TRUST YOUR GUT — BECOME A PHILANTHROTOURIST
Philanthrotourism is trending. The basic idea of giving back while traveling or on vacation is an increasingly popular concept as the boomer generation approaches retirement and begins to think of how to spend their free time, and younger generations try to meld their regular activities with social impact. Traveling with a purpose allows families and friends to engage in giving through shared experiences across any age range. From defining giving priorities to making lifelong memories, philanthrotourism differs from other types of charitable focused travel (including sustainable tourism, voluntourism, and giving tours). Philanthrotourism asks individuals to think about their resources and skills they can bring to a local community. This type of philanthropy goes beyond the idea of airdrop charity.
Philanthrotourism champions the idea that we learn and receive more than what we give monetarily. In 2016 a New York Times study on voluntourism estimated that there is close to $2 billion in the philanthropic travel market and more than 1.6 million individuals attempting to volunteer on vacation. So how does one do more good when you travel? With limited attention spans and multiple requests made of us constantly, how does one begin to incorporate philanthropy into their upcoming travel, and avoid scams? Here are our suggestions for making the most of an upcoming trip with a philanthropic lens:
Top Five Tips to becoming a Philanthrotourist:
- It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Many people might feel like their whole trip needs to be volunteering or it might not be worth it, but rethink this idea. You should enjoy your travels! But to add value to the local economy and community, you should give back too. Find a day or half day in your agenda and dedicate it to volunteering.
- Ask around. Before knocking on someone’s door, make sure to not just google them, but ask your circle of friends for leads of their own. It is important that someone can vouch for the NGO, whether it is a friend or people online through a forum setting. Unfortunately, the rising popularity of voluntourism has also created a market for eager and unknowing western tourist dollars, so it’s important to do your research besides looking at their website. We recommend that an organization should be in existence for at least three years, that way you know they are sustainable, and that they can offer references from others who have volunteered with them first hand.
- Schedule a call. Many of the NGOs that you might want to visit or volunteer with have a website and many of them do not. It is important to learn as much as you can before you go, and find out exactly how you can give during your time there. This will allow you to ask questions, to build up your trust with their agency, and in general feel them out to see if they are legitimate. Unfortunately not every organization has the capacity for volunteers, and many that advertise that they do, might not be doing it for the right reasons. Transparency and communication are key ingredients as you find the right fit for your philanthrotourism adventure!
- Don’t just give your time. Yes, your time is valuable, but think of other ways that you could contribute. Perhaps, you could be putting your suitcase space to better use by bringing over hard to access items with you — but ask them first for a list of desired items! Maybe, you could connect them with another resource or friend with a business where there could be a natural synergy. You could also give more by simply donating. Their organization and their staff are probably going out of their way to accommodate you, to find work for you, and to make sure you have a good time volunteering, the least you can do is surprise them with a cash donation as well.
- Trust your gut and take the leap. Do your research, figure out your travel plans, ask around, think through what you can give — and then commit to it. Once you get to the country, there could be multiple reasons that come up not to do it, but stick to your commitment. If you are scheduled for a half day or multiple days of philanthrotourism, remind yourself of the impact you can make and equally importantly, the impact it will make on you!