Mere traveling does not suffice for the socially and environmentally conscious traveler. Whether it’s your money, your heart, your time or your knowledge – contribute something to give back. Throw philanthropy into the mix wherever you go. You will experience great satisfaction and feel more emotionally connected with your destination.
1. Contribute To Animal Welfare
If you are an animal lover, find out what’s being done in the country to protect strays and contribute in any way you can. For example, CUPA in India and the Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand take in stray dogs, clean them up and find them homes.
2. Encourage Cultural Exchange And Build Relationships
Many people around the world have the wrong impression about western countries and their culture. You can help alleviate fears and misconceptions by sharing the reality. At the same time, learn as much as you can and share what you’ve learnt with people back home.
3. Go On A ‘Voluntour’
You don’t have to take a 2 to 6 weeks break in order to volunteer. Shorter duration programs are available with organizations such as Globe Aware and Cross-Cultural Solutions.
4. Mingle With Locals
Get off the beaten track and mingle with the locals. This will give you an idea how people live in different parts of the world. Cultural exchanges will occur as a result and both you and the locals will benefit.
5. Eat At Local Haunts
Support local economy by patronizing local eating joints. Always check with local people for good restaurants or street stalls instead of checking with other ex-pats or tourists.
6. Shop For Locally Made Goods
Leave the fancy boutique at your hotel and shop at community-based local handicraft co-operatives, small businesses and markets. This ensures that profits go right into the crafts people’s pockets.
7. Hire Local Guides
Language might be a problem but use a local guide instead of an ex-pat or government provided one. Learn to enjoy unique local accents and dialects and enjoy seeing sights that you’d otherwise not know about.
8. Don’t Haggle For Goods Beyond A Certain Point
Some rich merchants will try to rip you off but there are the poor ones trying to make a living. Learn to tell the difference. A few cents extra from you might help feed some poor man’s family.
9. Contribute To Feeding The Poor
During your travel, you will visit many religious institutions that engage in feeding the poor. Contribute a few hours in their kitchens cooking or serving a meal to the poor.
10. Join Volunteer Groups
There are several volunteer organizations that will pay for your food and board as long as you work for them. Try the following: All Hands Volunteers, Peace Corps, Teachers Without Borders, Volunteer Match, Idealist, and Habitat for Humanity.
11. Be Generous
Try to tip generously when you eat at local joints. Some Asian countries use small children to work at hotels and crafts shops. You cannot prevent the child labor, but a few extra cents will help feed their families for a night.
12. Donate to charities
Giving money directly to the poor will only encourage begging. However, you can donate to charities that support specific projects designed to help poor children.
13. Become a WWOOFer
Got a green thumb? Go WWOOFing. You get free food and accommodation and a chance to contribute to organic farming practices.
14. Look For Home Stays
Join couchsurfing.com and put up your profile. You might get to stay at the homes of other couchsurfers, be shown around by them and enjoy a richly rewarding local experience.
15. Join Hotel Outreach Programs
Check if your hotel has an outreach program for guests to volunteer and give back, such as the Ritz-Carlton’s Give Back Getaway program and Doubletree Hotel chain’s Teaching Kids to CARE program.
16. Donate Supplies
Instead of donating money, you can buy supplies such as books, school stationery, school bags and stuff to non-profit organizations. Check with the charity organization exactly what supplies they need and buy them locally.
17. Spend Time With Kids At An Orphanage
Spend some time sharing affection with the kids, telling stories and playing games with them. Check out Visiting Orphans and start some upfront communication with the orphanage to build trust before visiting.
18. Teach English
Most developing nations use English for business and official communication. People living in poor localities don’t speak the language as well; they will appreciate anyone taking the interest to teach them. Start teaching a bunch of kids near your hotel or the local salesperson.
19. Respect Local Customs
By respecting local customs and rules, you will endear yourself to the locals. This will open their hearts to other tourists and promote mutually beneficial cultural exchanges.
20. Do Some Volunteer Work
As a volunteer, you can offer personal assistance to aid environmental, social or educational projects. Orphanages, seniors’ home, home for the destitute – these are all great places to volunteer your personal services.
Sarah writes for an experience booking agent offering 2,000 adrenaline gift ideas for men.
Originally posted 2012-03-03 10:10:01.