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According to a report by the United Nations, the global travel industry brings in nearly seven trillion dollars annually; however, only five percent of that money ends up supporting the growth and preservation of local communities. Fortunately, whether you’re striving to empower local enterprises, lessen your environmental impact, or help conserve endangered animals and their habitats, there are more organizations than ever dedicated to planning excursions with a purpose (the Impact Travel Alliance has plenty of resources if you’re interested in learning more). To help you leave behind a positive impression on your next trip, check out these curated trips, voluntourism opportunities, and sustainably-minded destinations that all aim to help you help others (Mother Nature included).
Explore Nature in a New Way
Take glamping to the next level with an escape to Sweden’s Treehotel where one-of-a-kind luxury cabins—including one with fully reflective “mirror walls” blending it into the forest—live suspended among the trees. Located in the pines of Harads, about an hour north of Stockholm by plane, each of the seven “rooms” offers unique design features, cozy Scandanvian-styled interiors, and with breathtaking views of the Lule River. Of course, Treehotel doesn’t only strive to excite visitors with a whole new view of Mother Nature, but it also keeps the environment at the forefront of its hospitality goals. Built consciously out of sustainable materials with low-impact construction, each room uses hydroelectric power and low-energy LED lights and is cleaned with eco-friendly products. The bathrooms and showers, housed separately, also feature water-efficient sinks. When it’s time for exploring the terrain, lose yourself in a morning hike, ice fishing escapades, or foraging walks, then take a steam in the Tree Sauna before settling in to watch the Northern Lights.
Craft With Heritage Artisans in Italy
When visiting any destination, a great way to make a positive impact is to support its local crafters and makers whenever possible. This helps to both boost local economies while also preserving the community’s unique history and culture. In an effort to share the unique history of Italy’s artisan community, Italian Stories connects local creators in an array of trades, from clay-making to woodworking, to curious travelers. Choose from a wide selection of enriching experiences including a visit to a terra cotta factory, a tour through a mosaic-making lab, or a hands-on workshop in the home of a cheese and butter maker. You can even learn about the rich history of Italian leather shoe-making and craft a pair of your own. To discover more artisan offerings, you can filter your search on the site by craft—from beading and hand-dying to book-binding and mask-making—or by location (which includes Florence, Milan, and Salento among others). You’ll not only learn the stories behind these age-old trades and arts and have the opportunity to test out techniques first hand, but you’re guaranteed to leave inspired to create something beautiful.
Embark on an Eco-Safari African Retreat
Looking for a getaway that has it all (and also gives back!)? Then head to Segera, a private wilderness oasis nestled in the Kenyan savannahs of Laikipia. Here, visitors can find rest and relaxation while exploring a rich local culture of art, community, and rare wildlife. As a Global Ecosphere Retreat, recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Segera features several modern heritage villas to choose from for your stay as well as dining areas and wellness amenities, all powered by solar energy and recycled rainwater. Most importantly, the retreat prides itself on curating cultural excursions that help support local economies, enterprises, artists, and families. And while you are encouraged to learn about the various species of creatures you’ll spot among the botanical gardens, waterfalls, and grasslands, you can be sure Segera prioritizes a low-impact approach to local habitat management in addition to their active research and conservation efforts.
Live and Learn With the Locals
One of the biggest ways to ensure your next trip leaves a positive impact: Make an effort to learn from and live like the locals. That said, consider packing your bags for a trip curated by Lokal, a Los Angeles-based sustainable travel organization that works directly with local travel providers and businesses to help support their economies, empower their people, and preserve their cultures and environments. Head for the Santos Forest Reserve of central Costa Rica where you’ll spend the night in cozy tented bungalows and learn about local organic coffee production, or travel to Morocco and learn about the Berber culture through authentic cooking classes. You can even embark on a 12-day journey to Nepal where you’ll get a firsthand experience on life in a local monastery, learn the traditional fishing techniques of Barauli natives, and explore the beautiful handicrafts of the indigenous community.
Help Save the Turtles
If you’re craving a beachside getaway, why not add on a volunteering opportunity to help save the local sea turtles, too? In Bali, home to six out of seven of the world’s sea turtle species, a large majority of the turtle population is currently endangered. Hosted by GoVolunteering, in partnership with International Volunteer HQ, this two-week experience (which does require a brief application) will educate visitors on the threats to the turtle population and expose them to hands-on conservation efforts. Led by a local conservationist, you and your team will work on the island of Nusa Penida doing everything from feeding and cleaning the turtles to joining beach clean-ups and educating locals. And when you’re not helping the little sea critters, explore the local culture through language lessons, Batik painting, cooking classes, flower making, and temple visits. GoVolunteering also offers other animal conservation trips like working at a rescue center in the Amazon jungle or researching the life of South Africa’s predator cats.
