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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Barrera

An Authentic Approach To Giving Back When You Travel

Traveling the world is an experience like no other and has easily become something I look forward to for multiple reasons. But there’s one reason in particular that makes going abroad worth it to me. This reason stands the test of time and is the driving force behind what wakes me up in the morning, and keeps me going.

You see, traveling allows you to give back in unparalleled ways.

It forces you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from a different point of view. You start asking yourself questions that matter and no longer focus on trivial things. You challenge yourself to grow and even develop solutions for real-life problems as a result.

Traveling can be an invigorating experience if done right. That’s why I’m sharing some simple guidelines to follow that will help you stay grounded, enjoy the process, and make the most of your trip.

Embrace the culture with respect

Doing your research before you visit a new country is essential to learn the ground rules of the culture. You want to understand and mind the local laws and customs accordingly. What is acceptable vs not acceptable. Are there certain ways you can communicate that will show utmost respect? Are there any non-verbal cues or gestures you should avoid? Do your homework and note the ways you can make a good impression.

Another thing to consider learning more about is the history of your destination. You’ll gain a clearer understanding of how the culture has evolved. This can give you some context into what’s going on in the present moment. Are there any developments that will influence your visit? If so, what should you prioritize, and how can you lead with value? Embrace the places you visit with gratitude and be aware of any news that could be relevant. It’s our responsibility to be supportive and take action where we can.

Connect with purpose

Put your heart into this! Venturing out into new territories is going to take every ounce of intentionality you’ve got. Even if you have no idea who you’ll end up networking with, knowing that you want to connect with others is going to put you in the right headspace.

Volunteering abroad is a good chance to pitch in and make a difference. There are so many options available like Give A Day Global or Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy. Here are some other opportunities to check out:

Maybe you’ve been meaning to get in touch with an organization to donate to or you’ve noticed a specific need that you can fill. Whatever you do, create a plan of action and follow through with it. You’ll never know how much of an impact you can make until you go for it. Some of the best experiences in life come from taking a leap of faith and learning as you go.

Don’t forget about connecting virtually too! Use your social media to educate yourself and bring awareness. You can even take a more targeted approach and follow specific hashtags on Instagram like #crowdfunding, #giveback, or #philanthropy. There’s an infinite list of keywords you can follow depending on how you are looking to support. Try looking up hashtags that are specific to your location or community. Follow them on relevant social platforms and be active. Leave comments, ask questions and genuinely be curious to connect and learn with others.

When connecting online, raising awareness is also key for change and growth to happen. So make it point to intentionally promote organizations, people, and initiatives through posts, shoutouts, or even a short clip on your Instagram/Facebook story. You can easily share what you’re learning by sending direct messages or tagging your friends. Or you could hop on Twitter and share a tweet acknowledging the impact, goals, or stats of issues that are significant. The skies the limit with how you can bring awareness, so get creative and put your own twist on it.

Help raise funds for appropriate causes and any organizations that impact you along the way. Keep your eyes and ears open and think outside the box! Some of the most powerful moves you can make are rooted in doing things on purpose and actively seeking out where to get involved.

Support local communities

Small tight-knit communities are arguably some of the most wonderful groups of people to be around. When you arrive at your destination, I recommend taking a walking tour using a local guide. It’s a great way to establish rapport, build trust, and get an overall idea of the area you’re in.

Support the local vendors and buy their souvenirs. Prioritize shopping and eating locally, and do some research on specific things organizations might need, that are hard to find or can be helpful, and pack those items from the home to take with you. Consider donating or microfinancing to show your support. You can also save your change and money in local currency, and donate it.

And remember you can support through providing your time, expertise, and other resources too. Look up organizations that are nearby and reach out to them. A little goes a long way so don’t hesitate to familiarize yourself with the community and ask lots of questions.

Have realistic expectations

Before you go daydreaming about all the activities and fun experiences you want to have, slow down. Remember the mission and purpose behind this trip. Have realistic expectations about what it will take to give your all. There will be times when you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone and those are the most compelling moments. Despite it being difficult sometimes, this is a part of the process. You’ll discover how empowering it is to put others first and the relationships you build will be priceless.

When it comes to shopping, locals have enough on their plate, so steer clear of bargaining and being inconsiderate of the prices. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to negotiate or ask for discounts. This trip is about them and what you can offer. Not the other way around. Be kind and avoid taking advantage of people. You are in their home now, so acknowledge them and recognize the value they are offering you.

While you are looking to gain experience and create memories during your journey, I’ve learned that being authentic when you travel is also about what you can give. When you lead with value and empower others it makes connecting more meaningful and liberating. It’s a chance to step in and provide help in your own unique way.

Traveling is about what you can give, not only what you can get out of it.

As you venture out, keep in mind that these are people who are sharing their homes with us. So be sensitive and aware. Traveling is a gift and should be cherished. If you do it right, it can drastically improve someone’s life or even a whole community for the better. Just remember to be authentic and always be willing to give your all.

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