You have never heard the phrase “transformative travel,” have you? That’s OK, it’s a new term I just invented. It describes a new genre in the travel market that is just emerging, and it’s going to be very big. In a nutshell, it describes the way that the traveller is changed, and the destination the traveller visits also becomes transformed. Or, better yet, you can’t change the world but you certainly can transform yourself by “making the world a better place on your journey through life.” The question becomes: “How the heck do you do that?”
It’s quite simple actually. You can read the stories on this website, download the URLs of the various projects and people profiled. You can google the topic yourself. Start with looking for the following phrases; travels with purpose, meaningful travel or humanitarian travel. However, humanitarian refers to people, and transformative relates to wildlife, climate change, and a host of other possibilities. The choice of action is up to you.
Here’s a sample of what I do on my trips. I bring cameras. One is for me to take photos that match my stories. The stories go into newspapers, books, or on websites. These stories explain where I have been and what I have done. Suppose I have brought and donated school supplies, medicine, a laptop, books or other materials. Readers may be interested in supporting those projects. The other camera I give to the teacher, principal, librarian or person in charge. I ask them to keep the story updated by taking photos, a “digital diary” of the student, patient or person profiled, and do so on a regular basis. Just a snapshot once a month. Video, of course, is better, and all that’s needed is to keep the camera steady for 30 seconds. Make a website for each project you do. Spread the word.
It’s impossible to determine how much money can be raised in this fashion, but many of my projects have raised a substantial amount. Certainly public awareness of issues can easily be created. A poverty-stricken village, for instance, can be affected by the introduction of a soccer ball to the curriculum. The boys will want to go to school if they get to play games. A computer can transform an entire school. Sponsoring a girl through college may have a tremendous impact on all other girls to do their homework. Micro-credit loans, as simple as buying a few chickens or sewing machines, can start a village industry.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Mahatma Ghandi. Walk the walk. Practice what you preach. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you. Don’t be a tourist. Be a friend. Bring gifts that make a difference. Give them to the right people, like the teacher whose influence over education can be bolstered by the simple donation of magic markers. Think carefully about the impact. Cash given to a woman may cause jealousy on the part of the husband. Plan carefully. Ask elders what to do.
Perhaps the greatest adventure of my life was a 700-kilometre trek across the Himalayas to “find and rescue abandoned children living in the world’s highest inhabited villages.” The region of northwest Nepal is forbidden territory, far off the map, no towns and little food, and no medical care. After my safe return to the world, I arranged to have a bundle of modern medicines sent to the so-called “clinic,” with explicit directions written specifically for the caregiver. Child mortality is an epidemic in Dolpo. My $500 gift of antibiotics and emergency gear may have saved hundreds of kids from dying.
No matter what change you may have upon a village, most certainly one person sure to be transformed will be you. Global travel is a luxury. The richness you create should be within your own heart. Be sure to share with everyone you meet. Take photos and videos, build a blog, send the news to people you know. It’s easy to do.
Given the amount of global travel available to so many people in the modern world, an attitude evolves of “been there, done that.” Travellers are always looking for new experiences. While some are thrill seekers, other find pleasure in the emotions generated by helping others especially children. I’ve had friends burst into tears from the joy of giving. You may have been to Disneyland, sweetheart, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.