Experiential travel is easily the most exciting (and biggest) trend taking the travel scene by storm. For those searching their minds for a clue as to what this trend actually encompasses, we’re talking about a substantive and expressive shift away from the beaten-familiar-path towards an authentic travel experience that allows us to truly grasp the history, culture, and people of the local community we are visiting. This means steering past heavily visited tourist locations and diving deep into the heart and soul of a new travel destination. It means, amongst other opportunities, opting for a home stay rather than a hotel, eating in a local restaurant rather than a well-known food chain, responsibly volunteering with a local nonprofit, and much more. In many ways, it is a more mindful travel experience.
For some time now, travelers worldwide have been giving more attention to the rise of experiential travel in individuals’ travel plans. It can be seen that more are choosing to travel in a more ‘authentic’ spirit, with possibly a clear understanding that this will lead, surely in a personal sense, to a more meaningful travel experience.
But, extending this view further from us (the travelers) – what are the varying effects of this trend? Are we witnessing a positive change taking over the travel scene? Will local communities benefit from such a shift? We obviously couldn’t answer such questions alone, and so we have turned to the industry’s leading travel experts for some much needed insights.
To start off, all experts were asked whether they thought local communities benefit from travelers taking on the Experiential Travel trend. We received a whopping 100% ‘YES’ for this first question. These are some truly exciting initial responses, since our very first takeaway can be that, when done right (which we’ll discuss in just a bit), Experiential Travel can actually be a more positive travel choice for all involved.
Moving forward, check out what else the following travel experts had to say about Experiential Travel.
Afterwards, we’ll review some of the leading points and leave you off with some great examples to take action for your next travel adventure, so be sure to check those out as well.
Let’s get started!
All experts asked to answer the following question:
Check out their answers below.
Jules and Christine of https://dontforgettomove.com
Adventure travel and responsible tourism bloggers
“Impact experiences provide a unique opportunity for travelers and locals to connect and learn from each other. One issue travelers face is difficulty getting off the beaten tourist track and understanding what daily life is like in these countries. If executed well, this trend allows locals to bring foreigners into their community on their own terms and for travelers to learn about local life in a respectful and meaningful way.”
Jules and Christine have been traveling the world together since 2012. After meeting at a disaster relief nonprofit in Peru, they went in search of a way to combine their passion of community development with their love of travel. Over the past 5 years they’ve traveled Mexico, Central & South America, Southeast Asia and Europe. They’ve worked in nonprofits in Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines and both have their Masters in International Development. They use their blog, Don’t Forget To Move, as a platform to help responsible travelers find socially conscious and environmentally friendly activities around the world.
Megan Claire Jerrard of http://mappingmegan.com/
“When done properly, volunteerism, or “experiential travel” should have a positive impact on both the local community and the traveler themselves. Combining volunteerism with travel is one of our favorite ways to explore the globe, though it’s absolutely vital to choose a project which makes a genuine difference to the community and society as a whole. While investing in your personal development and growth as well. The best thing about this type of travel is that it’s more than just an immersive trip, it’s a transformative experience that benefits all parties and helps build a better world. Organizations continue to grow, people are more confident with their skills, and new connections developed turn into long-lasting friendships, and sometimes, even new social impact organizations.”
Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world. Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.
Bianca Caruana of www.myaltruistictravels.com
Responsible Tourism Ambassador
“Impact travel gives travellers the opportunity to be part of something bigger, and something that is contributing to social and economical change for marginalized communities around the world. It’s no doubt the responsible tourism community is rapidly growing and there is a real sense of working towards a shared goal for the greater good – being a part of a community like this is humbling and invigorating at the same time. There is a real sense that together we can make a difference.”
Bianca is a freelance journalist & blogger specialising in stories about responsible tourism, fair trade and community development, with the aim to promote ethical values and give a voice to organisations who are making the world a better place.
Alesha and Jarryd of https://www.nomadasaurus.com
Adventure Travel Bloggers
“By focusing on sustainable tourism and responsible travel we can leave a positive impact on the places we travel to. This allows us to protect the local culture and environment rather than exploit it.”
Alesha and Jarryd are professional travel writers and photographers, and the founders of Australia’s top adventure travel blog, NOMADasaurus. They have been travelling the world together for almost a decade, with a heavy focus on offbeat destinations, sustainable tourism and adventure.
Jessica Norah of http://independenttravelcats.com
“It can both help local people and communities as well as provide travelers with a more in-depth look and understanding of the local culture.”
Jessica Norah is a cat-loving American travel blogger behind the couples travel blog Independent Travel Cats. She lives and works with her husband travel photographer Laurence Norah and the couple currently call Edinburgh Scotland home.
Melvin Böcher of http://www.traveldudes.org/
Social Travel Platform
“Traveling is all about experiences, no matter which ones. It’s about experiencing life and testing your personal limits from time to time. Traveling is also about dropping barriers and mindsets.
