The pandemic has taught us a lot, wouldn't it be great to extend those lessons into normal life? If you want to make your travel more meaningful and you're keen to prolong the kindness you’ve experienced during the pandemic, then here's what to do on holiday...
Pick an ethical travel company, one which cares about local communities and the environment. Most firms claim this sort of conscience, but do they have a published charter or list of accomplishments? In the UK, great examples include Much Better Adventures, Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, TravelLocal and Sunvil Holidays.
Alternatively, look for firms which let you travel differently. The African safari which includes a day at a local NGO. The respectful slum tour in Mumbai. The cycling tour which doubles as a food-delivery service for people living in remote locations.
Are there any volunteering opportunities in your chosen destination? This needn’t be the classic go-to's such as teaching English; there could be a weekly beach clean you might join, or sea-turtle conservation work. Ask your hotel or tour operator for suggestions.
Choose that destination carefully. Places which have been rocked by natural disasters or suffered especially badly in the pandemic will really benefit from your visit. Obviously you want your holiday to be pleasurable, but do also consider the boost it might bring.
Though the science on this remains somewhat murky, carbon offsets ought to mitigate the environmental impact of your travel. Ethical.net offers a comparison of nine providers.
Before you travel
Leave space in your suitcase, not only for souvenirs (see below) but to pack supplies for local communities. Pack for a Purpose has advice for what to bring per destination.
Bring a water bottle, reusable coffee cup and tote bags to decrease your use of plastic.
When possible, turn off your water and power so as not to waste resources. Pass on unused foods rather than chuck them away.
While you're there
Support local businesses wherever possible, including independent restaurants. This way, your money goes directly into the local economy, rather than to Starbucks’ or KFC’s CEOs. Even better if you can reward real artisans instead of buying cheap tat.
A good policy to adopt is that of leaving a destination’s natural landscape exactly as you found it. That covers not stealing seashells, not dropping any litter, not bottling colourful sand, and so forth.
The most direct way to help is via donations. Should you notice a local problem—lots of stray dogs, say, or begging children—check if a valid-seeming charity or NGO exists to help them. Alternatively, the nonprofit Kiva offers a chance to make microloans to entrepreneurs around the world.
Make an effort to delve into and understand the local culture. That way, you will be better able to sell the destination—if you liked it—after your trip, and act as an ambassador. Personalised recommendations carry huge weight, and the more passionate and informed, the better.
After your trip
Another means of donation comes by handing over unused air miles. Most major airlines have suggested charities or nonprofits to which frequent-flyer account members can easily pass on air miles.
If you really enjoyed a restaurant or hotel, write a glowing review of it to boost their profile. (Perhaps ask them, at the time, which review site generally makes most difference to them.) Consider social-media shout-outs.
If you have inspiring photos of a beloved destination, why not make them your desktop photo or screensaver; it might catch a friend or colleague’s eye, and lead to their visiting.
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