7 Ways to Give Back While You're Traveling
Love to travel? Then you have more than likely joined the 3+ million Americans who travel internationally each month to explore the plethora of adventure, beauty and culture that abounds throughout the world. From wind-swept treks up mountaintops to sun-filled, white pristine beaches and deserted oceanfronts, all of us have our own version of fantasy getaways.
But while filling our soul and satisfying our curiosities by indulging in travel, it’s also possible to give back and perhaps even leave a destination a bit richer than when we arrived. While exploring and experiencing new cultures can enrich our lives, what about the lives of the people who actually live in the places we like to visit? It is possible to make a positive impact along our journeys through the simplest acts of generosity. Through the giving, the actual travel experience will become richer and more meaningful. Why? Because it’s always more fun to give than to receive! What impact are you and I having on the communities that we visit? Consider the following ways that we can intentionally give back as we travel, leaving a meaningful imprint along the way:
1. Travel with touring companies that contribute a portion of their profits to the community.
When planning activities and organized tours on your travels, why not book with an organization that allows you to travel and make an important difference in the community? By choosing a company that doesn’t exploit wildlife or vulnerable peoples, hires local guides and gives a cut of the profits back to the community – your trip can definitely have a more positive impact!
Here are a few suggestions to get you on the “right road”:
WE.org started not a travel company, but as a company to change lives. In the last 20+ years, Craig and Marc Kilberberg have created some of the most soulful and exotic experiences in global travel. With WE.org you can actually experience hands-on giving back as you immerse yourself within the villages they have helped build in Africa, China, India, Nicaragua and Ecuador. https://www.metowe.com/trips/
An organization called Epic Road offers luxury safaris to places like Africa and Antarctica with the goal of leaving a positive impact on the place you visit. Actively take part in wildlife conservation. Microchip and track an endangered black rhinoceros. Bottle-feed an orphaned baby elephant. Provide much-needed school supplies to children in Tanzania.
Similarly, India’s Reality Tours offers tours that include experiences like visiting the slum areas of Mumbai. A huge percentage of Reality Tours profits are reinvested in areas such as these, promoting community growth and sustainable tourism. Take time to indulge in the rich spices and exotic foods, colorful ceremonies and ancient architecture that permeate the soulful and diverse country.
Volunteering has become so popular as a form of travel that it has it’s own term -
“voluntourism”. Voluntourism gives visitors the opportunity to leave a tangible mark on the
community they visit by working on environmental, educational or social projects during their
stay. And you don’t even have to volunteer for an extended time—maybe you use just one day
of your trip to work with a community group to help clean up a local park. The possibilities are
Partner with an organization that is dedicated to providing a particular service to the community
such as Planeterra, which organizes voluntourism projects around the world. Or consider the
positive impact you can make by working with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village volunteer
program to construct affordable homes or rebuild areas affected by natural disaster. Habitat for
Humanity offers organized trips to over 40 countries to help local communities in places as near
as Hawaii and as far as Guatemala, Ethiopia, Zambia, Vietnam or Macedonia.
One word of caution – make sure that the organization that you are volunteering for is
registered and credentialed in the area that you visit. Unfortunately, in response to
voluntourism’s growing popularity, scams have sprung up, so do your research.
3. Support local business.
- Eat local. Everyone must eat! While it might be easier to walk into a McDonald’s or TGI
Fridays wherever you are, but when you choose to eat at a local restaurant, that money
provides jobs for community members and allows local business owners to thrive. Choose to
hang out at a corner café for your morning coffee or grab lunch from local food stands.
Eating local sends a message that you care about the people who live there and their
economy. The bonus for you? Local food is fresher and tastes better primarily because it
hasn’t had to travel half way around the world! Also, trying traditional foods is a great way
to taste a small part of the culture.
- Shop local. Similar to eating local, shopping local is a better option for both you and the
community you’re visiting. If you love the place you’re visiting enough to buy a souvenir,
why not buy one that’s authentic and supports local businesses? The goods you purchase
from local businesses and artists are bound to be more interesting and unique than the ones
you can find at the chain souvenir shops. Plus, buying local gives jobs to members of the
community and encourages new entrepreneurs to invest in their community. Shop locally
and spread your money among the many different shops and stands throughout the village
or neighborhood you’re staying in.
4. Patronize businesses that donate proceeds to local needs.
In many well-traveled areas of the world, there are businesses like hotels or restaurants with a
mission to improve the lives of the local people. Many businesses have been started by former
tourists to the area who have chosen to transform their lives and become social entrepreneurs.
Often the quality of the service is excellent with the added bonus that beneath the surface, they
give all their proceeds to a social mission.
One such example is a cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia (home of Angkor Wat) called Common
Grounds. On the surface, they serve coffee and sandwiches. Beneath the surface, they are
supporting a local children's home that also provides vocational training to locals.
5. Use public transportation.
For those seeking to minimize their impact on the environment, use public transportation in
cities and buses or trains to reach new destinations. Bring a water bottle with you and fill it with
clean water wherever possible to avoid buying bottled water. You can also buy carbon offsets to
mitigate your environmental impact for the miles you will travel. You will also get to walk a mile
in local shoes, which often leads to incredible experiences.
6. Donate locally
Leave extra room in your suitcase and bring some much-needed supplies to donate to the
community. The charity Pack for a Purpose helps you to find out what is needed in the area you
are visiting – whether it’s school supplies, medicine or any other essential that might be hard to
get. You bring the supplies with you and leave them with your hotel or tour company when you
arrive. They will then be passed along to the relevant school, clinic or project. Plus, you can fill
the now-empty space in your suitcase with souvenirs and crafts made by local artisans!
There are countless organizations where you can contribute a relatively small amount of money
by Western standards and change someone else's life immeasurably. Organizations like Kiva
Microfunds allow people to lend money via the Internet to low-income entrepreneurs and
students in over 80 countries. Kiva's mission is "to connect people through lending to alleviate
poverty." Visit their website and choose your “borrower”.
One of my favorite quotes is “Generosity is the Virtue that Produces Peace.” In this fast paced,
complicated world that we live in, travel is a way to escape. Imagine how much more
meaningful your adventures could be if you were giving back at the same time!
All content provided in this blog is supplied by Nancy Spears and is for informational purposes only. Barclays takes no position as to the views, and makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.