It’s about learning and experiencing different cultures with all your senses. How are other people living? What do they think? What do they eat? How is their life? It’s about seeing those differences, but also similarities. Usually you find out that it’s “same same, but different”.
This kind of travel also give options to create new travel products, where more and/or other people, especially the local industry could profit from.”
TravelDudes.org is THE Social Travel Platform, which let’s you find social travel content about the destination you want to travel to! For Travelers, By Travelers! What Travel Dudes provides, are valuable tips, inspiration and advice from travelers based on their first-hand experience. Travel Dudes is a community of travelers whose aim is to assist fellow travelers on their adventures around the world and help enhance their travel experience. Follow Dudes or specific niches and interests to get quality travel content listed in your own profile timeline! For Travelers, By Travelers!
Dariece Swift of https://www.goatsontheroad.com
Independent Lifestyle Travel Blogger
“Travelling is an excellent way to learn about other cultures, customs and ways of life. By immersing ourselves in the local community, we can gain a better understanding of how the people live, which in turn makes us less ignorant of the world. These days, this is more important than ever. By staying with local people, they can benefit financially from tourists, and can learn about how we live as well. We started a travel blog to share our worldly experiences with our readers, and I think it’s an excellent platform to show travellers about off-track destinations and cultural immersion.”
Dariece is one half of the full time travelling duo at Goats On The Road, a website designed to show others how to travel more and make money on the road.
Kristin Addis of http://www.bemytravelmuse.com
“It has to be done carefully, making sure to empower the local people rather than using them as a tourism draw. I’ve seen it go both ways – in a positive and a negative direction, so it comes down to responsibly finding that balance.”
Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over four years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore.
Alice Teacake of https://www.teacaketravels.com
Solo Female Adventure Travel Blogger
“I believe everyone who volunteers is looking to spend quality, genuine time with the locals so that they can learn about other cultures and ultimately, themselves. For the travel and volunteer abroad community, it’s an excellent idea. Communities and different backgrounds are coming closer together, learning from each other and benefiting from each other’s strengths.”
Alice Teacake is a kickass girl, who believes in women facing their fears and pushing their boundaries to reach their full potential through solo adventure travel! Follow her for travel advice and inspiration, so you can go forth and challenge yourself to reach your own personal goals!
Pola Henderson of www.jettingaround.com
Travel Blogger & Event Producer
“When done right, it’s a win-win situation. You get to experience the destination on a deeper level and local communities can benefit from the resources and expertise that impact travel brings. But it’s important to partner with organizations that are transparent and committed to the mission of connecting communities through travel, and not after a quick buck.”
Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English. In 2013, Pola did volunteer work in Ecuador, which led her to create the annual Meaningful Travel Event in Chicago, aimed at promoting impact experiences at home and on the road.
“Experiential travel enables a beautiful exchange of culture and ideas. By taking the road less travelled, you can truly explore another way of life and move beyond commercial tourism and national stereotypes.”
Chelsey Smith (M.A.) is a media and communications professional, and global citizen devoted to universal education and equality. Chelsey’s professional repertoire includes journalism, marketing and branding, movement building and campaign management. Her publication “The Technology of Hope: Twitter and the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign” examines the role of technology in new social movements, and how NGOs can best position campaigns for traction. Beyond an array of volunteer work in Canada, she has always been passionate about peace and justice in a global context, and worked to support the rights of children in Ghana (2008), to combat gender-based violence in Swaziland (2013), and to rebrand a movement toward transformative feminist society in Tanzania (2016). Working in international development is a challenge that Chelsey tackles with intense motivation for social change and human rights.
Trisha Velarmino of P.S I’m On My Way
A storyteller and a friend to many amazing women
“This has been the idea of my travels. For years, I have highly encouraged everyone to not just travel for the sights, not just do the mandatory touristic circuits but look outside that zone – what else can you do while you are traveling? The bulk of my travels consists of living with local families. I’ve always been curious on how a certain culture eats, speaks, sleeps and cooks. This curiosity lead me to be fluent in 7 different languages (mostly Latin languages) and it’s this learning is one of the best stories I love to tell. In 2013, I lived with a Colombian family for 3 months. None of them speak English. I pushed myself to learn Spanish every day because, hello?! A family is feeding me and housing me for free. I think the littlest effort I can give is to try to have a conversation with them. And so, I did. It was very difficult but it paid off. It changed my life. Not just I learned another language but I was also able to have a tangible experience on how Colombian family dynamics work. I was super proud of myself for surpassing it! Positive impact can happen in many various forms. We are all different humans who lead different lives. I cannot guarantee that your experiences will be the same if we do the exact same volunteering gig or stay with the exact same family but one thing I can guarantee is the possibility of learning a lot about a culture that is far away from yours. When you go home, you will come back a different person – a person whom you never thought you’d be.”
Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She’d like to believe she’s not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha also loves extremely spicy food, pineapples, plants and symmetry. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv.
Laurence Norah of http://www.findingtheuniverse.com
Photographer and Travel Blogger
“I think that done correctly an experiential travel experience can be truly beneficial for both the traveller and the host, who can learn so much from each other. I particularly love a homestay experience when travelling, as this can be the perfect way to get to know the local people, how they live, what their challenges are, and also, to share something of my own culture with them.”
Laurence is a full time professional travel photographer & blogger, who has been travelling the world since 2009, and taking as many pictures of beautiful places as possible. He runs two travel blogs: the photography and adventure focused Finding the Universe, and the couples travel focused Independent Travel Cats with his wife Jessica. He’s also the author of the Superstar Blogging Online Photography Course, which will help you improve your photography, no matter your level or experience.
Jessica Blotter of www.KindTraveler.com
CEO & Co-Founder of Kind Traveler
“Impact experiences through travel have the capacity to connect humanity and widen our sense of compassion in a way that’s not possible in our everyday lives. Whether its teaching English in local schools, helping with reforestation projects, or volunteering with local wildlife conservation projects, there’s an experience that is bound to encourage personal growth. Impact experiences can also help us discover what sparks our passions and curiosities. When we connect our passions with purpose, it’s possible to create a more fulfilled and meaningful life.”
Jessica Blotter is CEO & Co-Founder of Kind Traveler. The moment she discovered that the love of travel can’t be separated from the state of the world after witnessing poverty on a trip to Belize in 2012, she wondered how the $7-trillion travel industry could be harnessed to benefit communities, the environment, and animals. This experience led her and her cofounder to create Kind Traveler, a Public Benefit Corporation that’s the first socially-conscious ‘Give + Get’ hotel booking platform. Travelers are empowered to give a small donation to a local charity that’s in the community of where they are traveling, or to a favorite charity on the platform. As reward, they unlock exclusive hotel rates in 30+ cities to book directly with hotels.
Nicolette Orlemans of https://www.culturewithtravel.com
Founder of culturewithtravel.com and #CultureTrav
“Cultural immersion has a positive impact on travelers and the local community alike. It teaches us to appreciate cultural differences (and respect these differences) and brings us closer together to developing a mutual understanding.”
Nicolette Orlemans is the founder of #CultureTrav chat, which brings travelers together every week on Twitter to talk about their cultural travel experiences. As an extension of the chat, Nicolette launched culturewithtravel.com, an online community blog focused on sharing travelers’ stories of deeper immersion in local culture.
David Ways of http://www.thelongestwayhome.com
Founder of The Longest Way Home
“Meet, understand and live like a local person. Experience a culture from a grass roots level.”
Over 10+ years of guidebook publishing, no return exploration; photography, writing, culture discovery, documenting & searching via The Longest Way Home
Marissa Sutera of https://www.littlethingstravel.com
Founder of Little Things Travel
“Experiential travel is a much more personal way of traveling that genuinely connects cultures and individuals from different backgrounds, which is one of the best ways to bridge gaps across borders and develop global citizens. This type of traveling also provides a unique insight into the lives of the local people in communities around the world, and travelers have the opportunity to leave a positive impression as ambassadors of their country. Experiential travel in itself supports the local economy through the purchases that are made while traveling, but the human to human mutual understanding and recognition of differences is what will lead to long term connections among the worldwide travel and volunteer abroad communities and beyond.”
Marissa has a background in marketing and international education and is the founder of Little Things Travel, where she writes about overcoming barriers in order to explore the world and ultimately appreciate the little things in life. Most recently, she launched a project called #littleBIGthings to show how travel can be a driver of positive change in big and little ways. She is a Chicago native but is currently based in Boulder, Colorado where she seeks out any adventures she can in between her travels.
Archana Singh of http://www.travelseewrite.com
Travel Strategist and Public Speaker
“When I started traveling some ten years back Experiential Travel was just a cool term used by few. I am glad today more and more travelers are not only using it but embracing it wholeheartedly. The best thing about experiential travel is the people you meet and connections you build. Your travels don’t remain superficial as you immerse yourself in the local fabric of the place. And the dollars you spend actually go to the bottom end of the society that really needs it. More than your money communities need your compassion because that is what is missing in this world today. When people see that you are compassionate, they open up and make you a part of their unforgettable experiences. You make genuine friends for life, which no MNC or a commercial tour agency can provide. ”
A Brand Strategist by profession and a Travel Journalist by passion. She publishes her travel stories on TravelSeeWrite.com and often contributes to several national and international publications. She is an award winning Travel Journalist and a Public Speaker. With 15+ years of Brand Management experience under her belt, she provides consultancy to brands and individuals on how to market themselves better. She is extremely passionate about telling untold human stories from offbeat places.
