6 Reasons Why Traveling and Reaching Out Uplifts your Travel Experience
This writer has been to places as far as the Calayan Island in the far northern part of the Philippines just by joining volunteer groups to mix traveling and outreach. Photo courtesy of Nomadic Experiences
Traveling doesn’t always have to be a one-way street, where we would always come home bringing heaps of cherished memories and a mountain of wisdom and knowledge, imparted to us by the place we visited and its people. Traveling aids us to become a better version of ourselves, as it continues to expose us to the world outside our comfort zone. Along with the many realizations on the road, a desire to make our travels more meaningful becomes a personal mission most of us aspire to fulfill.
Fortunately, mixing traveling and outreach programs is fast becoming popular among the circle of wanderers in the country. Social Enterprise organizations are partnering with local communities to bring a group of travelers eager to learn more about a particular place, outside of its usual landmarks. This includes probing on local products and educating themselves about the local economy and industries among other interesting facets of a local community. Doing so, travelers are gifted with a new set of experiences such as immersing with the locals as they accomplish the rooted outreach mission in their particular journeys.
Here are 6 reasons why mixing traveling and outreach mission makes one’s travel experience more worthwhile.
1. Developing a closer relationship with the locals
A typical journey only provides a minimal amount of interaction with the locals. Most of the time you only talk to a tour guide or if you are lucky, to a dozen people you meet along the way to a particular place of interest. Joining a travel and outreach mission in one, gives you the opportunity to interact with the local community because you spend more than half of your time with them. Depending on the purpose of your outreach group, this usually includes exchanging of best idea practices, sharing your professional knowledge or skill, at same time learning from their own methods of self-sustenance.
2. Experiencing the authentic vibe of the place
Most outreach trips take volunteer travelers to remote villages where there are no available tourist accommodations other than the homes of the locals themselves. Staying at the houses of the locals or commonly known as ‘homestays’, allows you to witness their daily life and get an authentic feel of the place. Imagine feasting on home cooked meals with your host family and drinking local wine during the night over lively conversations about their culture, history and other interesting aspects of their life in the village.
Volunteers composed of travel bloggers and other travelers concluded a series of visits to the island of Jomalig in 2013 and distributed multi-vitamins to the children of Brgy. Apad – which topped the list of DSWD as the ‘Most Malnourished Town in the Philippines’. Photo courtesy of Nomadic Experiences
3. Achieving a dual purpose of Traveling + Sharing
As the old adage “hitting two birds with one stone” says, achieving a dual purpose with a single endeavor is always the best way to accomplish things. In this case, traveling with a cause attains just that. First, you satisfy your wanderlust. Second, you also make a small difference to the community you visit.
Volunteers of Meaningful Travels PH enjoying the tranquil setting of Lake Tufob in Barlig, Mountain Province after a successful distribution of school supplies in a remote elementary school in the same town. Photo courtesy of Meaningful Travels PH
4. Understanding the issues that these communities face everyday
Emm Balabat – a Volunteer Project Coordinator of The Bayanihan Plastic Bottle Library Project shares an important realization she had from numerous outreach trips she participated in the past. “You get to understand the community and the challenges they face everyday and with that, you get to see the world at a different perspective and it changes you a lot as a human being and that’s a great travel experience.”
Volunteers of The Bayanihan Plastic Bottle Library Project pose in front of EcoBricks made from plastic bottles. Ecobrick is 1.5 liter plastic bottle completely stuffed with plastic wastes. These were used as walling for the Library of Cobrador Elementary School in Romblon, instead of hollow blocks that are usually used in building walls. Photo courtesy of The Bayanihan Plastic Bottle Library Project
5. Meet new friends you share the same passion with
Traveling helps you meet friends when you’re on the road. Most times though, you encounter people vastly different than you. Joining a travel and outreach group almost guarantees meeting a bunch of people that shares a common characteristic with you; the love for travel and the eagerness to lend a helping hand as well. All outreach trips are bound to create new sets of friendships in the end.
Traveler slash volunteers who joined the ‘Aklat Tawid Dagat’ – a book outreach trip to Calayan Island, went from being strangers to friends during the duration of the trip. Organized by fellow educators and a group of librarians, the beneficiary was a small elementary school in the island. Photo courtesy of Nomadic Experiences
6. Pay it forward or give back to communities who welcome travelers with open arms
Ann Marie Cunanan of MeaningfulTravelsPH shares the reason that drove her to include outreach trips to remote communities on the many trips she organizes. “I remember talking to a dear friend when we were conceptualizing about travels that make an impact, she mentioned that when people travel, they take a lot with them; memories, photos, souvenirs. But what if we take our travels a notch higher? What if we also give back to the places that we go to?
That was a very striking question for a person like me who loves to travel. Often, you are there to have fun and enjoy the company of your family and friends, but what if you take the time to say “hello” to the very people who live in the places you visit, sit down with them, share a meal with them, and listen to their stories at some point in your travel. In short, you also connect and build relationships.
The school supplies we give to their children, I do not think of it as “help” because they are not poor but rather simple. The school kits are a “gift” to encourage the little ones to study more and be creative with their art kits. It’s a simple way of “giving back” and connecting to the very people and communities that we visit.”
One of the outreach trips this writer participated at was this ‘Book Sharing Project’ that benefited the Rizal Elementary School in Gubat, Sorsogon in 2012. Travelers and volunteers helped raised funds and books to build a new library for the students. Photo courtesy of Nomadic Experiences
With all these reasons, how can you not want to experience traveling and reaching out to different communities? Go on! Enjoy, make a difference, volunteer, and make one of the most memorable travels of your life take place.