Did you know that there are some easy ways to give back when you travel? We’ve been hearing the plight of the world’s less fortunate for many years now, and yes, each time we hear another sad story we do feel guilty … however, with our busy lives, we quickly forget these awful issues until the next terrible story of suffering emerges in the news. But this time the seed has taken root in your mind - you are ready to make a difference. That’s great news as even one person can help change daily lives for the better, so just what are some of the ways to give back when you travel?
1. Make a Considered Choice
You can help a poor economy simply by choosing the right destination. For many poor countries, the tourist dollar is becoming a way to make a difference. It might be one of the smallest ways to give back, because you are, after all, just one party who has chosen a vacation here, but reputations for being a good tourist spot have to start somewhere. Remember though, generally, if you can afford the initial outlay to get there, less developed countries offer great value for your vacation budget.
2. Stay with a Family
Check out if it’s possible to stay with a family rather than in a resort or hotel. It’s a great opportunity for you to get down to grassroots level to find out first-hand about their culture. It might mean sleeping on animal skin rugs on a mud floor and using basic materials, but this will surely make you all the more appreciative of your own life. You may hear the local school is short of books or computers, or children have to walk many miles to school – all this will help you understand how to help the local community.
3. Visit Local Markets
Before heading into the nearest supermarket, do a u-turn and head for the local markets. Spend your dollars helping the farmers and individual traders. It’s customary to bargain but remember, in poor areas simple-living people need as much money as they can get to survive.
4. Dine Locally
What better way to hang out with the locals than eating in their local ‘off the beaten track’ bars and restaurants? Enjoy their real local, tasty food and listen to their stories and you’ve found one of the most pleasurable ways to give back. Instead of spending your money going to hotel restaurants, you are helping the local economy.
We carry so much clutter with us wherever we go and many of us have too much stuff. One of the most creative ways to give back I have come across is to pack your suitcase with the minimal you need and fill it with clothing you are happy to give away. Then donate it locally. You can even go one step further and fill the space you’ve created by buying local handicrafts and fabrics to take home. That’s double whammy of help for local communities.
Yes. this is the most obvious of ways to give back when you travel, but it’s still so relevant. You can book an entire vacation around a volunteer project, or you can get involved when you arrive at your destination. Make friends with the locals and you could be helping out in the village school or on a farm.
7. Back Home
It’s easy to finish your vacation and go home knowing you have done some good, but it needn’t end there. There are many ways to give back after your vacation if your experience has motivated you to do so. For example, you might start a fund for bikes for kids in the villages you stayed in or raise awareness for old computers to be shipped to schools instead of them being dumped.
If you believe you can make a difference, you will. Injecting money through tourism into poor economies will in the long term undoubtedly bring about social and sustainable changes. And how good will you feel knowing you’ve not only had a brilliant vacation but you found ways to give back?