Kelley Louise of www.travelsocialgood.org
Executive Director of Travel + Social Good
“Travelers should be mindful of the activities they participate in, seeking opportunities that offer long-term, sustainable solutions, as well as spending their dollars at locations that ensure the local economy benefits. Purpose-driven travel is immensely rewarding, and in order to make a truly lasting impact, we must understand that sustainability is a lifestyle that starts at home.”
A travel entrepreneur passionate about storytelling and social good, Kelley Louise runs two sister organizations: The Culture Collective, a creative agency for brands in the travel and impact space, and a nonprofit, Travel+SocialGood, which is aimed at solving like poverty or inequality through business and leisure travel. She has built her career through carefully selected opportunities in the United States and abroad, including leadership roles in entrepreneurial endeavors, social good projects, and content creation and media strategy. Kelley is passionate about building the travel industry of the future, one in which mindful travelers bring positive impact to the communities they visit. She believes the potential of the travel industry lies within transforming cities into capitals of sustainable travel, as well as the power of making a difference with simple, everyday actions.
Nora Dunn of http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com
“Experiential Travel is the way to go if you really want to get an understanding of local cultures around the world. It often allows you to see (and experience) how people live, eat, shop, work, and play. Personally, my hospitality exchanges and volunteer experiences around the world have given me a much broader picture of the world, more compassion for people by understanding cultural differences, and an open mind towards different ways of thinking and doing things.”
Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo; a woman who sold everything she owned (including a busy financial planning practice) in 2006 to embrace her dreams of traveling the world long-term and immersively. She has been on the road ever since, traveling to/living in 55+ countries. She helps other people travel full-time in a financially sustainable way through her website, books (such as How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World and Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom.
Aiden Freeborn of www.freebornaiden.com
Adventure Travel Blog
“It gets travellers out of the “hostel bubble” and forces them to interact with the natives in a natural, everyday setting.”
Freeborn Aiden. Failed musician turned adventurer and travel writer. Pets stray cats, plays guitar and travels with a hair dryer. Aiden first started backpacking in 2014 and has since visited over 25 countries, often against the advice of his government. He spends his days in the North of England getting rained on and dreaming about his next great adventure; when it happens, you will be the very first to know about it!
Kaitlyn Brajcich of http://sustainabletravel.org/
Communications Manager of Sustainable Travel International
“One of the most impactful experiences that we can have when traveling is getting off the beaten path, stepping beyond the isolated resorts, immersing ourselves in local cultures, and engaging with local people. This can be a rewarding experience both for the local host communities, as well as the travelers themselves. By participating in tours led by local guides, staying in locally-owned homestays, or eating in restaurants that use local food sources, travelers can channel much-needed dollars directly into local communities. These types of experiences can also foster a heightened cultural understanding and mutual respect as both parties learn about and gain an appreciation of the other’s culture and traditions. When travelers immerse themselves in local cultures, they may also come face-to-face with some of the environmental, social, and cultural threats that the host communities are facing. They can then use this heightened awareness to inform their travel decisions so that they make more environmentally-friendly and socially responsible choices. Overall, experiential travel is a great way for travelers to support local communities, while also having a much more authentic and memorable travel experience.”
Prior to joining Sustainable Travel International, Kaitlyn spent time teaching English abroad in a remote village in Bali. This experience ignited her passion for global social impact and increased her awareness of the consequences of rapid tourism development and, subsequently, the importance of sustainable tourism management. Kaitlyn funnels her enthusiasm and expertise into managing Sustainable Travel International’s communications strategy and sharing the organization’s story of impact. Kaitlyn holds a BA in Public Relations from Gonzaga University.
Nicholas Kontis of www.nicholaskontis.com
Author-Award-Winning Travel Journalist
“There is only a positive impact with cultures collide. When one travels the world, you’ll discover that 95% of humans are good people. As much as you wish to learn about your new surroundings, your hosts equally inquisitive to learn about where you come from. In the end, we’re all much more the same than different. Travel breaks down barriers about people. Travel is a cure for bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Sadly, in my great nation, a mere 38% of Americans have passports. There is no greater satisfaction than giving back on your journey. People helping people is something that is ingrained in all of us. Whether you decide to teach school children in Africa or work in a village in Peru, or even work on a farm is Europe, the experiences and encounters with people will last with you forever. Even if you can only give a small portion of your travels to volunteering, you’ll not only help others, but also learn more about a new culture.”
Travelling the globe by train, plane, bicycle, boat and thumb (hitchhiking), even saving a baby in Bangladesh, Nick embraced a lifelong affection for travel. Upon returning to his native San Francisco with no job prospect in sight, Nick launched the first successful travel agency in the United States that specialized in discount around-the-world airfares. Before long, he had been featured on Arthur Frommer’s travel TV show and Peter Greenberg’s radio show … from Istanbul. Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler called him the “father of around-the-world airfares.” . Nick’s first book is titled: “Going Local – Experiences and Encounters on the Road.”
