So, you’ve bought your round-the-world tickets, or are jetting off to some exotic location that no-one you know has ever heard of (I can still tell people that I lived in Honduras for a year and they will reply with something like: “what state is that in?”). You have your slick new hiking boots and are out to do more than just travel; you want to “experience” your chosen destinations. At the same time, you are eager to give something back to the people and places that you will meet along the way as well as being sure that you leave no adverse impact. We would like to think we are reasonable proponents of this type of travel, and so have written a few pearls of wisdom on the subject.
We are big advocates of volunteering, of helping out those in need, whether in human or animal form. Apart from just doing your bit, it can give you an immense sense of self-reward. We have done (and will do more) numerous posts on different volunteer organisations we have worked at, from schools in Peru to animal shelters in Guatemala, so read the rest of our blog if you’re interested in that! But, giving back and “experiencing” can take many more forms than just volunteer work. Little day-to day things can add to your own growth, and may mean a lot to someone else too.
We love shopping at markets. Getting amongst the local stall owners and shoppers to buy fresh produce and knick-knacks as well as to just simply feel the vibe is a lot of what a trip is about to us. Be sure to learn a bit of the local lingo and have a chat with someone on your shopping adventure. I’ll never forget the lady in Oaxaca who was selling grass-hoppers from a giant bucket, who offered me half her lunch when I asked the best way to eat them. It was delicious. We had a good laugh and she won herself some business. Much better than visiting a foreign owned fast-food outlet charging way too much and leaving me feeling sick.
Spend a moment on thinking where your money is going. Is it benefiting those that really need it, or are you just feeding some mega-rich mogul the final few dollars he requires for his sixteenth hummer? Remember that in many third-world countries a ridiculously tiny percentage of people own a ridiculously massive percentage of wealth. Use some common sense and you will leave safe in the knowledge your hard-earned is now with someone deserving of it.
If you prefer to travel in tour groups, suss out one that offers more than just a ride in a bus where you see everything from your window and where the only local that you will meet is your tour guide. Adventure time? Consider responsibletravel.com who, as the name suggests, encourage responsible travel. We noticed that a particular Turkey Holidays included an Archaeological Sailing Cruise, something we would get excited about. (For those who don’t know Jess is an archaeologist and Jamie is just a nerd). For a belated Valentine’s Day theme, there is even a Honeymoons page.
As a final thought, Jess came across this quote from “rockstar” American travel writer Tim Cahill : “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Despite never having read this quote before, it is our official travel motto! It’s often not the places you see that you will remember, but the people you meet. It is they who truly make the experience.
Got any more hot tips on “experiencing”, giving back and leaving without a hint of a negative trace? Hit us up on the comment section below.