What a travel year! We finally got out of Asia – much to my delight. Even though we ended the year back in Asia, thanks to the Hamas-Israel War, at least it’s to new places we haven’t seen yet in India.
The other major war between Russian and Ukraine factored into much of what I experienced in 2023 as American budget slow traveler.
My saddest observation is about the climate chaos, which affects all of us, yet is so divisive I didn’t bother putting it on an end-of-the-year update to family.
10 World travel observations for 2023:
- The major two wars are over land, which provides resources, wealth, nationalist security. Religion, heritage, culture are divisions that distract from the real issue the world over, which is the haves versus the have nots. ‘I, me, and mine’ is not only an American mindset.
- Wealthy Russians dominate the UAE. The Emirates government made it easy for Russians to achieve residency and start businesses. Many of them have military-age sons who might otherwise invade Ukraine.
- The UAE population is 90 percent migrants from developing nations. Young people from India, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, etc., sign work contracts for five years. They earn $500 to $1,000 a month as construction workers, store clerks, office help, etc. That is more than they’d ever earn in their home countries.
- Middle-class Russians are everywhere in Serbia, including many single pacifist men. One man politely said to me, “So, we are at war, you and I.” I was shocked! I adamantly denied it. At first. But he’s right. Our nations are indeed at war.
- Romania and Bulgaria are European gems for budget slow travelers like us (and Russian relocaters!). From Transylvania to the Black Sea, this region has a lot to offer. Russians have flocked to Black Sea beaches for years. But now, they never go home. They bought up so much real estate in Bulgaria that locals deeply resent it. Same story in Turkiye.
- Turkiye has a seething middle class because of the currency crisis. Inflation is through the roof for Turks. Countless young doctors and other professionals left for other countries in the last couple of years to earn more money. The ‘brain drain’ strains Turkish health care and other industries.
- Rising anger against the U.S. policy that enables the slaughter in Gaza made us uncomfortable with our plans for the Middle East this winter. Therefore, we canceled reservations in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.
- Everyone everywhere wants the same thing: a shot at Global North (First World) conditions. A good life with a livable wage, a solid future for their children, security, and dignity. India, now the most populated nation on Earth, is fast moving toward development goals with many major infrastructure projects.
- China’s ‘Belt and Road’ project has made travel difficult in Nepal due to the longest road construction project we’ve ever witnessed. The Chinese contractor ripped apart the entire highway across the country all at once instead of a section at a time. It’s a craterous, dangerous, one-lane drive. The new international airport in Pokhara is also fraught with huge issues thanks to a Chinese contractor. (NYT article here.) These infrastructure projects were supposed to boost tourism, but instead have shackled Nepal with huge debt to China.
My most important observation on 2023
- Climate denialists have won. I’m calling the race as game over. Defeatist? Nope. Just a realist.
I’ve said this for many years about the climate crisis: we are like frogs in hot water. People won’t believe it’s happening until they melt, as vividly described in the dramatic opening scene of Ministry for the Future. You know what they say about how science fiction is spawned by facts…
That unforgettable first scene in the book takes place in Lucknow, India — a country that will be ravaged by the developing climate catastrophe. It’s the country from where I write this.
I’ve seen huge infrastructure projects happening all across India, including many highway construction sites. And why not? Don’t Indians have the right to drive cars, and strive for ‘First World’ status like we did with cheap oil? To buy ready-made, single-use plastic food packages – cheap and easy thanks to oil? Don’t people in all countries have the same right — to the ‘good life’?
Our entire Global North civilization is built and sustained on fossil fuels. There is no civilization – as we know it – without it.
Climate chaos-crisis-catastrophe denialists
So. Climate denialists won the game. They had an unfair advantage. They had the easy, lazy way out.
It’s easier for people to justify record high – and low – temperatures as Earth’s ‘natural cycles’.
The latest denialist claim retold by average Americans who watch slanted opinion media like Fox News is about how dinosaurs lived in times of carbon dioxide levels even higher than today. These misinformed people parrot back the line that dinosaurs did just fine during a time without any planes, cars or home heating.
And that is true. Here is what is missing: the extremely rapid rate carbon dioxide is getting into the atmosphere today.
Dinosaurs lived during gradual increases, when there was time enough for migration and evolution. There is no such time allotted today.
Pour out a bottle of water on the floor by tipping the bottle just enough to splash it down as a trickle. That’s the dinosaur time. Now turn the bottle upside down and so the water gushes at once to the floor. That’s our time. Now.
It’s getting hot in here…
Nearly every day for the last two months in southern India, the temperature has been seven to 10 degrees higher than average. Even locals in Goa and Kerala complain that they’re hot and bothered by nearly 100 degrees with humidity this time of year.
The weather is nuts back in America, too. Temps in the 60s in one region that usually has a cold Christmas. Atmospheric rivers, bomb cyclones, ‘bombgenesis’ and other crazy terms.
These attention-grabbing terms are actually legitimate scientific names for extreme weather phenomena. Journalists took these names from research papers to describe what the hell is actually happening as the climate crisis kicks off.
The end is near…
What’s particularly galling is that denialist leaders aren’t really in denial. They know the end game is going to be a dinosaur event. But they keep the gaslit party going to retain their power.
Spouse Theo started signing off his blog posts on this site with “The end is near.” Why?
Because we see what is happening in the real world as Americans blithely go about their Amazon orders and gas price complaints in their fantasy land, with social and mainstream media blaring in the background.
Sometimes I miss that world from my past. But I know Life is Now.