As a follow up to the post a few days ago about Transparency International and their annual Corruption Perception Index, today we will discuss the issue of corruption in a little bit more detail, focusing specifically on one of the most visible byproducts of corruption: bribes. Bribes can come into play just about anywhere and can range from petty shakedown attempts for a few extra bucks to graft in the thousands of dollars. Depending on where you travel in the world and what mode of transportation you are taking, bribes may come in different shapes and forms and be initiated by different types of people. In the case of The World by Road, bribes usually came from street and traffic cops, and anyone who has driven their own vehicle through a foreign country, especially in a developing county, has almost certainly been flagged over and been accused of some falsified infraction that is easily forgotten or overlooked for a price.
As a backpacker, vacationer or tourist, travels are often not as affected when it comes to corruption. Without your own personal transportation, in many cases the wheels are already greased by the bus company, tour operator, or tout that is helping to get you through the craziness of less developed countries. Whether a seasoned overland driver, hitchhiker, or weekend vacationer, Transparency International(TI) provides an invaluable service to help plan the next adventure on the list. The latest 2010 corruption perceptions index is a colorful, interactive system to give the latest reports on which countries are abusing power the most. Read more
People often ask me why my idea of fun consists of going up into the mountains and running for several hours at a time. In part, I enjoy the physical challenge and the sense of accomplishment, but another significant motivational factor is that when I escape into the depths of the forest, it’s quiet. Technological advances have made it easier and faster for us to access information, but a barrage of information is now projected in our direction in a bandwidth that’s deafening. In these modern times, it seems as though quiet has become a luxury.
I recently came across an interesting article by author Pico Iyer in the New York Times entitled The Joy of Quiet. Iyer has noticed a similar trend, citing internet rescue camps in South Korea and China for kids addicted to the web, and how he finds refuge in a Benedictine hermitage where he periodically retreats to drown out the excessive noise of the information age. In his own words, “nothing makes me feel better – calmer, clearer and happier – than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music.”
Bulgaria. Whenever I mention I’ve been to Bulgaria, I’m surprised by a common response: “Wow, I’ve always wanted to go to South America, it must be nice.” Bulgaria, not to be confused with Bolivia, is tucked away in the southeast corner of Europe and easily makes up for what it may lack in name recognition with a deep and fascinating history, diverse landscapes and a culture rich in tradition and hospitality.
My first exposure to Bulgaria came in 2007. On The World by Road, Bulgaria represented the gateway to Europe. The newly inducted member of the European Union offered a change of pace, culturally, from months spent driving through the Muslim oriented countries of Central Asia. It wasn’t until I saw a Christmas tree in Bulgaria that I realized what time of year it was. Unfortunately, our stay in Bulgaria was short, but my curiosity had been sparked and I vowed to return one day to explore more of this intriguing country. Three years later, I fulfilled that vow and Bulgaria didn’t disappoint. Read more