Thanks to TimesSelect's free access this week, I've been browsing through the hidden features of NYTimes. Jeez, most of them are so fascinating, that I spent quite good deal of time on it. And one of my recent discoveries is NYTimes's Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof. Former Rhodes Scholar and two-times Pulitzer Prize winner, Kristof extensively writes on issues like East Asian boom, Africa's poverty and development of Third World countries. Most of his ideas are quite compelling and persuasive (and don't forget his luminous writing style), which helps you to establish a clear and vivid image about our "flattening", yet "scabrous" world. So in the end, I strongly encourage you to go through his articles, buena fotuna!
[...] take a year off before heading to college or into a job. You'll have to pay for your travel, but you can often find "hotels" for $5 a night per person in countries like India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Morocco, Bolivia and Peru — and in rural areas, people may invite you to stay free in their huts. To get around, you can jump on local buses.
Is it safe? Not entirely, for the developing world has more than its share of pickpockets, drunken soldiers, scorpions, thugs, diseases, parasites and other risks.
Twenty-two years ago, as a backpacking student, I traveled with a vivacious young American woman who, like me, was living in Cairo. She got off my train in northern Sudan; that evening, the truck she had hitched a ride in hit another truck. Maybe if there had been an ambulance or a doctor nearby, she could have been saved. Instead, she bled to death.
So, yes, be aware of the risks, travel with a buddy or two, and carry an international cellphone. But remember that young Aussies, Kiwis and Europeans take such a year of travel all the time — women included — and usually come through not only intact, but also with a much richer understanding of how most of humanity lives.
There are also terrific service options. Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani anti-rape activist I've often written about, told me she would welcome American volunteers to teach English in the schools she has started. You would have to commit to staying six weeks or more, but would get free housing in her village. You can apply by contacting www.4anaa.org.
Then there's New Light, a terrific anti-trafficking organization in Calcutta. Urmi Basu, who runs it, said she would welcome American volunteers to teach English classes to the children of prostitutes. You would have to stay at least six weeks and budget $15 a day for food and lodging; for more information go to www.uddami.org/newlight.
In the 21st century, you can't call yourself educated if you don't understand how the other half lives — and you don't get that understanding in a classroom. So do something about your educational shortcomings: fly to Bangkok.