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5 Ways to Give Back to Local Communities While Traveling

We all love travel, don’t we?

No matter what type of travel you may prefer—whether your happy place is lying on a beach in the Caribbean or trekking up Mt. Kilimanjaro—all of us have fantasies about faraway places and adventurous experiences. But have you ever stopped to consider the impact that you’re having on the places that you visit?

From cheap airfare to budget-friendly lodging and activities, travel is more affordable and accessible than ever before. In fact, an estimated 38.3 MILLION U.S. citizens traveled overseas in the year 2017 alone, and more and more people are embarking on international adventures each year. However, while traveling and experiencing new cultures is invaluable, we often forget that there are people who actually live their everyday lives in the places that we like to visit. So, what are some ways that we can intentionally give back to these local communities while traveling? Continue reading below to find out how you can travel with a positive impact!

1. Stay Local

Traveling abroad can often be intimidating—it involves leaving our comfort zones and entering into a foreign world (and often a whole new language!). So, when we travel abroad, it’s really tempting to stay at a large chain hotel that has a name that’s familiar. After all, it can really ease our travel anxiety to know and trust the hotel where we’re staying in a foreign country, right?

However, these foreign-owned hotels put very little money back into the local economy, and they even put smaller, independently-owned hotels out of business. By staying at a locally-run hotel, you will not only have a much more authentic experience, but you will also be putting money directly into the local community. Not to mention that it also gives you the chance to get to know the locals, who will likely be able to give you recommendations for the best local restaurants and activities. What better way to fully immerse yourself in the culture than by staying in a local hotel that also creates jobs and benefits the community that you’re visiting?

All you need to do is a little bit of research (i.e. check trip advisor and/or other travel review boards), and you can be sure to book the very best (and safe!) local hotel in the area!

2. Eat Local

We’ve all done it, haven’t we? We’ve all been walking along a busy street in a foreign country and passed a McDonald’s and thought, “Well, I’ll just stop in here for a quick burger or a coffee.” While it might be convenient (especially if we’re a little homesick), foreign chain restaurants, much like the hotels, add little to local economies. In fact, as the demand for these chains increases, the demand for local restaurants and cafes decreases, meaning fewer jobs and less income for local communities.

So, when you’re traveling abroad, remember that a great, easy way to give back to the community is to venture to a local eatery—it not only connects you to locals by sending the message that you care about experiencing their culture and cuisine, but (trust us), it’s also going to be much more authentic and delicious!

3. Shop Local

(Starting to see a trend here?) Shopping locally benefits the community you are visiting by providing jobs, supporting local artisans, and encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in their communities. It’s really simple: local businesses support local people, which helps to build a healthy community. And, hey, if you’re going to buy a souvenir, don’t you want to buy one that’s unique and that supports local businesses? It’s a win-win!

4. Volunteer

Voluntourism can be a great way to give back to local communities. Partnering with a local organization that is dedicated to providing a particular service to the community (whether a beach clean-up or an elephant sanctuary), it’s a great way to see the world while giving back! And you don’t even have to volunteer for an extended time—maybe you use just one day of your trip to work with a community group to help clean up a local park. The possibilities are endless! (Just make sure to really research the organization you want to work with to make sure it’s legitimate and provides a much-needed service to the community you’re visiting!)

5. Be Eco-Conscious

Perhaps the easiest way to give back while traveling is simply being conscious to minimize your environmental impact while abroad. Ways to do this might include: renting a hybrid car or using public transportation, bringing a reusable water bottle instead of using one-time plastic bottles, walking or riding bikes whenever possible, choosing eco-friendly accommodations, and traveling with eco-friendly toiletries (ie biodegradable sunscreen that doesn’t harm ocean ecosystems, etc). Always be aware of what you’re leaving behind, and try to limit your carbon footprint as much as possible! After all, people have to live there!

Do you have any other ways that you like to give back while traveling? Let us know in the comments below!