The impact of visiting a foreign country is tremendous and it’s far beyond simply financial support or boasting about how charitable we are.
Travelling to other countries often exposes us to more than just beautiful scenery, good food and unforgettable memories. It is often the first time that we see what "real" poverty means. Here are some meaningful ways we can give back when visiting these communities. The impact of visiting a foreign country is tremendous and it’s far beyond simply financial support or boasting about how charitable we are.
Why Help the Locals?
- The money spent locally will end up in their pockets. Purchasing from vendors and restaurants locally helps out business owners, their families and their communities.
- You can make local people feel unique, not exotic. Approaching and communicating with locals with an honest intention and curiosity, not only makes them feel more at ease, but you may learn things you hadn’t even considered before. Be respectful when documenting your trip, ask before taking a picture, rather than viewing local people as objects to photograph.
- Visit places not in the guidebooks. Secret gems are secret for a reason: hiking via less walked paths, finding places where only locals eat, walking empty streets in an otherwise overwhelmingly crowded city is much easier with a person who has grown up in the area or has lived there long enough to know about less known local jewels.
- Learn about a new culture first hand. We can read articles online, watch videos and listen to recordings, but experiencing customs and rituals first hand is a great way to open our minds and show respect to natives who are willing to teach us more about their culture or way of life.
- Bring home memories, not just souvenirs. We often look back fondly on a fun time or a new activity learnt while away from home. These are the things that stay with us.
- Learn a new language. Attempting to speak the local tongue can go a long way, even if it is just a few key words or phrases. In turn you may find the opportunity to teach someone some English words.
- Encourage young people you meet in the area to stay in school and not work. The ability to learn to read and write is still more a privilege than a right in many countries. Here is a great article explaining why we shouldn’t give to begging children.
How to Help Locals?
- Buy local food. Shop where the natives shop, purchase items produced locally. This way you are supporting both the shop owner and the local producer.
- Take local transportation. Try renting a bike to get around for the day or take local buses. This can save you money and give you a chance to converse with those living in the community.
- Use a local guide. Wandering the streets is a great way to get to know a town, but having a local explain what you are seeing, pointing out great places to eat and showing you hidden treasures is a fantastic way to support a resident entrepreneur and learn a few things yourself. Added bonus is that most locals know their cities better than any guide book.
- Stay with a local. Book a home stay or guest house to get a taste of what real life is like in the community you are visiting.
- Teach a few phrases in English. As a language spoken widely across the globe, many people in small communities appreciate learning a few key words or phrases. Take the time to teach them some of your most common sayings.
- Show curiosity. Ask, listen and try to avoid making snap judgments. Take in your environment and learn from those around you.
- Share your experience. Let others know about where you have been, what you have learnt, and why you would go back.
It would be impossible to travel and not interact with locals. The people that live in the communities we visit on our travels are a big part of what makes that area so unique. Giving back to the people living in these towns and cities is a great way to foster tourism in a respectful manner.