After retiring from long careers or the job of raising children, many people look for ways enrich their lives through other activities. Traveling is one activity in which many active adults indulge. Now seeing sightseeing and trying new foods is always fun, but sometimes folks are looking for a deeper, more fulfilling experience when they travel. This type of travel comes in many forms.
As tourism extends into bio-diverse hotspots around the world, there is potential to harm. The influx of large groups of people spurs development which in turn can accelerate land degradation, loss of forests and wetlands, erosion, the risk to wildlife habitats, and the introduction of non-native species. If not controlled, after time the reason why people wanted to come to a pristine area is gone.
Sustainable travel is conducted to not only educate visitors about environmental issues but also to support conservation efforts to guarantee the area is protected for future generations. This not only applies to the land, water, and air conservation, but also to cultural preservation. When tourism is managed irresponsibly, development has the potential to worsen income inequality and result in the loss of cultural traditions and language. Indigenous communities are particularly negatively impacted by poor tourism management.
Ask these questions when traveling:
- Do some businesses only cater to tourists?
- Do vendors sell tacky souvenirs instead of local traditional handicrafts?
- Do the restaurants offer typical local cuisine or food that caters to the tourists’ tastes?
What can be more fulfilling than helping out in a community that you are visiting? Like volunteering at home in your community, there is a sense of giving back and satisfaction in leaving a place a little better than when you arrived. Volunteer travel can give people a sense of purpose for their trip. With this type of travel becoming increasingly popular, a little homework will help to ensure your volunteer work is benefitting the community you are visiting.
Understand Development and Aid – Not all organizations that offer volunteer travel, including non-profit organizations, are doing work that ethically aids in the development of the communities and ecosystems where they take volunteers to work. Learn about the organization and the projects they are doing – not all Western volunteers and ideas are helpful to a foreign community.
Choose a Good-Fit Program – Assess your time commitment and personal motives. Can you work for a week or several months? Is your focus on the volunteer work or seeing the sites? If you only have a short time to volunteer consider spending your money in the locally owned establishments in the community instead. This infuses money into the local community without any expense of hosting a volunteer.
Research Opportunities in Your Area of Interest – There are many areas of volunteering. Are you interested in conservation, teaching, medicine, construction, etc.? Find an organization that handles volunteers in a field that you already have an interest. Then match that with available time and location.
Ask plenty of questions:
- Where is the money going? – What percentage of the money do you pay actually go towards the community?
- How does the organization work within the community? – Have they asked the community if this project is something they want or need? Is there any follow-up or continued support after the project is done?
- What is expected of the volunteers? – What is the nature of the work? Is there support for the volunteers on the ground?
This type of travel is related to the other two, but instead of free labor travelers are asked to make a monetary donation towards a community project such as a school or hospital. The donations are either optional or may be included in the price of the tour depending on the organizing entity. In some cases, tourists are asked to make a donation for a piece of equipment or supplies. Once again, check out the organization and verify how the donation is handled and who gets to decide what projects are supported – is the decision left up to the community?
Check out the Philanthropic Tourism information on Kathe Kline’s podcast “Rock Your Retirement” where she interviews, Diane Valenti. Diane is the founder of Llama Expeditions, which gives private guided trips to South America. In the podcast, she discusses how philanthropic tourism has become her passion.
Are you looking for an active adult community? Check out The Tapestry in Garner, NC by calling 919-772-4663.