One of the biggest privileges that we have in life is to travel. Adventures that we experience while traveling are some of the best memories as well as learning experiences in our lifetime. In the recent past, the traveling community has been buzzing with the usage of new words such as “Voluntourism”, which basically means giving back to the places where you travel. With social consciousness on the rise, people are increasingly interested in combining their vacations with some volunteering efforts.
While the idea of giving back to a foreign land in a short period of time might seem challenging at first, we can give you some tips to help you to go make a difference during your travels. Some preliminary research will be required while you will be planning your itinerary, to include visits to local NGO’s and other social organizations.
In case you haven’t the time to contribute considerable time and effort to one cause, there are various other ways this can be done if you want to give something back. Essentially, giving back refers to leaving a destination in a better shape than how you found it through conscious environmental and social practices.
Here, we have listed 5 practices for you to adopt to do your bit for the community while traveling:
1.Consider a “Voluntour”
You don’t necessarily have to dedicate a couple of weeks of your vacation to volunteer for a cause. Voluntours are essentially trips that are organized around the idea of volunteering and have a shorter trip duration. A few of the most popular programs include programs by Globe Aware Organization, which offers assignments for a week in places such as Vietnam and Ghana. There are other cross-cultural solutions as well that provide an option to work with children and elderly in countries such as Tanzania and India.
If you have more time to spend, Planeterra has a huge list, country by country to explore different opportunities. You can take part in interesting initiatives such as building a school in South Africa or helping on an organic farm in Ecuador.
Unfortunately, owing to the rising demand for voluntourism across the world, some underhanded organisation have seized the opportunity and are fooling people. This is why you need to spend some time researching beforehand.
2.Give food and other things to the hungry and destitute
Most of us have many religious places in our travel itineraries, whether we are traveling to Europe, Asia or the United States of America. These may include churches, synagogues, mosques and temples which are all great tourist attractions for their intricate architecture and rich heritage. However, we should also keep in mind that these institutions almost always operate soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless and needy.
This should definitely be one of the things on your list if you intend to give back to the community during your travels. It’s rightly said that there is no act that is nobler than feeding a hungry mouth. This will also give you an insight into the poverty-struck conditions of the less fortunate in the country you are traveling in. You can sit with the homeless, talk and make them laugh. This will surely brighten up their day as well as yours.
3.Support the local businesses
In the face of capitalism and the sprawling global chains everywhere, local artisans and businesses have suffered huge losses. Tourists are often charged higher rates than normal, but these profits are not passed on to the local artists and are withheld by the shopkeepers.
We recommend that for your souvenir and artefact shopping, you can locate artisan villages or cooperatives and purchase items from them directly. If you purchase local items directly from the people who produce them, you will not only end up investing in the local economy while shopping, but also save substantially.
You can choose a local hotel for your stay as well as forego the multinational chains for eating and decide to eat at smaller, family-run restaurants. This way, you pump up their business and also get to savour the authentic indigenous flavours.
4.Choose a tour operator who is socially conscious
This is a way by which you can give back without spending any extra, by choosing a tour operator who is socially conscious. There are many eco-friendly travel companies that have come up since 2017 that ensure lighter and sustainable traveling. They have many offerings, from conservation projects and off-grid lodges to inclusive safari tours that help the local communities.
An example is G Adventures, a company that stands for responsible travel, and has partnered with Planeterra Foundation, a charity, to create and support social enterprises around the world that help communities in need benefit from tourism.
5.Spread Awareness after reaching home
One of the most important components of traveling is being an ambassador for where you are. If you have the privilege to travel, it means that you automatically become an honorary ambassador between your country and where you’re visiting. Likewise, when you return, you are an honorary ambassador of the place you visited to your home country.
By acting as the middle link, you can educate both sides and make the world a smaller and a peaceful place. A great idea is to throw a fundraising dinner. For instance, if you visited an orphanage in India or a hospital in Vietnam; you can impart your enthusiasm to others by organizing a slideshow for your friends and family.
After listening to your stories and looking at the pictures, there is a higher chance of them making a donation themselves, which can make a world of difference to such organizations.
Apart from the points mentioned above, one thing that you should always ensure is to give back to the environment while traveling. Make it a point to not litter and where possible, even pick it up when you see it. It’s extremely saddening to see cans of Coke on a hiking trail and see the nature and environment being taken for granted so often.
There are many travel gadgets that you could purchase to help you in this regard. One such example is the Scrubba Wash Bag, which has a flexible washboard, is lightweight, fits into your pocket and will let you do your laundry anywhere on the road, without dirtying the rivers or streams. It is high time we start making informed choices as travelers and make the world a better place.