Wealth and friendship on the road

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro, Panama

The official currency of the Central American nation of Panama is the U.S. Dollar. If you buy a house, a book, or a stalk of bananas, you use the dollar. George Washington’s body may have been laid to rest in 1799 in Mount Vernon, but his image lives on in countless nooks and crannies of the world—including in Bocas del Toro, Panama, where this photo was taken.

One of the most powerful aspects of travel is that it introduces people from one socio-economic level to those of another—something that, unfortunately, doesn’t happen often enough back home. Through these interactions people sometimes even become friends. But what does deep friendship look like between people who inhabit starkly different socio-economic worlds? Friendship can seem easy and uncomplicated on a surface level, but when a person with little access to money has to decide which of his children to put through elementary school (while all of yours will go to graduate school), has to watch his spouse suffer from an ailment that you would not because your insurance would cover the thousand-dollar medication, or can only imagine through your photographs and stories what a week-long holiday in another country would look like, what is friendship? How does friendship navigate the economic chasm between two people?

Though this is just a playful photo, I thought it symbolic of how money can separate people on the road, even people who wish to be friends and in many ways are.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | September 24, 2009
Category: Images from the road

3 Responses to “Wealth and friendship on the road”

  1. Lindsey Says:

    That is a slightly touchy subject and a tough one to wrap your head around. Often with encounters on the road, international or not- people all have the same universal need of food, water, and shelter. Having seen the bottom slime in the barrel of my own native country, and having once tiptoed the delicate rim of high society/economic status before being pushed off. I have a personal deep rooted distaste for money and the stigma surrounding it.

    Cultural mixing has been trickling constantly over time because of travelers, people just like us, who searched exotic lands leaving bits of customs in the wake. Ultimately creating a butterfly effect where the familiar American dollar and English language has over thrown the globe in a massive tide wave for power. Results that have paved over beautiful customs and wiping out native language in niches far more flung then we may realize.

    It makes me cringe, even more so when reading the news of how some people are dealing with the burden of ever growing economic stress, and the serious demoralization taking place of basic human values.

    True friends, memorable encounters or connections, be it any country, regardless of social statuses, economic status or otherwise, are genuine because of common connections. People relating on the same level, with a similar experience to compare.

    A friendship heavily jaded by money, I will venture to say, is often rather shallow and scattered with the hint of greed. I’ve found, in my own travels that people who have very little money will often share whatever else they have openly and generously.

    On a mono a mono level, the chasm need be filled no different as would the gesture of pouring a glass of water for your new found companion.

  2. Libby Says:

    mono a mono? monkey to monkey?

  3. Lindsey Says:

    It is spanish for ‘Hand to Hand’