The Chinese philosophy of Tao teaches the principle of Te, or the virtue of being the best we can be. Travel companies are now following the mantra, reflecting a deep belief that we are our best and truest selves when helping others. Philanthropic trips connect travelers with communities and have gained momentum over the past decade as vacationers combine aid work with far-flung experiences.
The degree of a person’s involvement varies. Some donate money. Others get their hands dirty with volunteer work or contribute by teaching. All return home touched—so much so that business executives are using the trips to help build leadership skills. “A lot of people are headed toward retirement and have had great careers,” says Jim Kane, founder of Culture Xplorers. “They are now trying to figure out what’s next in the world.”
Whether teaching math to an orphan in Tanzania, building a library in Laos or donating wheelchairs to a monastery in Mongolia, giving back creates meaning or, as Maryann Fernandez, the president of Philanthropy Indaba, puts it, transformative change. And that doesn’t only pertain to supported destinations (check out the effect it has on teens participating in Hands Up Holiday). “We are helping the next generation of philanthropists move from success to significance,” she says.
The following philanthropic journeys are filled with opportunities to transform along with new offerings in 2013. How’s that for starting off the New Year right?