April 25, 2019

What is ‘Travel to change the world’ and how can you begin your journey?

Words by Matt Leedham
LearnTravel Better
Pic: Zak Noyle

Travel to change the world’s mission is to shine a spotlight on transformative, sustainable travel initiatives that have a positive impact on the world.

A few years ago, I realised I had an ethical dilemma on my hands.

After working in the travel industry for the last two decades and having my life fortuitously enriched by so many wonders and moments, I asked myself, “what have I actually given back from all of the travel I have been privileged to experience?”

The honest answer was that while I could come up with some good stuff, it simply wasn’t enough for me.

Today, travel is the biggest industry in the world. It’s never been more accessible and cheaper for the world to travel more often, to more places.

But while this is all fantastic, what negative impact does all this travelling have on the world?

“What if we use the power of travel to change the world positively?”

What if we could positively change ‘your’ world, as the traveller; ‘their’ world in the places you go and ‘the world’ as the planet we all inhabit?

Wouldn’t we all stand to benefit if we travelled more responsibly and sustainably for the benefit of the planet and the future generations it will be home to?

Matt Leedham, Wadi Rum, Jordan

What happened next?

Two years ago, what started two years ago as a simple #traveltochangetheworld hashtag and initiative on our travel industry sister site has become its own entity.

The purpose of ‘Travel to change the world’ is to help, educate and inspire travellers to make more informed travel choices and take action to become ambassadors for the world.

To make the site easier to navigate, we’ve broken the site down into three fundamental pillars of ‘Social and Cultural’, ‘Environment’ and ‘Animal Welfare’, which we believe are the core issues we all face from the impact of travel.

Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sorasak via Unsplash

1. Social and Cultural

Ultimately, we’re all human beings with the same basic needs and challenges in life.

All of us are searching to find more meaning in our precious, short time on this crazy, beautiful, mysterious planet we all share.

Once you start to break ‘Travel to change the world’ down as a concept, you’ll soon realise that you can do so many simple things to enrich the lives of others and enhance your personal experiences on your travels.

“My feeling about seeing the world is that it’s going to change you, just from the very fact of being out there and meeting people from different cultures and different ways of life.”

Ewan McGregor

Delving deeper and learning about the societies and rituals of the places you visit with a few local language words are easy wins for everyone.

How about being open and smiling at locals when you travel? (Sounds obvious – Amazing how many people aren’t). Take time to listen, chat and connect with people (They’ll also learn something about you and where you’re from).

Choosing responsible tour options and local products that benefit the community for the long term are all other simple ways we can all begin to help.

A plastic nightmare by Dustan Woodhouse via Unsplash

2. The Environment

As our footprint expands with more people travelling, so does the enhanced risk of destroying the planet in the process.

Becoming aware of and supporting the numerous trailblazers in travel who are already making a difference is the best way to begin to travel responsibly.

“It’s only one straw, Said 8 billion people.”

Some smart person

For example, many airlines are already using Biofuels and offsetting their carbon usage with foundations in the destinations they operate. An increasing number of travel companies are going single-use plastic-free, and more and more transport is going electric.

There’s good news everywhere once you switch onto it.

Tiger Temple, Thailand – Now closed down.

3. Animal Welfare

It wasn’t long ago that riding captive elephants and taking selfies with drugged-up tigers were socially acceptable as bucket list experiences.

Thankfully, times are changing, but there’s still an awful lot to do around positive change for animal welfare.

Making responsible choices around any wildlife interaction is a hugely positive step to changing human behaviour.

Please do your research before you go here first and with charities, and ensure that the operators you choose are ethical and sustainable in the way they run their businesses.

Animal tourism can be a good thing and help provide an alternative income for communities and ex-poachers and bring additional help and skills through volunteering projects and financial support for conservation projects.

But supporting performing animals, grabbing wildlife selfies or eating at places that showcase captive animals or worse – exotic animals on the menu are all trades that will only cease when tourists turn against them.

Use your best judgement, educate others and take a stand for good on your travels.

How can you travel to change the world?

Congratulations! By reading this post and taking some of these insights on board, you’ve already made a difference.

Now you can easily create your impact by sharing your newfound knowledge with other friends who you think would also be interested.

Ultimately, responsible travel comes down to common sense – stay curious, keep yourself up-to-date with the challenges at hand and make yourself accountable for your actions on your travels.