19 Dec 5 Ways to Give Back When You Travel
International travel is one of life’s most underrated privileges. Large sections of the world’s population do not have the financial means to fly and see other countries. Some of the most enchanting destinations in the world are in places surrounded by desperate need. Many travelers struggle to reconcile the beauty of breathtaking location with the strenuous existence of the locals. There are ways you can have a fun experience but leave the community in a better place.
1. Use Public and Local Transport
Public transportation models vary greatly from country to country. Identify the means of public transport that puts back the most money into the hands of locals. For example, as opposed to using an international taxi service like Uber where a fee goes back to the global behemoth, look for that struggling independent cab owner with an old beat-down car. It may cost you more but you’ll be making a bigger impact.
In some parts of the world, motorcycles are a means of transport over shorter and more random routes not easily served by trains, buses or taxis. They are not only nimble but also employ young men and women fighting to escape poverty.
2. Teach a Basic Skill
If you’ll be in a country for weeks or months, consider teaching locals a skill that would otherwise be out of their reach. Perhaps parents are too poor to send their children to school. Maybe it’s adults who dropped out of school and no longer have the time to formally go back to school. Whereas it’s easy to see the education needs, it’s harder to see exactly what you should teach.
Some subjects such as mathematics and science cannot be covered adequately over such a short period. Teaching a language is often the most practical option. In particular, English is the language of international business. Apply for a TEFL certification beforehand so you are equipped with the tools necessary to impart knowledge in the shortest time.
3. Support Local Business
Humans love predictability. It’s a risk management mechanism that compels you to stick to the tried and tested. When you travel, you’ll be naturally drawn to brands you are already familiar with back home. Unfortunately, doing so derives you of the great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of locals.
As opposed to frequenting the Walmarts and KFCs of the world, make a deliberate choice to go to family-run restaurants and stores. One of a tourist’s greatest fears is product and service quality. This is a legitimate but often exaggerated concern.
The vast majority of independent small and medium-sized businesses around the world offer products of equal or near equal quality as bigger brands. That being said, go to stores that are popular with locals as this means they have a good reputation.
4. Support Social Entrepreneurs
Social entrepreneurship has been gaining ground in recent years. These are businesses that do not just make money but do so to support a specific cause. The cause could be supporting a children’s home, responding to a natural disaster or constructing a school.
The product offered by the social enterprise may be more expensive than what’s available in the market. Yet, the fact that this is money for a good cause should be reason enough for you to buy. For example, the Kenya Red Cross established a high end hotel to finance its activities. There are many lower cost hotels in the vicinity but some tourists will stay in the Red Cross-owned hotel because of the ideals it represents.
5. Champion a Local Cause
Doing something for the community while there is great. Even more impactful is identifying a local cause and continuing to champion it long after you leave. One of the best examples of this is wildlife conservation. Iconic species such as elephants and rhinos have seen their numbers greatly diminished due to poaching.
This is something that you can have a bigger impact on when back home than you would on location. Fundraise, spread awareness and contact local politicians. As a person who has seen the situation first hand, you are likely to be a credible voice to the people around you.
International travel is fun. It feels even better when you know you’ve left a place better than you found it. The best part is it doesn’t take much to do good. Purpose today to be a tourist who does good.