In an age of increasing awareness of world issues and global needs, there has been a recent surge in travel philanthropy or, more simply put, using travel as a means to give back. The problem many people face when it comes to this, however, is that it can seem overwhelming. Well-intentioned people who truly want to make a difference simply don't know where to begin, or whether or not their efforts will really have an impact.
The crux of travel philanthropy can be summed up in four C's: Caring, Confusion, Connection and Challenges.
What was once reserved only for the ultra-wealthy, missionaries or members of the Peace Corps has now become a social norm. More and more consumers want to get involved and do something -- anything -- that will help causes that matter most to them. Rather than simply donating cash, people are beginning to feel compelled to help in a more hands-on way. What better way to do so than by traveling to areas in need?
Unfortunately, caring isn't enough to effect change. Just because you care, doesn't mean you know how to take that next step. People want to help, but find themselves confused on exactly how, where, how much, what it will demand of them and what kind of commitment they want to make.
To offer some clarity, philanthropic travel can be divided into three different categories:
Philanthropic travel is becoming more popular because people are becoming more eager to reconnect with humanity. One of the most effective ways to do this is by connecting with and serving others. In a world that has become increasingly competitive, commercial and electronically driven, many people are finding the need to rediscover their own sense of meaning. Vacations are no longer just recreational. Service and other forms of philanthropic vacations offer a remembrance and restoration of a humanity many of us are no longer practicing in our everyday lives.
Of course, as with any volunteer-based program, travel philanthropy is not without its challenges. The main challenges that must be overcome include:
Given the state of the world today and the unfortunate potential for continued future decline, travel philanthropy will likely only continue to increase in popularity. The most important thing to remember is that in order for it to be impactful, both for the communities being helped and the volunteers, we must understand and successfully overcome the challenges at hand and develop more effective programs that will serve humanity in the most positive way possible.
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