The experience of the authentic and the real is a crucially important aspect of adventuring in other countries, tasting their character, history and ways of seeing. Different places and people can teach one so much about the character and quality of everyday lives and of the culture, and ultimately, the way a country impacts the world in its exercise of policy and its shepherding of resources. In the Old World, these influences come from a timeline of history reaching back thousands of years, unlike our young country of the USA, dominated right now by commercialization and mass marketing. The fundamental synthesis here is that the environment (built and natural) is key to character of place and way of life, and establishes the framework for how a society succeeds or fails in its ability to sustain its existence.
In Croatia and Slovenia, the recovery from their wars of independence is underway with new governments and repaired structures, with a struggle to revive the production of agricultural resources and a marshaling of their ecological heritage. These values come through loud and clear as one travels up the Dalmatian coast, and it's delightful to talk with people about their lives, hopes and dreams.
An excellent series of articles is being published in Stratfor by George Friedman on the Geopolitical Journey, which delves into the exploration of the Eastern European countries around the Black Sea and their bedrock cultures and historical geopolitics. As he says, "Geopolitics teaches us to think in terms of constraints and limits. According to geopolitics, political leaders are trapped by impersonal forces and have few options in the long run." This means that political vision is shaped by culture and the land and its resources. Which hopefully leads us to the conservation of resources to the benefit of each society and its descendants, which is what sustainability is ultimately about. These countries are currently experiencing the consequences of war which drains life and vitality out of these regions, and takes generations to rebuild. Perhaps that makes their way of life so much more dear in the face of limited resources and counterproductive global fiscal structures.
Jared Diamond constructs the same thesis about the availability of resources across the equatorial land mass in his book, "Guns, Germs and Steel", and the impact that has on human history, which is the written record of human migration and conflict. The land and its configuration, resources and character have a direct impact on political structures through the availability of food, water, minerals and energy due to the unique way in each environment that its population has to solve the habitability challenges and food supply needs.
So it's important to experience and understand what these places and their resources are about. It helps us solve the complex problems that seem to be simply ideological or profit-driven, and get to the heart of the resource and land management issues that drive how humans live on their land and experience it, use it, and conserve it for future generations.