Brianne Miers of www.atravelinglife.com
“I’m so excited that there are more and more opportunities to get off the beaten path while traveling and hope that travelers continue to take advantage of them. I think the biggest benefit of Experiential Travel/Impact Experiences is that valuable tourist dollars are given directly to locals – not wealthy investors or foreigners – and those dollars are then spent in the communities. The environment can also benefit because there are financial incentives for keeping natural habitats intact – adventure activities like trekking and canoeing can create valuable jobs in rural areas. And, of course, tourists can learn valuable lessons from having the ability to be immersed in a completely different culture.”
Brianne is based in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). She is the principal of Kind Communications, and her blog, A Traveling Life, focuses on how to balance a professional career with a life of travel.
Namrata Bhawnani and Mitali Mahajani of https://ecophiles.com/
Co-founders and Editors, Ecophiles
“Travel at its core is an educational experience unlike any other. Really allowing yourself an immersive experience in another country – their way of life, cuisine and culture – brings you closer to thinking of people there as an ‘US’ instead of ‘them’. A great way is to pick a local tour that doesn’t just skim the surface with stops at attractions for photo-ops – but one that offers learning a new skill, trying authentic cuisine, volunteering with locals or simply soaking up a new way of life. Experiential travel can be a life-changing experience.
Experiential travel is also a boon to the local communities who were earlier sidelined by tourists. Though for some ‘authenticity’ and ‘travel like a local’ are becoming buzzwords – there’s actual excitement in the local communities where some interesting and creative tours have sprung up in the last few years.”
The Ecophiles are Mitali Mahajani and Namrata Bhawnani, living in New York and London – pursuing our passions of travel, writing, and all things green – together from across the pond.
Jackson Groves of https://www.journeyera.com/
Adventure Travel Blogger
“When travelers step away from major tourist attractions and delve into the trials and tribulations of daily life in a different culture, it gives them a fresh perspective. Visiting the tourist hotspots might be an amazing experience but understanding the fabric of society takes a much different level of involvement. Volunteering within the local community is one way in which you can meet people and form a small connection and gain an insight into their life. Volunteering abroad or experiential travel could be a great way to not only help valuable causes but also to broaden the perspective of travelers. The volunteer experience needs to be monitored closely as volun-tourism can also have negative impacts on local communities. However, I think with the right processes in place there is room for both the traveler and charity/community to have a positive experience.”
Jackson is currently adventuring throughout Asia, from beaches to waterfalls and everything in between. He is living it up but also sticking to a crazy budget trying to maintain a full-time travel lifestyle.
Gregory Hubbs of http://www.transitionsabroad.com
Editor-in-Chief of TransitionsAbroad.com
“Since Transitions Abroad was founded in 1977 as a magazine designed to counter the “glossies,” we were deeply committed to providing stories and practical information inspiring those going abroad to get off-the-beaten track and experience the world abroad on its own terms and with a minimal footprint. As the founder was an educator, he was convinced that all travel was educational, and much of the best education is not academic but experiential. Much of the most thoughtful travel respects the earth on which the locals live and depend.
Perhaps such a movement to “Experiential Travel” has never been more important with the economic and political crises that tend to cause many to develop preconceptions about “others” on the earth we share, even as the effects of climate change that result from commercial ways of living destabilize the green and blue planet.
All travel is educational, we believe, and meeting local people and exploring their culture, and respecting their lands as respectful guests in their home countries not only helps build empathetic bridges rather than paranoid walls but opens up the mind of the traveler to the infinite possibilities offered by such experiences in cultures and subcultures worldwide.
Awareness is ultimately brought back home when and if the trip ends, such that experiential travel enlightens behavior at home and abroad to minimize negative impact on the environment and maximize empathy for others.”
Son of itinerant parents, first students, then professors, and finally travel publishers who traversed the globe from 1963 when I was three. I lived and attended the local schools and universities of two countries abroad and traveled in 50+. I speak French and Italian. My degrees are in literature and philosophy. I current edit and curate TransitionsAbroad.com to continue the work of my father.
Charlie Marchant of http://charlieontravel.com
Green travel blogger
“The biggest positive impact of trends like experiential travel are that travellers better integrate with, understand and support local communities. They have valuable experiences when travelling abroad. This could be through getting involved with social enterprises and community-tourism projects to see how locals live and work, learning about local crafts and artisans, going on local tours to see how locals live, staying in homestays or even just eating local food in locally run restaurants. When they return home, they have valuable and education experiences to share.”
Charlie is a green travel blogger. Originally from the UK, Charlie now travels the world long-term. She writes about sustainable travel and community-based tourism activities, promoting local organisations and raising awareness along the way.
