In American society (and in many other western cultures) holidays for those privileged includes trips to the Seven Wonders of the World or closer to home and not so far away to far away places (or so they seem to a child growing up)


I grew up in a middle high class family with two working parents who could afford to travel on holiday to nearby locations. We were fortunate and blessed to have grandparents who lived in the California Wine Country. A little place called Healdsburg. And, with other relatives who owned a ski (water and snow) cabin in Meeks Bay, Lake Tahoe.  Each summer and winter Mom and Daddy would pack us into the car, load up the supplies for great beach bbq’s or backpacked lunches , fill the tank with the cheapest gas available( yes, it used to be 50cents a gallon). We would then head off for a weekend to weeks holiday with family and friends.


However, for some of my more affluent neighbors and classmates from Atherton, Stanford, Palo Alto, Los Altos , the  ideal holiday locations included Hawaii & Mexico ( closest to home), Myrtle Beach and Coney Island ( on the USA east coast) , the Bahamas ( further south east) , and Greece, Turkey, and Italy (a more far flung exotic location). Those blessed with the extra cash travelled by air with less belongings and more pocket money.


I have reflected many times on these childhood memories, my own and the September “what you did on your summertime holiday” stories of classmates. And, it is with deep understanding that I acknowledge my fortune for being privileged to be born and educated in the west. I had the ideal childhood, with loving parents, in a safe suburban home. I was god blessed.


But, what may surprise you is that I have learned that poverty has privilege, too.

The privilege is that that far away place that we in western society yearn to visit is the home to many who have very little. In every island country I have spent my expatriate career helping—– presently the Philippines parents, children, and families join on weekends and school holidays to celebrate life. Just as we did


They do it in the same way we from the west do. They make their way to the beach front with what ever food and drink they have. And, they act creatively.  With nothing more than the clothing on their back, they gather the earths belongings and assemble shelter from the sun to laze away their days by. They use palm trees, nipah branches, refuge wood, and grass scrubs for shelter. They seek out and find the best swimming hole or mountain path, or waterfall to enjoy together. Some stay for the day, others stay overnight. They burn bonfires and watch sunsets and moonlight. They talk story and tell tales. We whether from affluence or poverty are more similar than different because we all yearn to be playful, to be free of entanglements, to be together in peace with loving friends and family.


But the difference of their privilege is that aside from local transport ( jipnees, tricycle, bus, etc), their holidays are free. These people with nothing more than a few worldly belongings find the same pleasure bathing, swimming, frolicking in water than those with full purse strings who can pay for the same pleasure.


Cash in an island community is not needed. Only a strong body ready for a longer journey on foot rather than a short gait from house to garage to car.


However, it is the simplicity of the poorest people that makes me believe they, not western society, are actually more privileged on one concrete level.  They expect less.

And many live without the complex expectations of having more. More holiday, more things, more dinners out. When they go home, they go home to family gathered close together not far away. Grandparents, adult children, grandchildren, siblings live on the same road or down the road within walking distance. Close enough to see and call on in times of need or times of joy or just to pass the time of day. They talk, they walk, and for the more fortunate they eat a healthy meal a day. The reality however is that not all are so lucky to have three meals a day of more than a rice bowl and that is where on the most basic and primitive level their fortune is less.


Despite this fact, when I look out my porch to the beach below, I know that not all is so bad in a developing nation. There is a sunrise and a sunset and the hope for another day because family and friends are minutes walk away…..


In what we from the west call paradise……..


  1. The very crux of your writing whilst appearing agreeable initially, did not really settle properly with me personally after some time. Somewhere throughout the sentences you actually were able to make me a believer unfortunately only for a short while. I however have got a problem with your jumps in logic and you might do nicely to help fill in those breaks. If you can accomplish that, I could undoubtedly be fascinated.

  2. Thanks for the post 🙂

  3. thanks for interesting info! hi from DC 🙂

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