Continuing in the spirit of focusing on travel that gives back this month (check out my Facebook page for more), we’re going to talk about how travel benefits people’s livelihood, Fellow Traveler.
Now, when I say livelihood, I don’t just mean income. Focusing only on income is a very shortsighted approach. We all know that working in jobs we don’t like is not good for our health. I was a bank teller one summer, and let me tell you, dealing with gruff & sometimes rude customers took its toll. But it was okay, because I could always go back to my house & be with my family at the end of the day.
Let’s say, FT, that you’re a native of Central America. There aren’t many jobs for you (the logging industry is failing, because, shocker, logging isn't sustainable), and frankly, your knowledge of indigenous crafts isn’t that in demand. So what do you do? You take a job at a resort. Resorts are always in need of more workers, and chances are pretty good that you might land a job at one.
Remember how I said dealing with gruff & sometimes rude customers takes its toll? Now imagine that your customer feels entitled to treat you rudely because they’ve paid a lot of money to come to your resort & relax & be waited on hand & foot. Already not a great job. But worse news, FT: you can’t go home.
Because resorts are often in beachy places...
...Not towns full of indigenous people.
So not only are these people forced to work at arguably demeaning jobs, they don’t have the same stress relief (i.e. families & community) that a lot of us in the US can take advantage of. And possibly worse than that, their cultures are dying because of it. They don’t have the time or community to foster their traditional cultural activities.
How can you help? Well, first & most obvious: skip the resort. Opt to stay at a locally-owned lodging instead. (That means no Western-owned hotels, too: your Marriotts, your Hiltons, etc.)
Second, support local artisans. You would think that Western travelers would want to purchase authentic wares on their trips, but if you’re stuck in a resort your entire trip, you never even get to see the culture outside of your compound!
Third, eat locally. Local farmers, fishers, & ranchers make more money from you eating their food in their own country than it being exported out.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Travel can change the world. And an important part of that is voting with your dollar. But it's only life-changing if you support locals with your money instead of Western-owned companies.
Now get out there and go!