Recharge at a Sustainable Spa
Imagine a trip that lets you give yourself a little love, help support communities in need, and preserve the planet to boot? Welcome to the Nay Palad Hideaway, located on the magnificent Siargao island in the Philippines. Visitors can get their beauty rest with a stay in one of the dreamy villas, featuring a refreshing rainforest shower, then head over to the resort spa which specializes in Hilot, the ancient Filipino art of massage and mind-body healing. Afterwards, sail out to the Sea Pagoda to practice your sun salutations surrounded by soothing waters, or find restoration simply by laying out on the beach. If you’re seeking a bit of a thrill, surf the island’s legendary Cloud 9 reef wave or spend the day island-hopping, snorkeling, and sailing. But the best part about Nay Palad? Its founders helped build a sustainable rain forest village on Cebu Island for nearly 500 locals in need of housing; the team continues to support this community by empowering local women and budding enterprises.
Become a Change Maker in India
If you’re curious and dedicated about exploring the social impact space in depth on your next travels, consider TribesforGOOD’s seven-day immersion in Mumbai and Bangalore. During the journey, which deep-dives into local issues from urban poverty relief and women empowerment to sustainable fashion, you will connect with other like-minded entrepreneurs, innovators, and community leaders through workshops and field visits. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn Hindi, explore the local markets and art scenes in Bombay, and visit local schools to observe how students engage. Finally, participants will have the chance to hunker down and brainstorm in a hackathon where you’ll work with teammates and local experts on solutions to the causes you’re most passionate about. Working together, with the help of design, marketing, and fundraising resources, you’ll find creative new ways to bring those ideals to life. Do note that accommodations will not be provided for this trip and applications are required for attendance.
Immerse Yourself in a New Language
Whether you’re hoping to finally dust off your high-school Spanish or are looking for a way to learn about a culture through its spoken word, Good Trip’s curated experiences can help. With three Spanish-speaking spotlight destinations to choose from—Cuba, Guatemala, and Panama—Good Trip also allows travelers to customize their stay by length and dates, itineraries, accommodation options, and guided tours that guarantee you experience the area like a true local, sans tourist traps. When it’s lesson time, you’ll learn from certified Guatemalan teachers through curriculum and conversation as well as explore the local culture through hands-on artisan, workshops, culinary experiences, and historic walking tours. To culminate the immersion, participants will also get the chance to volunteer at a local charter school and engage with the students through mini-lessons, games, and books. Add-on excursions, like touring the Tikal ruins and hiking the Pacaya Volcano, are also available if you so desire.
Empower Schools in South Africa
For anyone passionate about giving the gift of education, coupled with an up-close exploration of one of Africa’s most peaceful countries, consider this nine-day experience in Zambia. Hosted by Spark Ventures, an organization focused on local philanthropic travel, and its sister company, Ignite, the trip will provide participants with a chance to connect, work with, and learn from local youth through reading programs and classroom activities. Book your stay from the selection of boutique Zambian hotels and plan on both sharing meals with host leaders in their homes as well as scouting out local eats at nearby restaurants. After hands-on immersion in the schools, you’ll have the chance to explore the country’s local artisan markets, take a helicopter tour of Victoria Falls, roam the parks via land-rover to spot local wildlife, and set sail on a cruise along the Zambezi River featuring an open bar and a beautiful sunset.
Take a Historical Journey Through Jordan
From floating in the Dead Sea and wandering through ancient ruins to sharing home-cooked meals with the Ammarin tribe and exploring the magnificent Little Petra, this three-week cultural immersion through Jordan promises to be an unforgettable (and eco-conscious) experience. Hosted by Better Places Travel, a certified B corp and carbon-neutral travel organization, the trip will take you through some of the country’s most remarkable historical sites, reserves, and landmarks, connect you with local guides and crafters, and give you plenty of time to create your own adventures, from navigating tucked away gems (like the ancient hillside town of Salt) to snorkeling the red sea. Best of all, Better Places Travel prides itself on prioritizing the key elements of responsible social impact travel including: supporting local businesses, hiring within the community, ensuring fair working wages, and encouraging plastic-free travel habits among others so you can embark on a journey that will not only change you, but promises to make the world a better place, too.