With stories like these floating around for the Olympics right now, there is so much to be proud of as Canadians. We’ve all cheered for our gold metal wins and our gallant Canadian behavior at the games, but there are so many smaller day to day things we tend to take for granted. We’ve laughed at some of the #SochiProblems gone viral, but have we taken a moment to think about the kind of conditions most people live in around the world? If you’ve woken up this morning in a comfortable bed, had a hot shower, a cup of coffee as you checked your email and driven on the freeway to work, you’re farther ahead than most. For all of us who’ve spent time abroad and those looking to travel in the future, here’s what I feel most grateful for after 8 months spent in mostly 3rd world countries:
- Safety – Living in one of the safest countries in the world, my biggest concern when walking home late at night living in Whistler, B.C was running into a bear (seriously). It’s hard to realize what a privilege it is to be able to safely walk down the street at any time of day until you visit a country where it isn’t. Weekly protests, strikes, violence and robbery are a very real daily concern (take a look at what’s happening in Venezuela right now) in many parts of the world. While I’ve had a truly amazing time away, I’ve also been robbed, followed and spent many nights inside when it felt too unsafe to walk down the street to the local bar. Coming home I am very much looking forward to enjoying nights out with friends without constantly having to look over my shoulder.
- Drinkable tap water – So many of us in Canada install filters, use a Brita, or worse buy bottled water, when we are fortunate enough to be able to drink water right out of the tap. Heck, in Ontario the added fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay. With more fresh water lakes than the rest of the world combined, it’s uncanny to believe that millions of dollars are spent each year on imported bottle water. Once you’ve visited a country where you can’t drink the water from the tap, or worse there is no running water, you’ll never look at water the same way again.
- Work options – from the time we are children we are constantly asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We might answer astronauts, doctors, engineers or architects and with an excellent education system and funding available for university and college level studies, the sky is truly the limit. Many people in 3rd world and developing countries are unemployed or under-employed, peddling small wears on the streets hoping to make ends meet. I’m thankful to live in a place where I have an abundance of career options and the ability to take time off to travel. (Speaking of career options – anyone hiring?).
- Clean Air – next time you step outside, take a deep breath in and smell the air around you. While the cold winter air is likely to give your lungs a kick, it’s also fresh, clean and relatively free of contaminants. Now imagine a living in a place where the buildings are covered in black grim, the air literally sticks to your hair and clothes and wearing a facemask outside is recommended. Not a pretty picture, but sadly a reality for many major cities across Asia, Central and South America.
- Infrastructure – yes sometime it does seem that there is constant construction on our major highways, but the bright side is that we have working highways in good repair across the country. We’ve got cable, internet and phones all out our disposal and if something doesn’t work there’s a 1-800 number 24 hours a day you can call. Should our electricity go out we know that a team of people is out there, working hard to repair it. Keep the picture below in mind next time you feel a bit of road rage coming on.
If you’ve travelled, or even if you haven’t, what is it that you feel most grateful for? Today it might be our awesome men’s and women’s hockey skills (Go Canada!), but what will it be tomorrow?