During my well deserved vacation in December, I traveled to The Dominican Republic for a little over a week, and I can safely say that it was the best decision of my life. Not only was it overwhelmingly fun, but life changing. The entire trip was a huge humbling experience.
It reminded me of two things: a video and an article.
The video I thought of showed people in developing countries read posts from the #FirstWorldProblems hashtag. It is completely mind blowing to see a person living in extreme poverty say things like “I hate it when my leather seats aren’t heated."
Here are a few more reality checks to make you feel even worse:
780 million people lack access to clean water.
Okay, hold on. I had to read this a few times in order for it to sink in.
Seven hundred and eighty million people in the world are unable to grab a cup, walk to their fridge, push the little magic button on the side where the ice comes out, and drink 8 ounces of properly filtered water.
Seven hundred and eighty million people in the world are unable to walk to their bathroom shove the glass door to the side, and take a warm shower while standing on white tiles.
100 million people worldwide are homeless.
Of those, 2.5 million are in the USA.
1.37 million homeless people in America are children under 18.
72 million children of school age were not in school this year.
57% were young girls.
A billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
(I bet you idiots want to learn the difference between their, there, and they’re, now).
Almost half the world, 3 BILLION people live on less than $2.50 a day.
385 million live on less than $1 a day.
1.6 billion people live without electricity.
1.6 billion people rely on sunlight and candles.
No TV, no phones, no laptops.
That is about a quarter of humanity.
1 out of every 4 people in the world.
IS ANYBODY ELSE FREAKING OUT ABOUT THIS?
2.5 billion people do not have indoor plumbing.
1.8 billion people have access to a water source within 1 kilometer, but not in their house or yard.
There are more people with a cellphone than a toilet.
Take a second to stop and think about what you’re doing right now.
In bed? On your couch?
Reading this post on your smartphone /iPad?
Now think about the last time you were upset.
Did you not get a text back?
Was your train a little late?
You couldn’t find your favorite shoes?
Do me one last favor.
Stop your fucking whining you ungrateful piece of shit.
Now, back to my trip to DR.
Walking by houses made completely of wood, with no running water or electricity, while carrying a $600 camera, $400 handbag, wearing $150 jeans and $200 shades really makes you question what the hell you’re doing with your life.
Though I cannot promise that I will completely stop splurging on designer items, I will definitely be more mindful of what I do and say. Too often, Americans take for granted what some countries only dream of. I am guilty of saying things like “I’m starving,” when my last meal was a few hours ago, or complaining about my steak being “too cooked” when I specifically asked for medium rare, and everyone’s favorite: I have nothing to wear.
Today I opened my fridge and a jar of Ragu fell on the floor. I was so upset that I now had to clean up that delicious, meaty, mess that I caught myself saying “Who put this in here? There isn’t space for anything in this damn fridge!” I immediately stopped myself and thought, am I really upset at the fact that I have too much food? Talk about being instantly humbled.
Don’t get me wrong, I practice gratitude every single day and I am very well aware of how incredibly blessed I am, but sometimes it is easy to get too comfortable in your current situation and overlook the simplest advantages you have.
The second thought that my trip reminded me of was an article I read that honored DR with second place in the “Happiest Countries in the World” list. Costa Rica coming in first and Australia, third. (The United States ranked 114). They were able to justify the ranking with a report on happiness and satisfaction with life by a British organization. The “Happy Planet Index” seeks countries with the most content people. According to the report, Costa Rica has the highest life satisfaction in the world, and the second highest average life expectancy. Here are the articles: CNN, DominicanToday, Examiner
Why are the inhabitants of The Dominican Republic so happy? What is the meaning behind the 112 point difference between the latin island and the United States?
The answer is simple: STRESS FREE LIVING.
DR, is obviously run the same way that the USA is (or close to it). They are a Democracy, they have a currency and definitely work for their money. They have the 9th largest economy in Latin America and the 2nd largest in the Caribbean. Putting their amazing weather all year ‘round, aside, what else can possibly be so different? Dominicans do not have the constant social pressure that Americans, especially New Yorkers, face every day. The running up and down and rushing to work and speeding back home is driving us insane!
We talk about the 1%, but the separation of wealth is even more blatant in the Dominican Republic. Walking down the unpaved streets, you will encounter a small one room shack made of cement, and next-door, a private, 3 floor, 7 bedroom house with an indoor pool.
Bonao is a relatively small town in The Dominican Republic. Very similar to New York, it is safe to say that ‘everybody knows everybody.’ However, a big difference between the two cities, besides the more obvious reasons, is that the people of Bonao actually help each other. My family’s house was constantly full of neighbors coming in and out with plates at lunch time. My grandmother would cover bowls of food and keep them in the kitchen for friends or their children. A big reason why The Dominican Republic has the #2 spot as the happiest country is because they’re raising each other up as a community.
New York is for the cold hearted.
Think about it. You wake up, go to work or school, probably do some socializing in between and come back home to lock yourself into your house or apartment. In DR, there is no secluding yourself from society. You spend your days sitting outside in a rocking chair watching everybody pass by, or maybe in a friend’s backyard drinking a few beers.
All of this constant isolation and belief that you have to make it on your own is what is hindering our happiness.
I always want you guys to leave with something after reading my articles, and today it will be this: You are blessed beyond your wildest imagination. I need you to become more aware of your blessings, and I PROMISE that they will double very soon.
There are many advantages that the United States has over third world countries. Electricity, public housing, running water, etc., but the reason why we are more superior is because the United States has dreams.
This is the country where you can literally start from the bottom and make it to the top. The people in developing countries only have one dream, and that is to get by.
Chase your dream, set some goals and demolish them.
You owe it to the rest of the world.
I sincerely apologize if I sounded a little angry in this post, I just will never understand how one person’s life can be considered more valuable than another’s.