When you travel the world, you have an amazing opportunity to give back to the local communities that you visit. Many of them will rely on tourism to get by, so your small purchases here and there can add up to a real boost for the individuals who live there. Use these four ideas to support communities, rather than lining the pockets of international businesses.
1. Shop at Markets
A very easy way to directly give back to local people is to visit a local market. This is a really fun experience and is often a great way to get to know the area, simply by seeing what is on sale and how the market stall owners act. You can usually find everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to street food, to clothing and jewellery, to handmade crafts. Instead of going to supermarkets or shops to buy your food, consider buying fresh ingredients or street food at these stalls. You can also pick up your souvenirs here, instead of going into gift stores which are owned by big companies.
2. Stay Local
Don’t go to book in to a big resort or an international hotel chain. Instead, choose to rent a room in the local area which is owned by an individual, not a corporation. This way, the money that you spend on your accommodation goes to this person, not to a company which might have its headquarters in a different country. You can also get a more authentic experience if you choose this option. You will be staying within the community itself instead of in a gated-off resort, and you may even be able to interact with your landlord to get tips on the best places to go.
3. Try Local Delicacies
When you go out to eat, consider trying the foods which are popular in this country as local delicacies. There are sure to be plenty of restaurants and cafes serving the local style, and these are bound to be better for the community. While many restaurants in the area may be independently owned, eating local delicacies does not only support the community, but also the local culture. You are voting with your wallet to say that their culture should be continued and maintained, rather than giving way to commercialised tourist options.
4. Plan your Own Trip
When you visit a new place, it’s easy to sign up for a lot of tours through your holiday operator and just follow along blindly. On the other hand, you could plan your own trip, which will give you a lot more opportunities to really experience the local culture. Tours are often very commercialised and give more money to the operator than to the local people. If you don’t like exploring by yourself, you can always hire a local guide who will show you everything from an insider’s point of view. This is much more exciting than going on the same tours as everyone else. Not only that, but you are directly providing employment to locals, and giving them the full fee rather than paying most of it to an operator.
There are lots of ways to give back to communities while you travel, but the most important thing is to keep it in mind at all times. Before you book any part of your next trip, ask yourself: is there something I could do differently which would help the local people to thrive, preserving this destination’s culture for travellers who will come in the future? If the answer is yes, you should do it.