Evan Kristine of https://www.prettywildworld.com/
A Visual Travel Blogger
“The travel industry has evolved massively in the past decade and everyone is traveling more than ever. It is rather common that once something, such as going for a holiday, becomes special thus these popular places like Paris, Rome, and Barcelona (to name a few) no longer appeals to some people. Nowadays, people not only travel for the sake of traveling but rather take the opportunity to get an amazing experience. By experience, this means truly connecting to the place they visit instead of just passing by. This is indeed a positive thing! People are seeking more opportunities abroad that involves cultural immersion and volunteering is one AMAZING way to actually do it and help at the same time.”
Evan Kristine is the creative person behind Pretty Wild World, a visual travel blog that aims to inspire fellow travel enthusiast through amazing destinations, local cuisine, and beautiful photographs.
Georgina Wilson-Powell of www.pebblemag.com
Editor, pebble magazine
“So many things. Firstly, your money goes to local communities and companies rather than multinationals, which is often the best way to support people rather than volunteering. Secondly, you learn from real people, hear their stories, understand their challenges and you can then share that with your friends – again that’s a lot more impactful than people realize. It’s a more sustainable way to travel as people tend to stay in one place longer, which has a bigger impact from money spent and uses less carbon emissions in travelling.”
Georgina is a travel and food journalist and editor and now runs an ethical lifestyle and eco-travel magazine discussing not just destinations and holidays but the environmental issues around travelling and tourism.
Amy E. Robertson of www.amyiswriting.com
Travel, food and culture writer
“For starters, these kinds of experiences can have an important impact on the local community – when you get off the beaten path you spread your tourist dollars (or euros or pounds or…) with more people, and often with people that would not normally benefit from mainstream tourism. For the traveler, “impact experiences” can be the highlight of a vacation, because they connect you with locals beyond the usual hotel and restaurant staff, pulling back the curtain that normally separates the traveler and the place they are visiting, allowing a more authentic glimpse of life in the country you’re visiting.”
Amy is a freelance writer and editor with an education in international development. She has traveled in more than sixty countries and lived in six. She is also the author of Volunteer Vacations in Latin America, published by Moon Handbooks.
Irene Lane of http://www.greenloons.com
Founder of Green Loons Eco
“I think that Experiential Travel or Impact Experiences can help create more responsible global citizens; ones that recognize and value differences in culture, mores, political viewpoints and lifestyles while also realizing that there is more than one way to achieve happiness and success. I believe these experiences convey to travelers the importance of benefiting communities socially, economically and environmentally with their travel choices.”
Irene Lane is the Founder of Greenloons, which is committed to providing trusted, transparent information about authentic, responsible, sustainable and certified ecotourism travel vacations available around the world. Irene specializes in developing sustainable tourism products, marketing strategies, return on investment (ROI) benchmarking models, and community development tactics for tourism boards and individual businesses. She is a regular, featured writer for the Huffington Post among other media outlets and a featured speaker on ecotourism strategies, challenges and issues. She has presented at the George Washington University, the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and for the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. She is also the only person in the United States who can certify a green travel destination, accommodation or event under the internationally-accredited Biosphere label.
Kristen Emma Macauley of kristenemma.com
“I think the greatest positive impact of this kind of travel is having a more honest experience of the culture and people of the place you are visiting. So many tourist companies only want to show a fun, or “thriving”, version of their country, but really there is so much more to every culture. Even in the richest of places there is hardship and struggle. I think an “Experiential” travel can show the visitors that all humans share some of the same struggles around the world. Every city and country is so much more than its prettiest church, landscape or historical marker. By sharing our struggles with outsiders (and even our mundane day-to-day lives) it makes even the most opposite cultures more relatable and similar.”
Kristen is an Excelsior, Minnesota-based photographer specializing in travel and cultural photography. “There is no better education then to travel the world” serves as Kristen’s personal motto. Traveling is not only her way of broadening her own education, but also a tool to show others the diversity and beauty that different cultures can offer. She has lived in three different countries, including the US, South Africa and Peru. Her goal is to use photography as a way to eliminate stereotypes that can grow from ignorance, and to show similarities between cultures, regardless of their location. In order to give back to the communities that she photographs, 25% of all sales from Kristen Emma Creative are donated back to local charities around the world. She is 27 years old, is married to her business partner (and sherpa, and translator, and international security guard…) John and they have two dogs.
Jen Ambrose and Ryan Victor of http://www.passionsandplaces.com
“We believe that connecting with local people and cultures is one of the greatest things about travel, and that travelers should seek out experiential options whenever they can. Traveling off the beaten path, staying in homestays, and getting immersed in a community can be wonderful ways for travelers to interact with local people and gain a deeper understanding of their culture and experiences. Plus, experiential travel can help put more tourism dollars in the hands of locals, instead of large corporations.
People who have specific technical skills and are able to commit to a long-term placement can also make an impact in local communities through volunteering. But we would caution travelers to carefully consider the impacts of short-term voluntourism programs, especially those that focus more on giving the volunteers an interesting experience than on providing real benefits to the community.”
