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When I tell people I'm flirting with 30, they tell me I look like I'm in college and I have the energy of a pre-adolescent. Well, that's good because did you know there are 195 countries in this world? My goal is to travel to as many countries as my age. My current count? 14. Yikes. Better get jetsettin'! Read More

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6 Easy Ways You Can Give Back to Communities While You Travel

December 12, 2016.happynfull.0 Likes.1 Comment

Volunteer Opportunities: 6 Easy Ways You Can Give Back to Local Communities While You Travel

Volunteer Opportunities: 6 Easy Ways You Can Give Back to Local Communities While You Travel

I remember when I was in middle school, I never looked forward to the holidays. The holidays meant Christmas presents and everyone at school would arrive in new Adidas or Juicy Couture jumpsuits, boasting about all of the gifts they were showered with. My parents were working class immigrants and – even if they could scrape money for gifts – they wouldn’t even know what was trending or what a name brand was. I usually got hand me downs or weird leopard print clothes that were way too large to sport. My classmates thought I was a tomboy. Mmm no, I just had an older brother instead of a sister.

Fast forward to college. I finally matured and realized that it isn’t the material things in life that are important. It’s the memories created and the time we spend helping others that matter most.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be lying if I said I hated gifts and never want one ever again. I especially love gifts that show someone put real thought into the purchase and ‘gets’ me.

Volunteer memories are greater than material gifts.

But one of my favorite holiday memories was going with my dad to a local food bank. Working together with 35+ other volunteers that day, we helped with the assembly and packaging of thousands of boxes of food to feed low-income families through what can sometimes be the most depressing season.

It’s these memories that you remember the most. I am sure my dad got me a gift this year, but I can’t recall what it was. Maybe a gift card. He isn’t really the shopping type. But volunteering with him and seeing his smile as I handed him can after can after can of vegetables, that is a memory I will always cherish.

Whether you are are traveling for the holidays or staying local, there are tons of ways to give back to the local community – often times with minimal effort! Read on to find ways to find volunteer programs and opportunities, or how to give back without even needing to go out of your way.

Volunteer Opportunities: 6 Easy Ways Travelers Can Give Back to Communities

1) Search Meetup.com Groups

If you’re not sure what the local volunteer organizations are around your destination, jump on Meetup.com! I am an avid user of Meetup and often search categories such as ‘Philanthropy’ and ‘Volunteer’ in addition to my social groups such as ‘Pets’, ‘Travel’, ‘Business’ and ‘Hiking’. By joining specific local groups that match your interests, you can meet up with like-minded individuals, make new friends, and give back to local communities.

Only in town last-minute for a few days? Pop up their calendar of all events going on in your mile radius search. Oftentimes you can join last-minute events. Volunteer/non-profit organizations always love extra hands!

Volunteer Programs: Give Back While Traveling

That one time my dad and I showed up twinning at our volunteer Meetup group.

2) Book through Kind Traveler

Kind Traveler is a neat hotel booking site that partners with hotels willing to ‘give back’. The hotels listed often meet certain criteria of being leaders in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. In exchange for exclusive discounted rates, you donate a certain amount per night to a charity of your choice. For instance, this Virgin Hotels in Chicago location is willing to give you $31 off each night if you donate $10/night while staying. On top of that, they are doubling your match contributions. Feel good about travel when you’re supporting a green hotel and giving back to a cause you care about.

Kind Traveler - Responsible Travel

Screenshot from KindTraveler.com

3) Lend to a local in need on Kiva.org

I’ve been a longtime fan of Kiva. As you travel more, you may be finding countries that you particularly want to impact positively. Kiva is a micro-lending non-profit organization. This means you can lend money via the internet to help alleviate poverty. An example, I gave $25 to a man in Mongolia who needed supplies to open a cafe. To date, he has paid back $20.13 over the past 3 years.

It’s important to note that you’re not using Kiva as an investment strategy. While I may be negative 4 dollars and some change 3 years later, the $25 has gone a lot farther for Erdenebat, this cafe owner who is trying to support his two children through college. I probably would have spent this on four Starbucks lattes vs. someone who is trying to feed his family of four.

Screenshot from Kiva.org - Give the gift of giving 🙂

Bonus: another really cool way to travel is through volunteerism – where you are actually making a difference through volunteer with organizations in exchange for a place to stay and food programs! Read an example of a volunteerism trip in the Phillipines.

4) Leave Positive Yelp and TripAdvisor Reviews

Yelp and TripAdvisor are major influencers for local businesses. Searching for a Chinese restaurant? Chances are if you are international, you’re searching for the highest rated one on TripAdvisor. If you’re in the US, you’re pulling up your Yelp app and filtering out all of the restaurants 3 stars and below.

For small businesses, sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor either make or break them. If you loved a small cafe or had a pleasant experience at a mom and pop massage shop, write a glowing review! Share the positive experience so others can also refer friends to check them out. Support local businesses and help them compete with mega corporations.

5) Ride on Public Transportation

Support the city you are visiting by getting around through use of public transportation. Unless you’re in a city like Los Angeles or Phoenix, where public transportation is often described as unreliable, try to get around by foot. You see a lot more of the city above ground and in its public transportation systems than you do inside of a rental car.

By riding public transportation, not only are you pumping money back into the city, but you’re also doing good for the environment. Next best thing? Pool sharing on Uber or Lyft. Save money by hopping in with another person or two, and help out a local looking to make extra cash.

Volunteer Opportunities - Give Back While Traveling

6) Donate What You Don’t Need

I have this recurring issue at the end of each trip with having more than can fit inside my bag. I’m not sure if I just packed more neatly in the beginning, but by the end I never fail to have an extra bag of ‘miscellaneous’. Often times, this can be bottles of shampoo, conditioner, facial wash, toothpaste, etc. or clothes like a puffy jacket or a pair of shoes. Whatever you don’t want, donate to someone who can benefit from your item. You can find local shelters or Google donation drop off locations. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

While the Holidays always seems to be the time of year that people need support the most, communities need help year round. Hopefully you can use these simple volunteer opportunities any day and any where!

Categories: Travel Essentials

Comments (1)

  • Lauren . December 17, 2016 . Reply

    I love this! There are so many small ways that we can give back that make a big impact in someone else’s life. And in our lives, too.

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