The 10 reasons you should visit a 's---hole' country

Donald Trump has clearly never travelled in a "s---hole" country.

Maybe the US president has visited a few. Maybe he's flown in on a private jet and pressed some flesh, signed a few things and scouted out the golf courses – but he hasn't travelled there. He hasn't been on the ground. He hasn't walked the streets, or seen the sights, or eaten the food, or met the people.

If he had, there is no way he would describe places such as El Salvador, Haiti, and various African nations as "s---hole countries", as he's reported to have done recently. There's no way he'd dismiss entire nations and entire populations as nothing better than sewers.

Anyone who's travelled to the developing world already knows the amazing experiences that await those prepared to give these places a go.

These are the reasons you should see them, too.

They're actually beautiful

Iran

Iran.

Some of the most scenically stunning places I've ever been to are also the sort Trump would think are "s---holes". Countries such as Ethiopia, with its rugged mountains and its rock-hewn churches; Guatemala, with its volcanoes and colonial cities; Mexico, with its beaches and its ancient ruins; Iran, with its historic cities and desert dwellings. All of these places are far more beautiful than, say, I don't know, Trump Tower.

You meet amazing people

Every country on Earth is filled with a grand mix of personalities and archetypes, and the developing world is no different. You meet plenty of normal people in these places, but you also meet some truly incredible, inspiring people in countries that can seem, from the outside at least, to have so little. You meet average people who do amazing things. You hear stories of struggle, and stories of success, and you realise what we're all capable of.

You also meet friendly people

Every traveller knows this. The countries that have been through some of the worst, most unimaginable things in their recent past, or even in their present, are also filled with some of the kindest, friendliest people you could hope to meet. Go to Cambodia or Laos, Colombia or Mexico, Malawi or Bangladesh, Iran or Palestine, and be amazed by the constant stream of welcoming, generous people you encounter day after day.

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See also: Why you should visit an Islamic country

You learn more about the world

Travel should be fun, but it should also be an education. And part of your global learning is to visit the developing world and see things for yourself. It's about meeting people there and hearing what they have to say. It's about understanding the various factors that have lead to their nation's halted development. It's about seeing a new side to a story you thought you were familiar with.

You experience random acts of kindness

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela, Ethiopia. Photo: Alamy

I was stuck in Ethiopia once, in a town called Lalibela. I was stranded there for a few days, wandering the streets, before a local guy took pity on me and invited me into his house to experience a coffee-drinking ceremony with his family. I thought I would have to pay for the privilege – but no, he'd done it out of pure kindness. I was a guest in his home. In Bangladesh, on a different trip, a complete stranger helped me out when I was in some trouble on a train. A local in Isfahan, Iran, meanwhile, spent several days showing me around his home town. And every single person who has visited the developing world has stories such as these, random acts of kindness that expose the cold-heartedness of the current White House administration for what it is.

You see wonders of the world

We're not even talking about the thousands of incredible tourist attractions that exist unrecognised in the developing world. Let's concentrate, for a second, purely on the "wonders" that have made various lists: the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt; the Mayan ruins of Mexico; the ruins of Petra in Jordan; the city of Beirut; the Belize Barrier Reef.

See also: Seven new wonders of the world you couldn't visit, until now

You see the difference between a people and a government

Do you agree with everything your government does and says? I certainly don't. And you soon realise that the citizens of many countries with questionable leaders feel the same way. Nations such as Zimbabwe, Iran, Egypt, and many more: the people you meet there tend to have very different ideas about the world than those expressed by their governments.

The food is great

Iran boasts one of the oldest and most complex food cultures on the planet. Ethiopia has some extremely good cuisine. Mexican food – in Mexico – is amazing. And the list goes on. Those who travel on their stomach will find much to love about the developing world.

Podcast: The world's best destinations for street food

Your dollars make a difference

The benefit of travel to the developing world is a two-way street. Yes, you'll have some amazing and possibly life-changing experiences, but you could also be changing the lives of the people you meet. Tourism is an industry: it helps to bring money into struggling countries, it gives people jobs, it allows them to fund education, it helps communities become self-sufficient. That has to be a good thing.

You discover that people are all essentially the same

This is the biggest takeaway, for me, of travel to places Trump would probably think are s---holes full of "bad hombres": people all over the world are essentially the same. We might have a few different beliefs and a few different customs, but most people just want a comfortable, happy life. They want a job, and a family, and friends, and some time to enjoy themselves. That's basically it. It doesn't matter what people look like, or what they sound like, or where they happen to live: those desires remain the same.

Have you travelled to the sort of countries that sound like Donald Trump's "s---holes"? Did you enjoythem? What did you get out of the experience?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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