I fancy myself at least a somewhat conscientious traveler, and I know that it’s always important to give back when I can. Not only is it a thoughtful, respectful contribution (yay karma), but it also just plain feels good.
Even better, giving back is simple, regardless of whether you’re in the middle of a round-the-world or stuck on the sofa at home, dreaming of your next trip to the airport (well, maybe not the airport itself, but you know what I mean).
There are a ton of different ways to contribute to this great world that we’re exploring. The list before covers just a few possibilities, for both when you’re at home and on the road. As always, feel free to chime in with your own ideas!
Giving back while at home
1. Become a host
If you’re in the middle of an adventure hiatus, why don’t you bring the travel to you? If you’ve ever couchsurfed, rented an apartment, or stayed in a bed and breakfast, you know that many people go great lengths to share the comforts of their home with travelers. Wouldn’t it be nice to provide the same for someone else?
Being a host can be time consuming, and it isn’t for everyone, but it can also be hugely rewarding. You get to meet people from around the world, share your expert knowledge of your own hometown, and make lasting connections. Who knows, the next time you visit your patron’s hometown, they might offer you their home!
This may seem like a “duh” item to have on the list (and, in fact, it appears again on the second list below), but it’s an important one! If you’re not up for hosting, you can still stay connected with the travel community while at home. Odds are that wherever your home base might be others travel to it from time to time. Often times they might not know the best places to eat or sights to see. By volunteering as a tour guide, you can help visitors experience the best your city or town has to offer.
You can help make this happen by getting involved with your local community projects, or even by becoming a local tour guide. Many of the same places that allow you to list your room will also allow you to reach out to travelers for coffee or tours. Another great resource for this is Meetup.com.
Another volunteer option can be found with the attractions themselves. Are you into the art scene? Most museums have fantastic volunteer programs. Do you prefer outdoor activities? Look up your local and state parks, and see if they’re hosting volunteer days for clean-up and trail maintenance!
Okay, this is so simple there are literally zero reasons why every single person reading this shouldn’t be using it right now. The Unicef Tap Project is dedicated to donating water to those in need. If you’ve done extensive traveling, you know that clean drinking water is often hard to come by, especially in certain impoverished communities. Help these neighborhoods out by following three simple steps:
1) Pull out your phone
2) Go to uniceftapproject.org
3) Set down your phone
That’s it. The longer you go without touching your phone, the more clean drinking water is donated (currently, ten phone free minutes = one day of drinking water for one person). It’s a fantastic little system that not only benefits those in need, but also encourages us to disconnect for a few minutes.
Giving back on the road
I told you this one would be back. In many ways, volunteering abroad is even more rewarding than volunteering at home. Whether you opt to help out on someone’s farm through a WWOOFing program or simply wash dishes and bartend at your hostel, it’s an opportunity to say thanks to the travel community at large (and often score cheaper accommodations). You also get the chance to immerse yourself more fully into the culture of wherever you might be, and see how the locals live.
2. Teach English (or any other language)
This doesn’t necessarily apply everywhere, but there are plenty of places that are in need of English tutors. Some of these are paid gigs, some are volunteer-based.
The great thing about this is that it can be mutually beneficial, especially if you’re trying to learn the local language as well. It’s a great way to meet people, and you don’t have to be confined to the traditional idea of literally teaching a classroom full of students. Instead, you can meet for coffee, for dinner, or even over Skype.
3. Keep it local
Stay away from the WalMarts of the world, tempting as they may be. Local shops, restaurants, tours, and lodging options are often the only livelihood of local residents. Not only are you helping them, but you’re also guaranteeing yourself a more authentic experience. Shop in the local market, stay at a local bed and breakfast, or book a walking tour that is hosted by those who grew up right in town. It’s worth the extra effort of finding them, trust me. And often times they’re cheaper as well!
Like I said earlier, these are just a few options and resources. There are many, many ways to be involved with the travel community.
What are your favorite ways to give back, whether you’re traveling or at home?