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Discover & Learn

Whenever you travel, the goal should be to leave your destination better than before you arrived. This can be as simple as making conscious choices about what you buy and where you stay, to creating meaningful change by donating time and/or money while you travel.

Wherever you’re headed on your next adventure, consider blending your travels plans with making a positive difference — either through small choices or big commitments. Here are six ways you can make the world a better place while you explore it.

1. Volunteer Your Time

“Voluntourism,” where travellers volunteer their time on a community project, in exchange for an immersive experience in a new country and/or culture, has gained in popularity over the last decade.

Giving back while you travel lets you make a difference in the lives of others as you explore the globe. Plus, offering up your time, money and compassion may make for a more memorable travel experience as you connect with people and places in meaningful ways.

Before you book, it’s important to do your research. Check online volunteer forums, and work with a reputable organization to be sure you’re having the kind of impact you want to have.

Habitat for Humanity offers the opportunity to volunteer abroad in nearly 30 nations through their Global Village trips. You get to experience the country like a local, while you support Habitat’s home building efforts. You may build houses, water sanitation systems, help in disaster recovery, take on home repairs or work with vulnerable populations such as the elderly or disabled.

Me to WE also offers volunteer travel opportunities for students, families, adults and corporate teams. You will be placed into a community’s story of transformation as you work side by side with community members on a WE charity development project — such as helping building a school or a health centre.

2. Ride, Run or Climb for a Cause

Interested in exploring new places as well as your personal limits? There are some fun athletic ways to raise money for a community or cause while seeing the world at the same time.

The RBC Race for the Kids, is a series of 17 charitable runs supporting children’s causes, including Australia, China, Malaysia, Barbados and more (over $47 million has been raised so far). Discover stunning vistas on foot, with courses that take you along the Manhattan waterfront or London’s historic Hyde Park.

Why not consider planning your next family vacation around one of these 17 destinations? (Many of them also let you run with your dog, so you can REALLY get the whole family involved!). You can raise money, train for your 5K or 10K walk/ run and do it as a family, showing your kids the importance of giving back and exploring the world.

There are also tour companies that specialize in charity adventures. The concept allows charities to raise money while offering adventures in inspiring destinations. Charity Challenge and Huma Challenge (powered by World Expeditions) are two companies that operate out of Canada and offer tours — such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, hiking the Inca Trail, cycling through Europe, trekking across the desert and more. You can choose your challenge as well as your charity. Just keep in mind that the commitment level may be hefty, both in terms of the amount of money you’re expected to raise and the physical challenge you’re pledging to take on.

3. Collect Funds or Goods Before You Go

Is there a specific city, country or region that’s captured your heart and imagination? Do some research into the community’s needs and challenges, and raise funds or collect goods while you’re at home. Then while you’re visiting, you can personally deliver the resources to help a school thrive, a hospital provide better care, or a village access clean water.

This approach takes some advance planning, and some pre-travel outreach — both to your network and the community you’re interested in helping. After all, you’ll want your efforts to make the biggest impact possible.

4. Eat Where the Locals Eat

There are a few significant advantages to eating at locally run restaurants. First, you’ll have a more authentic experience and get familiar with the taste and textures of the area you’re visiting. Second, you’re keeping your tourist dollars within the local economy, helping to sustain and lift the community hosting you.

Finally, dining in locally run spots means you’re eating foods sourced and harvested from nearby farms and fisheries, rather than relying on imports from abroad. Not only are you reducing your carbon footprint, your food will be far fresher!

5. Consider Local Accommodations

While it may be tempting to stay with a brand you know and trust while travelling abroad, often little money spent at chain hotels remains in the community you’re visiting. Consider instead researching smaller guesthouses or inns run by locals. Not only does this help keep money at the community level, but it may also help other local businesses supporting tourism in the local economy.

And when you stay in a local establishment, you often get to know the people who work there — who can be a great source of information! They’ll know the best places to eat and visit, and may be able to hook you up with local tour guides to give you the inside track on the culture and traditions of the community.

6. Be Smart About Your Souvenirs

No doubt you’ll want some keepsakes from your adventures. Consider buying at the community level — markets and small businesses — to help ensure your money goes to local artists.

While haggling is part of many cultures, if you find yourself negotiating with the locals, be sure to pay a fair price. Remember paying a little extra for a handcrafted necklace will likely go a long way in helping an artisan care for their family.

As you think about how you want your efforts to take shape, be sure to research the communities, organizations and opportunities ahead of time so that you can have a lasting, positive impact.