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Purpose-Driven Travel: Make a Difference on Vacation

May 16, 2022

Thinking about booking a getaway in the next few months? Of course you are! After spending so much time in our homes during COVID, we’re all ready for a change of scenery.

The good news is that you can get out of town, have fun, and make a positive impact when you visit the destination of your choice.

Eco-Friendly Tourism

If you’re an environmentally conscious traveler, finding sustainable destinations might be for you. According to CNBC, “In order for a destination to be certified as sustainable, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council outlines a list of criteria. It ranges from supporting local businesses, to conserving natural resources, and encouraging visitors to participate in the community.”

This includes destinations within the state of Colorado: “For Vail, the achievement literally took a village. Hundreds of business, from high-end hotels to plumbing companies, collaborated to make the town more eco-friendly. The effort spanned the public transportation, waste and housing sectors.”


Volunteering your time on vacation could also be an option.

“Years ago I went on a biking trip through Italy,” says travel agent Deb Clark with Premiere Travel Planners. “One of our stops was at a local home where the owner and two helpers served us an amazing dinner. I later found out that the couple working with her were volunteering in exchange for room and board. This got me excited about the idea of volunteering while on vacation. Which might also save you money!”

It's important to be thoughtful about where you volunteer, though. offers this advice: “You can ensure your volunteering impact reaches its maximum potential by joining projects that require minimal training or need skillsets that you already possess. When you have limited time to contribute, spending the majority of the experience training eats into valuable work time.”

Here are some ideas:

1. Safari in South Africa, then volunteer with wildlife

2. Learn to surf in Costa Rica, then save the sea turtles

3. Trek in Nepal, then volunteer with homeless animals

4. Explore the Peruvian Amazon, then work to protect it

5. Sail the Galapagos Islands, then help protect them

6. Visit the natural wonders of Bolivia, then defend endangered species

One more thought: “Be careful about what you volunteer for,” says Deb Clark. “I had a friend who thought harvesting olives for olive oil would be a wonderful experience. She later found out that it was more labor-intensive than she thought it would be. She really wasn’t prepared for that.”

Other ways you can be a thoughtful traveler

  • Reduce carbon footprint by bringing reusable water and toiletry bottles and having travel documents sent electronically instead of printed.
  • Be mindful of energy and water usage by taking shorter showers, reusing bath towels, and keeping heat/air conditioning at moderate temperatures.
  • Travel during the off-season or to less popular areas to limit infrastructure challenges created by over-tourism. 
  • Shop and eat locally to support the community.
  • Purchase locally made souvenirs (preferably handmade) and pay a fair price.
  • Honor local customs and immerse yourself in the local culture. (Source)

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