NEW YORK, NY – Another year coming to an end and another set of resolutions to adopt. This year, make the resolution to be a “travel hero.” From choosing eco-lodging to taking part in community projects and offsetting your carbon footprint, there are many ways to travel, while doing the most good.
Each end of year, Cable News Networks (CNN) scours the globe for their annual CNN Heroes: All-Star Tribute to activists who have dedicated time to making a difference. This fall 2010, Anderson Cooper has inspired many viewers with an incredible palette of philanthropists, including two men who work to help the Kenyan people. Harmon Parker is dubbed the “community crusader” for his extraordinary efforts to support Kenyan tribal groups for the past 15 years. Observing their daily lives up close enables Parker to grasp the acute nature of their needs. Since 1997, he has built 45 footbridges over Kenya’s rivers, determined to protect people from the dangers of flash floods and predatory animals. The bridges also serve as a means to connect isolated communities with valuable resources. Evans Wadongo, 23, on the other hand, is giving his country’s rural families a chance to replace the often-utilized kerosene and wood fire-produced light with solar power, in order to ultimately improve education and reduce poverty and hunger. Such heroes are an inspiration and trigger our will to help better lives, even in the smallest ways.
In 2011, travelers can take away one important lesson from these incredible role models – that even the smallest contribution has meaning and affects someone’s life. There are a myriad of ways one can travel responsibly. Whether it’s taking part in community development programs such as those of Parker and Wadongo, or staying in an environmentally-friendly lodge, many tour outfitters can tailor your trip to meet your needs and level of involvement. For example, Elevate Destinations offers several trips that give back to various communities. Elevate features several “travel that matters” itineraries in Kenya including the Giving Back Safari, Conservation & Community, the Eco-Tour, and Kenya: Water. All trips zero in on particular community development and conservation efforts and the country’s ecological advances in tourism. Elevate also offers a “Service Trip” to Kenya with the Ogra Foundation to participate in health, education, and poverty eradication projects.
Other safari outfitters offer varied “voluntourism” budget to luxury itineraries. Gap Adventures features Kenya Project & Safari, which enables travelers to gain a unique perspective on local culture while volunteering with medical clinics and orphanages that help to improve the lives of the local population. Planeterra boasts many voluntourism opportunities as well, including a Kenya Teaching and Safari Adventure, which enables travelers to volunteer in schools and improve the life of the local population, while trekking Kakamega Forest, strolling the streets of Kisumu, and discovering coastal culture in Kendu Bay.
By traveling responsibly, visitors to Kenya improve lives of many – not only by contributing to the country’s economic growth, but also by helping to preserve the environment and assist people in need. Give a little of your time to Kenya in 2011 and take away an incredibly enriching experience that few may encounter in a lifetime. This extraordinarily diverse country offers rolling hills, lush grasslands, volcanoes, mountains, palm-fringed and white sand beaches, and golden savannah. The views are awe-inspiring, while the cultural encounters are just as mesmerizing. From Maasai survival stories to Swahili cuisine, game drives to guided bush walks, and countless opportunities to weave community-based volunteer efforts, visitors to Kenya enjoy an array of inspirational experiences and indelible moments.