That desert, Rajasthan, India
At Space In Your Case, it goes without saying that we’re huge fans of travelling. Adventure awaits, as they say, and who doesn’t love getting away from it all and recharging batteries. Over the last few months our travel research has opened our eyes to some incredible experiences, but recently my attention has been caught by some destinations I might not have previously considered: places where travellers can really make a difference and give something back, all whilst having the experience of a lifetime. With Space In Your Case’s Penny currently away with Comic Relief in Kenya, now seemed like the ideal time to highlight some of the good that can come out of travelling with a conscience. Penny says:
When I travelled to Tanzania with Comic Relief, to meet and interview women for International Women’s Day, who had benefitted from business training funded by Comic Relief, I also caught fleeting glimpses of the country as a tourist might. Joachim was our guide and project manager out in Tanzania, he was so passionate about the beauty of Tanzania, and told us tales of waking up to elephants in his Grandmother’s house in the Serengeti, and of the white paradise beaches in Zanzibar you can sail to during the day, but vanish by night. It made me so determined to visit this magical land as a tourist, via a responsible agent. It is my dream to take my children on safari there.
I share Penny’s dream; one of the most beautiful things about a small, locally led wildlife safari is the abundance of knowledge by the people on the ground. Responsible Travel call this travelling like a local, and they are as keen to protect the locations from mass tourism as they are to provide an incredible experience. Their website talks about preserving nature, as well as the investments their operators make in local community initiatives that improve the lives of those living there. This should certainly be Penny’s next holiday!
On November 8th, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines killing 7,000 people and wrecking whole communities. For a country with a large tourist industry, the disaster was double blow, disabling as it did travel investment to the area, and slowing down the speed of their recovery. Travel that Matters has a huge array of reasons why you should visit the islands – the fact there is a Fiesta somewhere in the Philippines every day of the year was enough to make me want to go! And with stunning beaches, wonderful seafood, and friendly people, travelling with a conscience feels like it would be so easy.
India, Nepal and Ethiopia:
Houseboat in Kerala.
I stumbled across Village Ways in my research for responsible tourism and spoke to David about their ethos of giving something back to both travellers, and their hosts. He describes their tailor-made trips as an inspiring experience that is perfect for families. For older families, walking in the Himalayas (with porters to transport your bags!) will take you to remote villages where fresh local food is prepared for you in simple but comfortable rooms. Or you can take possession of a houseboat in Kerala, visiting villages where your investment will really make a difference. David says:
What families love is the immersion in the local community. People will be so warm and welcoming, inviting them into homes for tea, and wanting to meet them. You get a real insight into how people live in these beautiful, remote places. Sometimes, people will be invited to help out in the fields picking crops or bringing in the hay, and your local guide is so helpful explaining things and acting as interpreter.
Devastated by a crippling earthquake in 2010 that left 1.5m people homeless, the island has been rebuilding not only its infrastructure, but also its facilities and services to attract tourists, including the newly formed ‘Tourism Police’ force, dedicated to keeping visitors to the country safe. Haiti still has a poor reputation for comfortable and safe travel, and that’s understandable given its recent history, but it seems to be back on the map for the more intrepid traveller, and the country is targetting tourist money as a way to get back on its feet and stop relying on international aid. Lonely Planet has good tips on travelling safely to Haiti.
More ways to invest in local economy while you’re travelling:
- Buy local: large tourist shops often have big price mark-ups that aren’t passed onto the original artisan. Seek out locally produced crafts and souvenirs of your holiday, so the investment goes back into the local businesses.
- Choose an ethical tour operator: Reality Tours in Mumbai will organise individual or group tours that show travellers the real people of the country, with 80% of profits invested into education and development programmes in the areas they promote.
- Get hands-on: If you pick the right safari tour, you’ll be asked to hunt for your own dinner with nomadic tribes, take part in conservation projects, or help to micro-chip rhinos in a bid to reduce and deter poaching. Epic Road run safaris in Africa and Asia, and even the Arctic, to get closer to nature than you’ve ever been, and have tailor-made adventure for families as well as couples and groups.
- Volunteer: Global Vision International have myriad ideas for travelling with a conscience. From marine conservation in Fiji, to teaching English to novice monks in Laos, you will come home with a unique experience and you’ll have definitely given something back!