When it comes to travel wisdom, a vacation is what you make of it. It can be the realization of a lifelong dream, have the power to overwhelm or transform, and sometimes, it can explode a bit of magic into our lives in a way that we never thought was possible.
The positive experiences we encounter on our travels are what change us forever. Finding that bit of magic however can be difficult if you don’t know where to look for it.
Good news - sustainable travel is trending
Choosing the route of responsible tourism, “voluntourism” or eco-tourism seems to be an ideal way to reach the perfect positive-vibes vacation, while also making an important difference in the place where you visit. This trend continues to peak in popularity as travellers yearn for a more ethical, feel-good trip. It’s a chance to still leave your everyday life and travel the world, but this time you get to become a sort of superhero for a week.
Is there an obligation to give back?
As the demand for ethical tourism rises, travel industry partners have had to adapt. Should the industry have an obligation to give back though? I think so. If a company is gaining profit from visiting a destination, it only makes sense to give back in some way. No one is entitled to the destination after all. Plus, it’s a kind gesture that shows they are grateful for being allowed to share the profits of the land, and says “thank you for letting me see, touch, feel and experience your home.”
Here are some of our favourite travel companies that cherish and celebrate philanthropism, all while offering more enriching travel that connects us with the places we visit.
Not Just Tourists
Not Just Tourists is a Canadian not-for-profit organization that collects surplus medicines and medical supplies for use in countries where resources are scarce. Canadian travellers volunteer with the company to deliver these suitcases filled to the brim with much-needed supplies to hospitals and clinics in the destination. Each suitcase is about 22 pounds and worth about $200 to $300.
According to their website, as many as 225 suitcases have been sent abroad to places like the Caribbean, (Cuba was the destination that inspired the founders to create NJT), Latin America, Africa and Asia since the late 1990s. Between suitcases and medical missions, the organization's own initiatives and collaborative partnerships have delivered a whopping 30,800 pounds of medical supplies.
There is a massive amount of medical supplies being wasted here in Canada and now those can be donated to a good cause.
To get through customs, they send medical supplies instead of medicines so the suitcases are usually filled with things like gauze, bandages, surgical instruments, masks, gloves and more.
As other organizations focus on handling large-scale medical inventories such as wheelchairs or examination tables, Not Just Tourists helps to fill a gap by accepting only equipment that can fit into a suitcase. They could send supplies over to the country in a container, but their objective is to create personal connections between the person travelling and locals. Interested in getting involved?
To learn more, click here
Another truly philanthropic travel operator is Trafalgar. Their guided vacations offer insider experiences, enabling their guests to really connect with the place they are visiting. Just as important (we think), are the opportunities for travellers to give something back. Trafalgar contributes a continuous effort to support sustainable tourism through their partnership with the TreadRight Foundation, as well as their own #TrafalgarCares program, which focuses on creating a difference in each place that is visited.
The places available to travel to within the Trafalgar Cares program range from Hawaii, San Francisco, Thailand, New Zealand and Great Britain. Each trip offers a unique opportunity to connect with locals and learn about their culture, food and environment.
New this year, Trafalgar guests will have the opportunity to visit a TreadRight and #TrafalgarCares Heritage Initiative in Perugia, Italy which supports women artisans - Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti Cooperative.
Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti Cooperative
Depending which destination you choose, your trip generates income for: local farmers and organic restaurant owners, a village in Thailand, the National Trust in the UK which works to protect historic houses, gardens, monuments and ancient ruins, and the Indigenous Land Corporation which provides economic development, employment and training for Aboriginal people.
It is obvious that the company invests in the communities they visit through their Trafalgar Cares program, but they also make a difference by supporting local businesses, building schools, helping to reduce deforestation, raising money for charity, among several other green initiatives.
When vacationing with Trafalgar, you get to visit the must-see sites but also get to enjoy real and genuine experiences.
If you're interested in travel with a purpose, find more information about #TrafalgarCares here:trafalgar.com/trafalgar-cares/on-your-journey
One of the largest volunteer abroad organizations in the world, Projects Abroad, is also a great example of a company committed to responsible travel in all of its forms. They offer voluntourism projects to Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. This includes opportunities to teach students language, arts and sports, intern abroad at medical centers, contribute to National Park conservation efforts, help dig at an archeology site plus many other general care projects.
Since the founding of the company in 1992, more than 60,000 volunteers have gone to assist in thousands of projects around the world, with an average of one month of free work in some countries that need help the most.
Projects Abroad normally places their volunteers with local families which provides the hosts with a regular income at an above the market rate. This enables them to afford additional benefits such as education and health care, as well as develops a deeper cultural understanding on both sides.
Possibly one of the most attractive aspects of the organization is that they also cater to specific age groups offering unique project options for teens, young adults in their gap year, university students, professionals and those over 50.
Their positive influence hits close to home as well. They have annual conservation and tree-planting projects of their own and are leading advocates for shark conservation and the Tore Eikeland Foundation.
For more information about what projects are available, click here: projects-abroad.ca
Do you think the travel industry has
a responsibility to give back to the places it travels?
Give us your opinion - comment below - or tweet Myriah
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