Making It a Better Place

part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge Project

This week, we’re challenging you to make plans to give back. You don’t have to do it this week, or this month, but find a way to give back to the earth or to the local community (even your own) sometime this year – and tell us about what you plan to do. Share your best ideas for caring for the earth and her people, including things you already do when you travel or at home.

there’s no way to gold plate the ugly truth: i’m a selfish traveler. no, it’s not like i outright exploit the places and people i visit, but in a sense, i do. i take, take, take (and, since we’re being honest, i have no compunction about eating at fast food chains). i fully enjoy the culture, the man-made and natural beauty, the hospitality of the people, and the most i ever give back is a smile and a thank you (at least, in my defense, in the local language). in terms of the environment, sure, i prefer walking and public transportation to cars when feasible, and i always do that thing at the hotel where you don’t get your linens/towels changed every day. but that’s about the extent of it.

Lion cubs

even though i went on safari last year and never felt closer to nature, i didn’t leave a changed man. there was no *ding* light bulb moment.

it wasn’t until recently, january, actually, that i started giving much thought to “paying it forward”, so to speak. it was a confluence of factors (actually probably more than i can remember for this list): a friend who was in the peace corps twenty years ago going back to namibia to visit, a twitter chat (i think it was a #TNI) about responsible travel to which i had no good responses, and a kids segment from german TV about world water day.

Restoration of some hardware

which got me to thinking about those animals in africa and the ancient temples of cambodia that i was fortunate enough to visit in the past year.

how can i not want to save these? am i really that conceited to think that the world is just my oyster? is it right for me to be flippant about those who work in the tourism industry in the places i visit, and beyond that, the people who i don’t come in contact with, who may not be so lucky as to have a tourism-funded job (in places where it’s lucrative), or a job at all?

yes, they say that charity begins at home, and i’m not against that. but for me, giving back to places that directly give me so much joy and inner fulfillment just seems right. plus, what better way to get connected to a destination?

31 loans in the past five years

the most i’ve gotten involved in international aid (probably not the best way to describe it) is with kiva, where i’ve made 31 loans with the same $100 that i put in a little over five years ago (i just keep reinvesting). but this is really very hands off, a bit too easy. just a couple clicks of the trackpad every couple of months and i’m done.

what i’d like to do, one of these days, and i’m officially adding it to my bucket list and then some pinterest board, is short (or long, i’m open) peace corps assignment. i’ve known several RPCVs (heh, i recently learned the term: “returned peace corps volunteer”) who have all said they had amazing times. ever since spending two years away in germany for grad school, i’ve been itching to have another long-term travel opportunity, and something like the peace corps, where you spend a sizable amount of time away, while doing good, fits the bill well.

i’m not in a position currently to do so, job-wise and relationship-wise (he recently came back from a year abroad), but one of these days. in the meantime, though, i will research volunteer opportunities for places that i plan on solo visiting. i really don’t know what’s out there for destination-specific voluntourism, but there have to be options. it’s a small first step, but at least my eyes are open and i’m beginning to feel compelled (some may call it guilt?).

i didn’t intend for this to be such a long post, but i’m glad i was able to put my feelings into focus.

i’m no michael jackson fan (nor do i particularly enjoy kids, since i’m being so honest in this post), but i can’t get this song out of my head.


4 Comments on "Making It a Better Place"

  1. Good for you! I too have been a supporter of Kiva and love the feeling it gives me to help others in need. I did branch out though and volunteered in an orphanage over Christmas in Peru and hope that is just the beginning. I do not have kids myself but there is something so incredible about helping kids from another country. The smiles and hugs you get are so rewarding. The one thing I found in looking for opportunities is that most programs our out of sight expensive and 75% of that money never seems to reach the people in need. If you look, you can find places that will let you volunteer for a small or no fee. It’s just takes time and research but there are opportunities out there. Here is a good site for S. American. I found that every time I hit the road, I’m always looking for what opportunites are available for me to join in with. Here is another web site that is also great to look at for a multitude of ideas. It ranges from helping someone build a boat , to helping pick grapes at harvest time in Europe, to restoring a home in Tuscany and so on. I like this idea of volunterring because you really get an in depth cultural experience. There is a small fee to join but then you have access to the whole data base of contacts. I think the world is changing and travel is now more about people and not just the destination. Let’s all lend a hand!

  2. Sorry I forgot to leave the second web site. Here is is.

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