The world is becoming smaller. Not long ago, humans were arguing about if the earth was round or flat. Explorers did not know if sailing into the open ocean meant sailing right off the side of the earth into a fathomless abyss. Today, humans are well aware the world is round and are beginning to see “what goes around comes around.” What you do in your country and in your travels matters and effects people across the globe. That knowledge has led to a new line of thought for modern vacationers. Eco-travel, People-To-People trips, and volunteer opportunities are increasingly becoming part of the vacation package. Why not, when you can enjoy the pristine setting of an isolated rainforest jungle, experience native people and their culture face-to-face, or stay in a hostel or on a farm for free getting to know other travelers and locals. On these trips, you can have peace of mind knowing that, not only are you vacationing, but you are contributing to the greater good in some way.
Eco-tourism gives you the opportunity to explore nature at its purest. It aims to give you the resort feel of vacationing while protecting native people and their land. Sustainable vacation hot spots are popping up all over the world, especially in the Caribbean. The Belize Tourism Board rated Chaa Creek Lodge the “Top Belize Resort” and Caribbean Travel & Life voted it “Best Eco Resort & Hotel.” The little Eco-village is hidden within 365-acres of nature reserve rainforest. Cottages and tree houses blend in with the surroundings and are primarily thatched roofed with warm colored interiors and open windows. Enjoy a lush spa setting with the sound of tropical birds in the background to relax you as you settle in for a massage. Organized tours take you to mysterious caves, Mayan ruins, and on underwater adventures. 10% of payment for accommodations goes into projects within the Belize community to promote environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
In the Bahamas, you can have a People-To-People Experience for free. Just sign up with a Bahamas Tourist Office in person or online to me paired up with a Bahamas Ambassador who will take you to the island of your choosing to enjoy local food, see sights, visit local schools and communities, listen to traditional scrape and rake music, and have an unforgettable culture exchange with Bahamian people. The program is sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and is a safe way to see the islands at their best. Ambassadors will actually bring you into their homes, take you to restaurants and shops to show you how artisan foods and crafts are made, and show you sites that most tourists might otherwise miss like hidden caves and private beaches. These tours are an educational and fun way to experience The Bahamas as a local.
is a wonderful website for learning about volunteer options that give you the opportunity to stay in a home, hostel, or on a farm for free, often with meals included. These stays will involve a little bit of work, but can allow travelers to travel cheaper and longer. The work is usually only a couple days out of the week allowing for plenty of time to do sightseeing. Workaway locations commonly accept multiple volunteers from all over the world making them perfect spots for international cultural learning and making friends while doing some good in the foreign communities you visit.
Socially responsible tourism is an innovative way to vacation, especially if you want to get the inside scoop on cultural ways and local hot spots. Whether you spend your time relaxing in an Eco-spa, exploring a country with a host family, or working in a farm or hostel, you will come away refreshed and feeling good after having an honest cultural exchange that was beneficial to both sides.