Do Good, Feel Good – Traveling with a Purpose

August 30, 2022

“Traveling with a Purpose” is the second in a series of Do Good, Feel Good blog posts highlighting ways individuals and families can impact their community and the world.

Our mission at BDF is to help clients enjoy a full life. And for many, that involves travel. And while travel certainly provides an escape from everyday stress and makes us “feel good” mentally, physically, and emotionally, what if we could also “do good” simultaneously? In other words, what if we could travel with a purpose?

What is impact travel?

Impact travel is a way in which we as tourists can ensure our journeys positively impact the places we visit. It is, in fact traveling with a purpose. And it is also a growing trend in the travel industry. According to an American Express Travel global trend report, 78 percent of those surveyed said they want to positively impact the places they visit, and 81 percent want to make sure the money they spend on travel goes back to the local community.

How can one travel with a purpose? 

There are many ways in which one can engage in impact travel.

  1. Book stays at socially and/or environmentally conscious hotels, resorts, and lodges. Some hotels purposefully donate to certain causes or give back to their communities through charity events or a percentage of fees they charge guests. “Eco-friendly” hotels attempt to lessen their carbon footprint by using solar energy, recycling, eliminating plastics by having smart locks or mobile keycards, and reducing water usage by encouraging guests to reuse towels.
  1. Support local businesses. When I travel, I try to do less “touristy” things. I like to eat at local restaurants, stay at non-chain hotels, and buy gifts and souvenirs from local artisans. Doing these things makes me feel like my travel dollars are going more directly back into the community. During a recent trip to Rwanda, I visited the Nyamirambo Women’s Center in Kigali, an NGO providing education and vocational training for women. In addition to offering very informative neighborhood walking tours, the center also sells clothing and other accessories made by local female artisans.
  1. Participate in eco-activities. There are many enjoyable activities one can do while traveling that do little damage to the environment. Stargazing, hiking, and glamping are some examples. Safaris and visits to animal sanctuaries are fantastic ways in which to see incredible wildlife in their natural habitats, as well as a means of learning about animal and environmental conservation. While African safaris can be expensive, those tourism dollars create jobs for locals who often provide the labor for safari lodges and help prevent the poaching of wildlife such as elephants and rhinos.
  1. Travel at off-peak times and to off-beat places. When you travel at less popular times of the year, you both avoid crowds and actually engage in impact travel. Many destinations suffer from over-tourism, which is bad for the environment and locals whose quality of life can be diminished from the crush of too many travelers. One example is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which is so over-touristed that much of the spectacular reef has become bleached out from too many snorkelers and divers. Another way to make a positive impact is to “take the road less traveled.” Choose small villages over big cities and seek more adventurous destinations. Some of my best travel experiences weren’t to the Paris’ and Rome’s of the world but to places that don’t rank high or even appear on most travel bucket lists.
  1. Engage in voluntourism. Voluntourism is a form of tourism in which travelers participate in volunteer work, typically for a charitable organization. This could involve building homes (Habitat for Humanity), digging wells so people have access to fresh water, or teaching English. Voluntourism is a way to enjoy far-flung parts of the world but also to give back at the same time. However, voluntourism can have a downside as, in some cases, it can do more harm than good. Volunteers are often inexperienced. It can drain local resources and disrupt local economies. And it can lead to the exploitation of children. This is particularly true with orphanage tourism. While this type of travel can bring a lot of money into orphanages, it often leads to children being forced to entertain tourists to encourage donations and support. So, when deciding to volunteer as part of travel, it is important to associate with reputable organizations and charities that consider these potential abuses.
  1. Just get back out there traveling. The global pandemic put a halt to many of our travel plans. It also had a sizable negative impact on global tourism as a whole. Worldwide tourism is a multi-trillion-dollar industry cut nearly in half in 2020. That decline had the biggest effect on countries whose economies rely heavily on tourism. By just getting back out there and traveling, we are doing our part to revitalize the industry and positively impact the lives of thousands of communities and millions of people around the globe.