Jen Ambrose and Ryan Victor are an American couple who recently left their office jobs in Boston to travel the world and work as freelancers. Their travel blog focuses on outdoor adventures, getting off the beaten path, and responsible travel. They draw on their backgrounds in international non-profit work and academic research to critically examine the impacts of travel on local people, economies, and the environment.
Clare Hancock of http://www.immersiontravelmag.com
Editor in Chief and Founder of Immersion Travel Magazine
“Impactful experiences not only stay with the traveler for the rest of his or her life, but they affect locals as well. An example is working with locals to learn about their natural parks and wildlife, and how to protect those ecosystems. This work empowers everyone involved and shows locals that their home is worth preserving.”
Raised among cacti and cowboys in Arizona, Clare Hancock has always had an appetite for adventure. By the time she was a sophomore in college, she had her sites set on becoming a travel writer. However, after earning a master’s degree in journalism, she realized that travel writing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and she decided she was going to change that. Her vision was to create a magazine that not only featured ethical and responsible destinations but also took care of its contributors. No more trading compensations for positive reviews. No more traveling on an insufficient budget. No more shady deals with bloated companies. Just pure travel, the good, the bad, the breathtaking, and even the not-so-glamorous. That is what Clare stands for and its what you can expect from Immersion Travel Magazine.
Lola Méndez of http://www.missfilatelista.com/
“I think of impactful travel experiences as less of a trend as more of an emerging demand. Travelers are becoming more aware of the negative impact the travel industry has had on communities in the past and want to be a part of a paradigm shift towards sustainable travel. Why pay for a cooking class with a corporate hotel in a developing country when you could learn directly from a woman who is a beneficiary of a women’s empowerment NGO and can teach you the secret recipes of her cultural cuisine in the comfort of her own kitchen with the funds from the experience going directly into the hands of the group that aids her and her peers? The positive impact comes from using our tourism dollars for good, and being more aware of where each cent goes. I try to make sustainable travel decisions whenever possible, whether it is using public transportation, staying at eco-lodges, shopping locally at artisan markets, and booking social impact experiences around the world with visit.org.”
Lola Méndez is a full-time traveler sharing her adventures on Miss Filatelista as she adds to her collection of passport stamps. She travels to develop her own worldview and has explored 47 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities.
Chris Mackay of www.crookedtrails.org
Executive Director of Crooked Trails
“It’s all about the immersive experience which opens up travelers hearts and minds to the issues confronting the people we are visiting on our trips. I just lead a group of students to Thailand to look at human trafficking, an issue they had no idea about. After meeting with local NGO’s, the students saw the rest of the trip with different eyes. They saw the karaoke bars on Khao San Rd through through a new lense. We also spent time in the villages up north and when parents said their girls were in Bangkok waitressing, the students had a deeper understanding of what those daughters might actually be doing. Impact experiences, do just that-they impact the traveler. They help us be more compassionate travelers.”
Chris Mackay has worked in the field of tourism for over 30 years and founded Crooked Trails in 1998
Wendy Maes of http://www.worldwidewendy.be
“People in less visited places can gain an extra income.”
“I think this is a great trend for the volunteer abroad community because we as travelers who take part in this movement are reducing the negative effects we have on local populations whenever we interact with them. By moving away from tourist traps, which aid in the exportation of cultural stereotypes in regard to a specific community or region or country, we as travelers are given a glimpse at a less processed version of the place we are visiting, which is just as beneficial for locals a it is for international travelers. However, I would advise travelers against looking for “authentic experiences” when they travel to a new place. This mindset implies that there is an implicit standard that a community or culture must meet, and that “authentic” standard is ultimately quantified by an external opinion.”
India is a translator and writer from the United States. She is currently volunteering with a non-profit in Ecuador.
Ryner St John of http://www.ngo-photographers.com
Director of NGO Photographers Alliance
“With travel being so easily accessible now (1 in 7 people worldwide now travel internationally each year), experiential travel is a relatively new phenomenon that has the potential to harness this immense human resource. From this, the biggest benefit of allowing travellers to immerse themselves within the local culture or community is to broaden knowledge and give participants insight into the daily life and challenges facing local communities. Knowledge leads to understanding and understanding leads to a more ready acceptance to perceive the world outside of personal pre conceived stereotypes.”
The NGO Photographers Alliance is a collective bringing together social and humanitarian photographers worldwide into one organisation. Our flagship program is a Mentorship Program in NGO Photography that is designed for participants who have an interest in photography as it pertains to the NGO and nonprofit world.
Sera Melisa Chalayan
“Learning should be a lifelong goal for every person. Travelers in particular seem to have an innate desire to learn something new every day. Aside from the initial benefit of creating synapses in the brain, which in turn combat memory loss and brain diseases, being a “student of the world” is valuable to people outside of the learner. Making a conscious decision that other cultures and ideals and important is the first step to becoming a global citizen and consequently being more apt to change the world for the better. Just like in learning a new language, immersion is crucial to true understanding. Once you experience a moment in someone else’s life, you are more likely to remember the thoughts and feelings it evoked and become more altruistic in your day-to-day. Those immersive experiences shape who you are and how you treat other people. Making an effort to acknowledge, observe, and practice a genuine interest in another community will bring you closer to its people, closer to enlightenment, and closer to yourself.”
