First world problems in a third world country

This first post after a long dry spell seems like I’m starting over from scratch. I’m at once filled with lots of things to write about and nothing to write about all at the same time.

A week ago I returned from both a fantastic trip and an incredibly frustrating trip to Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

I got to travel with a great team. We met up with absolutely awesome colleagues who currently call Papua New Guinea home while I was in country for a mere blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 8 days. I ate grubs and tried cooked bat and sat in the presence of saints who have dedicated themselves to making sure that their community has the Bible in a language they can use and understand. It was a personally and professionally stretching trip, and I am absolutely grateful for the experience.

But the travel was awful. Truly. I do not wish our travel “situations” on my worst enemy. On the way there, nothing except our first and last flight went according to plan (there were 5 flights before we reached our destination). On the way out, I had to leave a team member and friend at the airport because of ticketing issues. Nothing says “Travel Logistics Expert” like leaving a man behind. (Good thing I don’t aspire to that title.)

I completely understand why some people are tempted to deck the ticketing agents.

And then a brick of guilt hits my stomach, because I’m essentially complaining about the privilege of traveling. I have a job, and this job affords me the chance to swim in the Pacific at the beach in Wewak and walk around the beautiful city of Brisbane and visit dear friends in California on my way back.

In the grand scheme of things, my travel complaints feel petty. But at the time, and to a smaller degree, even still, they are real stressors.

How do you balance frustrations like these—what some people may label “first world problems” because they’re unique to the privileged masses of the developed world? At the same time, they’re hallmarks of the life we live, and on a very real level, they are very real problems.

I read this article recently that started my thinking along these lines. While this particular piece is from the perspective of a mom who wants to raise her children to be self-reliant and self-aware with a healthy view of the world at large, I think in some ways there’s something in it for all of us. How do we stop whining about things that don’t matter? Or do we need to? Who even gets to decide what matters and what doesn’t?

In light of all this, answering the honest and inquisitive question of “How was your trip?!” is a bit hard to do. The trip was great. I have to focus on the mountain of good things that came about from the trip. Otherwise, I start the dangerous downward spiral of negativity. And no one needs that.
P.S.—Hopefully I’ll provide a more detailed report on the trip sometime soon, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for it.

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5 thoughts on “First world problems in a third world country

  1. Sounds frustrating for sure and definitely kind of like a catch 22. As frustrating as the situation is, the opportunity and the fact that you’re there should be appreciated.

    Ultimately though, it comes down to the fact that things didn’t run smoothly and that’s something that anybody can relate to. For you it was flights, for others it’s something else. When something doesn’t go according to plan, that’s frustrating regardless of what it is.

    Way to look at the positives from the trip though, focus on that! : )

  2. Welcome home!

    I resonate so deeply with this post. The legitimate travel frustrations when you get paid to travel the world. The inability to really answer “How was your trip?” because it doesn’t seem like anything we say could do justice to the experience or the country.

    I’ve never left a colleague in an airport, although I wished I could, so there’s that.

    Five flights is no joke. I listened to a Stuff You Should Know podcast once about air travel and I think we lose a lot of brain cells up there. Hope you at least got to see a good movie or two.

    Another great post. Keep up the writing!

  3. Well said. It was good to see your photos today and for the return of the …left behind. I feel this way about Facebook. We (royal we) only post the fabulous, the witty, and the pretty-can sure make a girl feel inadequate. I am glad you are back.

  4. I love this post and NYC can be a little like this … when I find myself screaming … “Why do I have to be exposed to this?” could be anything from a homeless person using the bathroom outside (#2… #YIKES) or could be a townhome in TriBeca that I know I could never afford. So the thoughts go both ways.

    I was doing some research for a project I am working on and I came across an article about the people of Denmark and them being labeled as “the happiest people on earth”. As I dug a little deeper and found that there were allot of factors (health, environment conscience, etc) but the one thing that made all the different was their view of expectations … or the fact that their expectations were low. You remember sitting next to me when I was introduced with lots of “options” and it drove me crazy for weeks… I think there is something about being exposed to the possibilities that has us adding problems to our life because …. “this is not what I expected” — I don’t know how to UNdo what we have been prevued to but it is something to think about… and based on where you’re coming from really reflect on how far you’ve come.

  5. Great post, my friend. Been feeling so many of the things you expressed in here. As in, WHAT?! I have to wash all my dishes by hand?!…you know, first world “problems”. Oh how my heart needs to be molded. Thankful for the honest and encouraging post.

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