On this blog, we hold one truth to be self-evident, that the world is a pretty epic place. It’s a perfectly pieced-together puzzle of rolling mountains, lush valleys, crystal oceans, and sweltering deserts. It’s filled with man-made cities that hold the secrets of generations passed and the promises of futures we can’t even imagine. It’s awesome. We wouldn’t want to travel if that wasn’t the case, right?
As travelers, we hold a reverence for the world and its ability to turn an ordinary life into an extraordinary adventure. We see the world not as divided countries, but as a global community. Having this knowledge is a privilege, and with that privilege comes responsibility.
I’m not asking you to pull a Peter Parker and become the world’s next Spiderman. All we have to do is give back. Giving back to the world is so easy that I was able to narrow down the ways we can help our planet to five simple suggestions.
The five best ways to help the world stay awesome are the following: Stay Informed, Donate, Volunteer, Be a Friend to the Environment, and Spread a Bit of Kindness. With these five actions, we can make sure the world is still amazing for generations to come.
Did you know there are 3.7 million Americans currently without power in Puerto Rico that could remain without power for up to six months? Or that the death toll in Mexico has reached over 350 people since their magnitude 7.1 earthquake on September 19? How about the Spanish riots currently taking place as Cataloina votes for its independence?
It has never been this easy to stay informed with global news. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have put countries, and their citizens, only a click away from each other. We can get play-by-plays of what is going on around the world and read real-life accounts from people just like us.
It is our job as travelers to not only stay informed with what is going on in our own backyard but in the countries we have explored and learned to love. If you truly want coverage from all over the globe, then follow news sources from different countries– not just the United States. On Twitter, I follow newspapers like Le Monde from France, The Guardian from the UK, The Irish Times from Ireland, and Welt News from Germany as a way to keep up with some of my favorite countries (thank you Twitter for the translate button).
By following national newspapers from different countries, you’ll get up-to-date perspectives from all over. You’ll also get a better understanding of what’s culturally important to one nation vs. another.
If this approach sounds overwhelming to you, try following either the Associated Press or your favorite newspaper’s world section as a starting point. The AP is every journalist’s go-to for accurate unbiased news, and covers national and international stories. Following the World sections of the BBC, BuzzFeed, or CNN will also give you decent coverage, but may contain some biases. Either way, the more you know about the world around you, the more you can appreciate it.
“Money makes the world go round.” It’s a cliche, but we all know it’s true. As travelers, we’re constantly finding ways to set aside cash for our next trip. So, as you plan your next vacation, why not take a dollar or two out of every ten you save and put it into a donation fund?
My mom started this habit for me when I was a kid. She would take away 10% of my weekly allowance and put it into an envelope labeled “Donations.” Not only did this teach me about a lovely thing called taxes (thanks, mom), but now, setting aside money every time I’m paid is second nature to me.
Saving the money is honestly the simplest part of the process. Figuring out where you want it to go can be ten times harder. Finding a charity isn’t the hard part, its determining what charities you want to put your support behind. Think about what you are passionate about. Do you love animals? Donate to a local animal shelter. Do you know someone who has suffered from cancer and want to help fund its research? Maybe the American Cancer Society is a good fit for you.
It’s impossible to pick just one charity, so maybe do what I do and have a yearly charity rotation. After researching my passions, I’ve found non-profits that support what I love and I try to donate to each one twice a year:
- Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation
- Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry
- Irish Arts Center
Find charities close to your heart, figure out an amount you think you can swing– whether it’s the amount of money for a tank of gas or the spare change you’ve found over the last 30 days–and donate.
What are you good at? Are you good with your hands? Consider going on a build with Habitat for Humanity. Do you love hanging out with little kids? Become a Big Brother or Sister through the Boys and Girls Club. Do you make a mean casserole? Find a nearby soup kitchen that needs your culinary skills.
For some organziations, you don’t even have to leave your home to volunteer your time. For example, Operation Gratitude collects crocheted or knit scarves for the military. To help them out, all you need is some yarn and a Netflix show to binge. Pretty easy, right?
On a little more selfish note, volunteering can be a great way to travel for free. Here are a few international organizations that are always looking for volunteers to help out:
- Trip Leader for HF Holidays
- Help Exchange
- Peace Corps
- United Nations Volunteers
(For more international organizations and information about the ones listed above, follow this link.)
You also don’t have to volunteer alone. Grab a group of friends and spend the day helping others. It’s a fun way to hang out, it’s free, and honestly it’s a great way to make yourself and the others around you feel good.
Be a Friend to the Environment
Being a friend to the environment can be done in a lot of ways:
- turn your lights off when you leave the house and when you’re sleeping
- pick up any litter you see while you’re outside
- take shorter showers
- walk to work or take public transport if you can
The list can go on with this one, but the best way to make sure you’re being a friend to the environment is by being aware of your carbon footprint. Knowing that you have an environmental impact and making a conscious effort to reduce it is doing more than most people. Let’s help keep those oceans blue, those landfills low, and those breathtaking views flawless.
Spread a Bit of Kindness
This is the easiest, cheapest, and least time consuming suggestion of them all. Spread some kindness. It sounds silly, but people are often so wrapped up in their own lives that they don’t realize how much of an impact they have on the people around them.
Spreading some kindness is as simple as saying hi to a stranger or asking a friend how their day is going. Listen to the people around you. Tell the retail worker at your favorite store you appreciate their help. Complement someone’s outfit. Tell a corny joke. Post a funny cat video on Facebook. Laugh. And, always remember, a smile never hurt anyone.
Hopefully these suggestions helped spark your interest in giving back to this amazing planet we call home. If you have any other suggestions on how we can make the world an awesome place to travel, leave a comment below.