Travel Politics » Lifestyle Strategies, Travel, Adventures--Todd's Wanderings

Travel Politics

Can Travel Make the World a Better Place?

Is travel an inherently selfish indulgence or a vehicle to bring about world peace? The travel and tourism industry is huge, and in 2010 over 940 million people traveled outside their own country as tourists and generated $919 billion dollars in global revenue. That is a lot opportunity for both mischief and genuine interaction. So the question comes back to: is the opening of borders leading to greater understanding or a hardening of stereotypes? I’ve been on the road for the past 12 years, both teaching children and working in international development. I’ve been a traveler, a tourist, an expat, and an undocumented worker (yup). In all this time I’ve become convinced of the power that travel has on people, both good and bad. The Bad in Travel Yes, let’s get this out of the way. Bad things happen when bad people travel. But, then again, bad things happen when Read full article…

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How to Help Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami Survivors by giving to Japanese Organizations

This page is dedicated to helping the survivors of the Friday 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan by channeling international donations to local efforts. The earthquake and tsunami have caused extensive and severe damage in Northeastern Japan, over 9,500 people have been confirmed dead and another 16,000 are missing, and millions more affected by lack of electricity, water and transportation. The images of the destruction and suffering have shocked the world. However, with the World Bank reporting over 300 billion USD in damages and families torn apart there is a need for everyone to help both financially and emotionally. A few weeks ago I posted about my Experience During the Japan Earthquake and made a plea to my readers to spread the word about helping Japan recover. My wife is from Tokyo and we are both professional aid and recovery workers with the United Nations. We have seen Read full article…

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When to Bribe, How to Bribe, Do you Bribe?

If you travel long enough eventually you face the dilemma of how and when, or even if to bribe. But before we get into the nitty gritty of corruption I want to state right off the bat that corruption, the giving and taking of bribes, is an insidious practice that destroys the very fabric of the rule of law in countries and the trust between citizens and those elected to positions of authority. Now that I’ve sounded off on my public service announcement let’s have a discussion about the realities of travel in potentially unsafe areas, in countries where the rule of law is loosely followed, and situations where it is in your interest to hand over $20, not because it doesn’t do any harm (it does) but because that $20 could save your skin. Shake Down by Local Cops The year was 2008 and I was traveling through Indonesia Read full article…

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World Cup in Kosovo: politics and football

Almost everything in Kosovo boils down to politics, and this is true for soccer (yes I’m American) as well.  Kosovo is not in the World Cup, which is to be expected from a country that is only recognized by 65 nations and who is in a diplomatic stalemate with Serbia-which is in the World Cup- over its independence. With the majority 90% Kosovar-Albanian supporting independence Serbia is not likely to win too many World Cup supporters except for those from the Serbian enclaves.  So the question which country garners the most support? Make no mistake, just because they don’t have a national team in the tournament, it has not dampened the excitement in Prishtina as a hundred cafes, bars and betting halls play each match to crowds of supporters. To help answer my question, I decided to enlist the support of consumerism. I spent the day crisscrossing the winding streets of Kosovo’s hilly Read full article…

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Should you give money to beggars when you travel?

Sitting outside on the patio of a small Kosovo cafe, a beer held at the ready to celebrate the end to another perfect day, we were suddenly descended on by six scruffy small children. Pitiful eyes pleaded with us for money as they spread out amongst our group begging. We ignored them in turn and somehow they managed to look even more desperate. I know, it sounds horrible and trust me it feels horrible. I have been traveling a long time and the scene is the same in most developing countries I visit. The orphans in Hanoi reciting their memorized English phrases, the legless beggars in Cambodia, the woman with her newborn child hanging limply from her breast as she begs amongst stopped traffic in Sri Lanka. We weren’t a group of normal travelers, instead we were all seasoned development workers, used to working in harsh environments with marginalized and Read full article…

Reconciliation and Human Rights in Timor-Leste (East Timor): more to travel than just beaches and beer

When I decided to take my own advice and re-visit Timor-Leste, I didn’t expect to find myself in a dark suffocating prison. Travel is not just about beaches, bars and mountain tops; its also about learning the history of the country and its people. I am sure the 13 odd government employees I brought with me to learn about post-conflict land administration and conflict management were hoping for the former. I can’t name where the officials are from as elements of their own government might not be happy we discussed ethnic reconciliation. If you know me well, I am sure you can guess. The Indonesian era prison is actually home to a permanent exhibit on the Reconciliation process that occurred in Timor after independence, called the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR). It is tricky business getting people together to admit to crimes they committed against their neighbors, but Read full article…

Development and Human Rights at Work

Considering that most of my posts are about travel and exotic locales it may be shocking to hear that I actually do have a job. Many of you may have wondered about what it is I actually do and what type of work a development/human rights/conflict resolution worker actually does. To shed a little light into my work life, and to help educate on some of the most pressing matters facing Sri Lanka, I am posting two recent publications that I wrote. The first publication was released through my former employer, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE). It deals with the High Security Zones in Sri Lanka and how they have been used to deny citizens their human rights to adequate housing, and return to their former homes and lands after displacement. The full report can be accessed here: High Security Zones and the Rights to Return and Read full article…

On Tuesday May 19th 2009, the President of Sri Lanka announced the end of the civil war that has ravaged the small island nation for over 30 years and deprived over 70,000 people their lives and future. The military captured all remaining territory previously held by the LTTE, and the military announced the death of the LTTE’s leader, Prabhakaran. By all accounts today should be a day of celebration as the country’s young, those under 30 years of age, have never known anything but civil war. And yet as I sit here and write during a new public holiday, fire crackers booming away in the distance, I can’t help but feel unsettled by the weight of suffering still going on, the lives lost to “win” the war, and the uncertain path Sri Lanka’s leaders will take: towards reconciliation or consolidation. Since I moved to Sri Lanka over two years ago Read full article…

Glimps of a free Batticaloa

In mid-March I traveled the 314 km (198 miles) road to the eastern district of Batticaloa. The trip took over 9 hours by car and while bumpy and long passed through some of the most beautiful areas of Sri Lanka I have ever seen. Lush jungle, sweeping plains, soaked marshes, and jagged mountains rolled by as we traversed from west to east coast. Through a stretch of national park peacocks ran unashamed along the side of the road, foxes scurried for cover as we approached, and an elephant stood uncompromising beside a rural store. In 2007 the Sri Lankan government militarily liberated sections of Batticaloa (and the rest of the East) that used to be controlled by the LTTE (the Tigers). The resulting mass displacement of people fleeing the constant mortar attacks and heavy ground fighting created a wave of internally displaced persons (IDP) throughout Batticaloa. Over 300,000 people fled Read full article…

Sri Lanka 2008: Bombings, Assasinations, and Cease Fire Abrogation

In the morning of January 2nd Colombo greeted the New Year with a bombing in Slave Island, a busy business district. The roadside bomb targeted a military bus transporting wounded soldiers from the army hospital to the General Hospital. Targeted bus Four people were killed, seven were sent to the hospital in critical condition and 22 others were injured. Thankfully all of my friends and their families were uninjured, but my heart goes out to all those killed and their families who have to start 2008 in such a horrible manner. A view of the street The bombing follows two other bombs in November which killed over 18 people and injured over 37 more. In the wake of the November bombings the police arrested over 2,553 ethnic Tamils in the Colombo area. Most were released a few days later but over 100 were kept in custody. After the current bombing Read full article…

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