Causetrotting, the adventure begins
It’s a paisa vasool deal. Really. You can have the
vacation of your life, enjoy nature in all its
abundance plus do your bit to save the planet.
Yes, this is the mantra of new age vacation.
Visiting Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore,
Disneyland, London, Paris and other places to shop
or sight see is passé. The new lifestyle statement is
holidaying with a difference. In fact, making a difference
to the place you visit.
“I travel to learn and enrich myself. This sort of
trip, where I learn about a new culture in an active,
yet luxurious setting, is right up my alley,” explains
Tracy Boyd (42), who works as a senior director,
Product and Community, at Affinity Labs in San
Like Tracy, there are hundreds of others who
want to vacation differently. This type of vacation
tour isn’t like ordinary group tours. It’s not an individual
tour. It’s not volunteering in the strictest sense of the word nor is it backpacking. It’s a mixture of
all of these in just the right amount. It is like giving back to communities while globetrotting.
And the best part of it is that it offers best value
for your buck besides allowing you to see the most
exotic places on earth
|like Belize, Kenya, Island
Piaza (Seychelles), Honduras, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, our own Ladakh and any other that you can think
of, and doing your bit: preserving the ecology of places, educating the
locals and helping them access medical facilities.
Elucidates Tracy, “I knew that I would be travelling alone and
that posed several problems – among them the ‘single tax’ and also, I
didn’t want to be alone while travelling. Initially I wanted to combine volunteering
with my travel, but that didn’t really work out from a budget
or timeline perspective. This is when I came across the concept of ecofriendly
|To help people like Tracy, organisations have sprung up the world
over that help one plan tours, take care of all their needs and additionally
contribute part of their earnings from this tour money to NGOs
working in the localities that one visits. You also get the luxury of spending
time with locals, learning their lifestyle, culture and look at their locality
without compromising your comfort.
If you Google search, you will find many such organisations like
Elevate Destinations, North Island Seychelles, Volunteer in India (Vii),
SECMOL (The Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of
Ladakh) among several others.
Many a times. while travelling. we feel helpless at the plight of the
locals, and to appease our guilt, we buy some of the goods offered in the
market or tip the lobby boys, taxi drivers or guides. Beyond this, we feel powerless to improve their lifestyle and feel guilty of the luxury
we enjoy in their poor surroundings.
||In fact, Dominique Callimanopulos, who noticed the
inequities between travelers and native communities when she
first began to travel, founded Elevate Destinations. Dominique
saw the opportunity to combine the singularly exciting travel
she enjoyed, with giving back to the communities she visited.
Elevate Destinations developed from this vision. This was
much before the travel sector began to go ‘green’.
|Says Dominique, “Clients come to us in search of an amazing travel experience which also makes a difference to the country they visit, as well as green accommodations that do not compromise on aesthetics, amenities, service or security. Our trips are specifically designed to provide travelers with the opportunity to better understand economic, socio-cultural and environmental needs of the countries they visit. Some travelers prefer to make a donation: we donate five per cent of the net costs of all our trips to NGOs in destination countries. Other clients want more hands-on service opportunities in the communities
they are visiting.”
North Island, a Seychelles-based conservation oriented
company with an endeavour to ‘turn back the ecological clock’
offers similar travel packages. Slightly high on the budget, they
offer a lot of privacy to their clients who can tour the entire
north islands of Seychelles in whichever way they want to -- on
bicycles, buggies or foot. No petrol driven cars here. This conservation-
oriented company works on the philosophy of an
unceasing endeavour to turn back the ecological clock. They
offer scuba diving, snorkeling, etc, keeping the environment
intact whereas the Elevate destination offers walking with the
wildlife, seeing chimps, lions, zebras, etc in their natural habitat,
besides learning from the tribals and locals about their lifestyle.
Interestingly, they even offer green honeymoon packages!
Then there are others offering spiritual volunteering tours like
the Ladakh-based Vii, which offers special packages of four to six
weeks of stay in places like Ladakh, Leh, Dharmsala, Rishikesh,
Tso Moriri nomadic camp, etc. Popular among Westerners with
interest in Buddhism, Vii offers yoga and meditation sessions with
monks, stay with the locals, sight-seeing on weekends and interaction
with the locals to learn about their lifestyle.
Even a diehard city dweller or party hopper will find these tours
intriguing and enjoyable. “The customs of these places and the
scenery are enough to keep you captivated while you are there.
There is no way one can get bored and,
in fact, people who come
to us want to prolong their stay,’’ says a Vii volunteer.
SECMOL, active in Leh-Ladakh, is a student interaction voluntary
organisation. Purely voluntary work, which comes with a minimum
budget of Rs 300 a day (inclusive of food and accommodation),
it’s popular among students from cities like Delhi, Mumbai,
Bangalore and others. One not only gets to spend time in the
beautiful mountain ranges of the region for as long as one wants
but also gets time to spend with the student community who are
ever eager to learn things about the outside world. So why not
change your usual vacation plans and go on a green vacation?