Sera is an MBA candidate. Global volunteer. Hopeful changemaker.
“The traveller will always gain more from the experiences than the community. We come and go, but the community remains. The experience will challenge and test us, and if we let it, change us to have a bigger perspective of the world and hopefully more compassionate understanding as well.
The community may gain a helping hand (although often travelers need to be trained or explained what to do), but that will not have a lasting impact. The few extra dollars will not solve economic, social, educational, and health problems. (Of course, we should still try!) What might, however, is that every conversation and every interaction between people has the opportunity to bring us as human beings closer together. Where it is easy to point out the differences among us, experiential travel helps to point out how similar we are at the core. This is what I see as the greatest benefit to communities.”
Natalie is the founder of Partners for International Cooperation, a “swammer” (retired NCAA Division 1 swimmer), and certified RYT200 yoga instructor. Her volunteering journey began at a young age for cats at the local animal shelter, and has brought her across the world working on international issues such as education and food security. She blogs about Millennial life, teaches everything from English to yoga, and finds adventures anywhere from her hometown to remote islands.
Reading through the various expert responses to the Experiential Travel trend, it is apparent that there are many different ways to go about experiencing a new travel destination in this new and exciting way. Though the overall responses indicate that both travelers and the local communities will benefit from taking on this trend, it is also very helpful to receive some practical tips and ideas for how to carry this out for your next adventure abroad.
All experts were also asked to list some of their favorite examples of Experiential Travel when they travel abroad, and we received a range of answers. To start out – check out a list of the top six examples:
From the following image we can see that there are some very simple ways we can implement this trend by choosing some activities that we will, in any case, carry out throughout a normative travel day or week. For example – we’ll surely want to purchase some gifts to take home. Making sure such gifts are locally made, so that money goes back to the locals, is a great way to support the community we are visiting. Here are a couple examples of gifts that you can buy from the local community: garments from Ecuador, artisanal art & boutique clothing from Mexico.
Another example, eating local cuisine in a local restaurant, is also a fairly easy one to implement and may only require digging a little deeper into the local scene.
Some other favorites, such as staying with a local family or checking out the social enterprise scene, further express the “experiential” aspect of this trend. For one, these type of activities will surely invite us to step deep into the local community, and truly learn the specific aspects of the locals’ traditions, ways of life, day-to-day activities. Social enterprises will teach us about the side of the community that perhaps needs to make changes and form solutions for the future.
Choosing to travel with local tour guides, rather than scheduling ahead through huge tour operators, is also an excellent example favored by most of the experts. Local tour guides can award travelers a more holistic, authentic, and possibly interesting tour of their local community. Surely, they know the ins-and-outs of their neighborhoods far better than anyone else!
The last on the list of top six examples, volunteering within the local community, does require extensive planning and research in order to make sure that it is done in a responsible manner and for the better of the local community. Though chosen by fewer experts, it can be surmised that it may mostly be because choosing to volunteer locally is not something we can (or should) simply choose to do on a whim, but rather truly commit our time, resources, and energy into working alongside locals and helping them form sustainable changes. Choosing a responsible and local nonprofit that can benefit from your skills, communicating with them and finalizing your time with their organization, and finally committing some of your travel time to really make a change – all of these require a lot of time and energy. Of course, we think this is an exceptionally meaningful way to take part in Experiential Travel, but we do understand the extent of work it requires, which is why it is great to also note some other examples that can also allow you to positively engage in this trend. The Gili Shark Conservation project is a good example of an activity that you can take part in. Instead of paying for the general scuba lessons, you can volunteer with them while still receiving your diving license.
Interested in some more examples? Our experts definitely had a lot of great ones to share! Continuing down the list, experts touched on learning the local language (4.6%), riding public transportation (2.3%), experiencing local customs (2.3%) and attending workshops run by locals (4.6%).
By now, it is quite hard to deny just how profound of an impact this trend can have on a worldwide scale. Whether you’ll be traveling to South America, North America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or anywhere else – Experiential Travel is the way to go. Understanding that by making changes to our travel habits we’ll be rewarding ourselves and the places we’ll be visiting may be a big enough incentive to get out there and dare to step out of our comfort zones, and off of the beaten path. From here, time will tell exactly to what extent this exciting new form of travel will affect all involved, but one thing’s for sure – we cannot wait to find out!
Do you have any of your own suggestions for experiences that can promote the Experiential Travel trend? Make sure to add yours to the comment section below.
And of course – share this expert advice so that we can spread the excitement to everyone!
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