Life Away from the US

I don’t know why it’s taken 3 weeks for me to finish this post but, regardless, here it is — FINALLY. As you might or might not know, I was in the Caribbean from November 9th-27th — Puerto Rico for 6 days and then the Dominican Republic for 12. Taking an extended break from work and everyday life connected to everything and everyone online was definitely long overdue. So, what are my thoughts after my trip? Several things…

First, my 1st exposure to life in a 3rd world country was definitely a great life experience, and one I will not ever forget. Culture in the Dominican Republic is unreal and I guarantee I’ll visit the country again.

One of my close friends and I often talk about “how long can the world sustain the environmental damage we are inflicting on it?” — after seeing what it’s like in a 3rd world country, I’m not optimistic AT ALL. Don’t get me wrong, the Dominican Republic is an absolutely beautiful country, but that can’t hide the fact that trash is everywhere. In the DR, taking out the garbage means piling it on the nearest street corner to be picked up by a truck at a later date (no real set schedule). I can only imagine how bad the environment is in places such as India and China that have seen massive, massive industrial growth over the past decade with little environmental regulation. I don’t know how much more environmental damage the world can accomodate.
“Que lo que?” — who knew such a simply saying could bring so many smiles to kids faces. I’ve honestly never seen kids so happy with so little. I’ve said it before — the materialism in the US is pathetic. If kids in the Dominican Republic are happy while having very limited material possessions, why is it that kids in the US need an iPod or a new xbox 360 to “be happy”?

People in the Dominican are amazingly friendly. Very seldom does a visit to a colmado (small supermarket) go by without chatting with someone. It certainly makes me realize that not enough people here in the US spend time just talking and enjoying each other’s company.

Transportation — wow, what a different experience than transportation in the US. There are just about zero laws to obey when driving (I would have said zero except for the fact that someone told me they got pulled over before). I don’t know how a passive tourist from the states would ever navigate the roads of Santo Domingo. It’s not uncommon for cars pull out in front of a line of oncoming cars to cross a street. Streetlights are, well, not very common. “Public cars” (usually Corollas or Accords from the 1980′s) that barely run, often have no door panels and sometimes are without side windows, with rusted out floors (when I stepped out of one, I felt my foot sink halfway through the floor), and transport 6 full grown adults + the driver — cost 12 peses per person for a 10 block ride along a main route. Cross-country bus trips (roughly 5 hours) are often freezing — the AC for one trip I took was set to 16 degrees celsius. Motorcycles are the norm. And, horses are still a somewhat common means of transportation in rural environments.

Microfinance really does make a difference. By now. most of you know I’m passionate about the subject — and this trip definitely only increased that passion. I saw groups of entrepreneurs who received their 1st loans. I visited women running small businesses out of their homes in order to build better lives for their children. I got a 1st-hand glimpse of the significance of giving hard working men and women the means to bring themselves out of poverty.

I think my friend said it best — “In the DR [and the 3rd world in general], people work to live. In the US, we live to work.” That’s a pretty big difference. When you have to worry about food on the table, paying the bus fare to/from work, and finding quality shoes to put on your feet, you don’t really have time to worry about whether you have the latest and greatest mp3 player.

If you’re sitting at your computer reading this, I really do hope you understand how truly privileged you are.

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  • Kayla

    Drew, thanks for sharing your experience:) You already know how much MF and that country mean to me–but a huge part of the battle is just helping inform people more, expand horizons, and open minds and hearts to greater possibilities and realities.

    I am blessed to have a friend like you, and I am so glad that you were able to see and share my life down there…

  • http://irishcornwall.blogspot.com ipanema

    Great post, Drew! Yes, that’s how life is in the third world. It must be beautiful witnessing how MF affect people’s lives first hand.

    Yes, only when harsh realities of life is experienced or witnessed can we see the great divide. Average people in other affluent countries are very much privilege indeed.

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  • http://www.revealrealestate.com Claudia Gonella

    If you ever make it to our neck of the woods (Nicaragua) we’d love to have you to stay. It would be our way to thank you for helping us with exposure on Geek Estate Blog when we launched and the Carnival of Real Estate. (BTW I’ve got another post brewing for Geek Estate.)
    If you like surfing we can certainly organize that. We’d also like to show you projects under the umbrella of http://www.communityrefund.org a charity we founded a couple of years ago to try and ensure that local communities benefit from the growth in real estate investing in the region. Perhaps there is some complementarity with your micro-finance work?

  • http://www.drewmeyersinsights.com Drew Meyers

    Thanks Claudia – I will certainly let you know if I come to Nicaragua. I may be going on a cruise to the Mediterranean on March, not sure yet though.

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  • http://www.successwithwordpress.com/ Samuel

    Even though you have written this seven years ago I completely resonate with this. As someone who travels abroad I also observe how privileged we are here in the states. A lot of us take it for granted. Most U.S citizens do not travel. I think only 23% of Americans have passports and out of that 23% only 1/4 actually travel. So they will have difficulty seeing how good they got it. Great post though Drew. Please write more of your experiences abroad. They are very enlightening!

  • http://www.horizonapp.co/ Drew Meyers

    Thanks Samuel. How did you find this post?

    I’ve written a lot over the past 7 years, and started a travel startup to with the fundamental premise that the more people travel and experience other people and cultures, the better off our world will be longterm.

    http://www.horizonapp.co

  • http://www.successwithwordpress.com/ Samuel

    Hey Drew,

    I was on a real estate blog and went down the rabbit hole. Next thing you know I’m here lol!

  • http://www.horizonapp.co/ Drew Meyers

    Geek Estate I take it?

  • http://www.successwithwordpress.com/ Samuel

    Yep that is it! Great site Btw!

    Hey Drew. I have a Digital Magazine that I will be reviving sometime soon called Travelpreneur. It’s on the iTunes App store. Would like to interview you sometime in the future about your travels and how you are able to run your businesses while on the road. Let me know if you are interested and maybe we can set something up.

  • http://www.horizonapp.co/ Drew Meyers

    Shoot me an email. drew at horizonapp.co