5 Ways to Make an Impact While Traveling
Updated: Feb 17
Travel changes you. And as the number one bucket list item for most individuals leading towards retirement, how can you make the most of the travel you do? How will you impact your spirit, the world, and the people you meet? It doesn’t need to be complicated. But awareness of the choices you make is key.
According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), for every US$100 spent by tourists, only US$5 stays in a destination’s local economy. If you want the money you spend on travel to stay in the places you visit then you may want to consider looking into social impact travel when you plan your next adventure.
Social impact travel is a growing trend in the travel industry that aims to support local economies and make a positive impact in host communities.
This new trend centers on discovering local cultures and respecting the cultural, economic, and ecological environment. People are increasingly seeking immersive local cultural experiences that are respectful, ethical and sustainable.
This trend has taken many different forms, depending on the preferences of the traveler.
Locally-sourced tourism emphasizes supporting local businesses to benefit the local economy rather than large multinational corporations. There are different degrees to which you can participate in locally-sourced tourism. Travelers can opt to eat at family-owned restaurants or restaurants that support local farmers, stay in AirBnB's or locally-owned hotels, and utilize local travel guides rather than international agencies.
“I would like to see people more aware of where their food comes from. I would like to see small farmers empowered.” - Anthony Bourdain
From farm-to-table dining experiences to classes and stays in historic bed-and-breakfasts inns to buying locally-made souvenirs to bring home to your family, there are a multitude of ways you can become a locally-sourced traveler that boosts the local economy.
Learn how to find great local things to do in any destination.
Culinary Tourism, also known as food tourism and gastronomy tourism, engages individuals to broaden their understanding of a culture or lifestyle through foods. They embark on tours that not only expand their palate but educate them on the link between food and local customs. These travelers search for authentic culinary experiences that expose them to new tastes, textures and traditions.
“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald's? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?” - Anthony Bourdain
One of the most famous culinary travelers had been former chef Anthony Bourdain. He took us to places unknown and places off the beaten path, all while paving the way for other foodies to travel with authenticity.
Learn more about Culinary Travel.
Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary goal of conserving natural areas and developing cultural understanding and appreciation. Oftentimes, when people travel abroad, they visit destinations that have been overrun by tourists. “Eco-travel focuses on overseas adventures that improves and preserves the surrounding environment while enhancing the well-being of the local community (Destination Earth).”
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” - Anthony Bourdain
Depending on the destination, some travelers stay in eco-lodges, which are accommodations created to have the least impact on the natural environment as possible. Often they aim to educate guests on the surrounding natural environment.
Learn more about how to travel more eco-friendly.
Conservation tourism contributes significantly to environmental protection and sustainable use of natural resources. Opportunities are often found near areas rich with wildlife and appeal to travelers interested in an alternative travel experience. Conservation tourism also generates money for locals, especially in less wealthy nations and regions.
“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.” - Anthony Bourdain
Wildlife conservation tourism is for people who love the wild, are passionate about the environment, and want to make a difference. This type of travel is essentially a working vacation. You’d join a team of trained researchers and professional wildlife monitors working on a long-term project to protect and help conserve the local wildlife.
Learn if wildlife conservation tourism is right for you.
Volunteer tourism combines travel with volunteering your time, skills, and energy to an organization, issue, or cause to help make a difference in local communities. Like conservation tourism, volunteer tourism is a working vacation but with the goal of helping other people.
“To be treated well in places where you don’t expect to be treated well, to find things in common with people you thought previously you had very, very little in common with, that can’t be a bad thing.” – Anthony Bourdain
Depending on your interests and skills, types of volunteering work you can do include: working with kids for childcare or tutoring, teaching English, participating in community building projects, and assisting with public healthcare and awareness programs. Despite the good intentions of volunteer travelers, the amount of true impact by short-term volunteers is debatable.
Get started with your adventure! There are many organizations like GoEco that organize travel opportunities with volunteer tourism, but if you are a Rotary member or belong to a church community find out what opportunities for volunteering might be available to you.
These are just a few types of ways you can make an impact while traveling.
As you approach your bucket list of places you’d like to travel to, bring an awareness of the impact of your travel and look for ways to benefit the communities. I’ll leave you with one final quote from Anthony Bourdain. “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
Having empathy for your fellow human beings while protecting the local culture and environment may not always be easy, but the impact will ripple through you and the places you see.
Are you comfortable with your progress towards retirement? Want to fund annual family trips with your loved ones? If you have more than $1 million saved and need help from a wealth manager, the Peak Wealth Planning team can assist.
Other Useful Resources:
7 Most Popular Volunteer Travel Opportunities in the World
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About the Author
Peter Newman is a Chartered Financial Advisor (CFA) and president of Peak Wealth Planning. He works with individuals nationwide that have accumulated wealth through company stock, ESOP shares, real estate, or running a business. Peter applies his unique background to help clients achieve their specific goals and enjoy peace of mind.
Peak Wealth Planning provides concierge services to meet your wealth management needs. Services include: financial planning, investment management, esop diversification, retirement income, insurance, and estate planning advice. Peak Wealth Planning is a fee-based financial advisor based in Champaign, Illinois, and Fraser, Colorado.