Making a difference while travelling
Whether it’s smiling at a stranger, helping someone with their bags, giving food to the homeless or just complimenting someone on a piece of clothing, it all goes a long way to making someone elses day a little bit special.
I’ve done lots of these little things and I still try to continue them in my day to day life even when I’m not travelling. I’ve also taken steps in the last decade to be a more knowledgable traveller when it comes to tourism and what is good and not so good for other people, wildlife and the environment.
This month’s travel blog linkup is a goodie. It’s all about doing good while travelling, whether its me doing good or someone who has impacted on my travel with random acts of kindness. I thought I’d touch on a bit of both to spread the warm fuzzies around.
Knowledge is power for good
Visiting less-happy spots
These are all very difficult places to stomach, some which left me crying uncontrollably. Yet, I have never regretted visiting any of these locations. Each place has educated me in the harsh reality of life and has made me appreciate life more and be mindful of the terror that can occur.
I believe I owe it to the people that endured these terrible events or died in these places to understand what happened. I think it is important to share my knowledge and help prevent these things from happening ever again, in any small way possible.
Eco tourism and volunteering
I’ve seen countless documentaries, read books and try my best to stay up to date where possible with what is going on around the world when it comes to wildlife, eco tourism and volunteering.
Sidenote… If you still think it is okay to ride elephants, google ‘breaking an elephants spirit’ and see if you still feel the same way.
Sadly a lot of these places you can’t do enough research on until you actually go and visit them to be sure they are places actually doing good for the wildlife and not just taking advantage of them and making money.
I’ve volunteered in two wildlife sanctuaries, one in Namibia and one in Ecuador and have various views on each. The tricky thing to remember is that these places get volunteers by allowing them to interact with animals, in turn they make money which may or may not go towards helping wildlife and their safe release into the wild. The best thing for the animals is not to interact with people (because it makes it more difficult for them to be released into the wild and understand their animal instincts), but without that volunteers wouldn’t come.
When I volunteered in Ecuador on the edge of the Amazon, the wildlife centre only allowed volunteers minor interaction (feeding etc.) with the animals that could never be released into the wild. Any new animals would go into quarantine and only be handled by the vets.
However, there was one time in Zimbabwe that I visited a lion breeding program, thinking that it was doing good for the lions and releasing them. It was not until I went and ‘walked’ with the lions that I realised that this program is decades off their plan of release and may never actually do that. Meanwhile these lions are being bred and tamed, they will never make it in the wild.
I do believe in drives around national parks in places like Africa, where all the animals are wild and free, humans don’t interact with them, but get to experience their natural habitat and learn about the animals. Park rangers try to protect the wildlife in these areas from poachers, but otherwise human interaction is minimal. As long as people aren’t leaving rubbish in the campgrounds to doing anything detrimental to their habitat, then I think this sort of tourism is a positive thing for these countries.
Small acts of kindness from others
I’ve been very lucky on my solo travels to come across some pretty special people. They may think their acts of kindness were so small, but when I was all alone lugged a 20kg+ backpack everywhere and dealing with illnesses that resulted in time in hospitals, the little things made all the difference.
The typical trusty bus driver in South America.
This was generally an older man who I would signal to with hand gestures (I didn’t know the Spanish words for ‘can you please help me with my bag?’) that would come over and lift my backpack onto my back for me. Saved me finding a kerb or park bench to jimmy my backpack onto my back.
Fellow hotel buddies.
Jonny, if you’re reading this thanks for carrying my backpack to the bus station in Bariloche. It really made my day when I’d spent so long managing that heavy thing myself.
The hostel staff at La Cupula in Copacabana, Bolivia.
They went out of their way to fill up a hot water bottle each night for me and even refused to let me carry my backpack down to the bus station when I left. So kind — highly recommend anyone visiting that area to stay there!
The American spa owner/therapist that plucked spikes from my foot.
The Galapagos Islands and a guy with tweezer having a go at my foot. Need I say more? Okay maybe… Several sea urchin spikes broken in the top of my foot on a boat laking medical knowledge and equipment. Cheers (sorry?) Marco!
The American guy who spoke fluent Spanish.
Greg, who came with me to a hospital in Colombia to translate and help try get a decent document for my travel insurers to allow the sea urchin spikes to be removed from my foot without returning home… it didn’t work and I made sure to pay for a decent dinner for us that night, but at the time it felt like a weight off my shoulders.
The list could go on, there are some amazing travellers and hotel/hostel owners out there (and some horrible ones) when you give them a chance you can really be wowed by their generosity and kindness.
That’s my roundup of people that have made a difference to my travels and ways I’ve tried to make a difference for the good of others when I travel too. How do you make a difference on your travels?