who gives advice on how to live a happy life. The video is old but still relevant (you can check it at the end of this article).

Among all the good phrases of the text, there is a part that I always found really interesting: “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft”. I have extended to the world and paraphrase it as “live in a developed country, but leave it before you get too comfortable. Live in a developing country to remember what really matters in life”.

Weeks ago, a friend, who has been living in NYC for years, called me and expressed me his desire for filming a documentary in Thailand; and I joked with him “man, stop living in NYC, and go to live in a developing country to remember what real life is about”. He answered me, “but this is the reason that I want to go to do this documentary, life here makes us too superficial after a while”.

NO, I am not against living in NYC, or any other rich place. Either I am saying that life is not hard in rich countries, but the reasons that make people run to live on those places, sometimes gets too superficial.

I have never lived in a first world country; I have traveled to some of them, but instead this is the third developing country that I am living in. I was born and raised in Brazil; I have been living in Lebanon, and now in Thailand.

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Some of the streets in Lebanon.

What I can say about this small experience is that you can really find happiness by buying a mango in Lebanon, because it is hard to find and expensive to buy, or you can develop your skills in walking in a maze, because the streets are not organized at all. You can feel so blessed to get to your destiny in a bus in Brazil, because public transportation is older than your grandpa, and the streets have more holes than a Swiss cheese, and even though, people still “enjoy the trip” some even sleep all throughout the ride. You also learn that does not matter how bad is the economy, how corrupt are the politicians, or if your country lost the World Cup, when samba is played, you dance!

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Night market in Korat, Thailand. The food and the pets.. always together.



You become much less picky in Thailand when you go buy food and there are roosted cats and dogs among the food; where lizards are almost part of your family, and toilet has a “different concept” in Asia.

One of the strongest teachings from a developing country is how to have faith, because when you do not have THINGS, you have FAITH. One time traveling from Paris to Geneva, in one of this amazing European trains; I met a French priest that worked for ten years in the countryside of Brazil during the military dictatorship. He said that the difference between Brazilian people and some European nations is that, even though Brazilians do not have money, they still have faith, on the contrary, for Europeans when they lose money, they lose everything.

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A boy from the streets of Tripoli, who taught us that kindness does not have class.

Once again, this article it is not against living in rich countries or against people, who live there, but an invitation to know and experiment developing nations. In those countries, people may not speak English, their government probably is corrupted, the economy sucks, and the difficulties are huge. However, the people are are amazing and so willing to help and welcome you

Because when you do not have too many things, you start appreciating more what you have, specially, “whom” you have, regardless of who it is.

Next time that you are planning to travel, try to choose a developing destination, or maybe a third world country. They have a lot to teach us.

>>In a brief survey on the internet, I found that this video was “a hypothetical commencement speech by columnist Mary Schmich, published in June 1997 in the Chicago Tribune. The essay became the basis for a successful spoken word song released in 1999 by Baz Luhrmann, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, also known as “The Sunscreen Song”.<<



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