Why You Should Take Your Shoes and Travel
The first time I left the United States and visited a developing nation I was only 13 years old. My parents abandoned our “normal” life and joined an amazing international medical missions group called Mercy Ships. I’ve been to 30 countries between North and Central America, Europe and Africa. I’ve seen missions done very well, and I’ve seen it done very poorly. When done well, it includes education, employment, and long-lasting improvements to the local economy. It’s sustainable. Charity may provide a few meals, but the hunger quickly returns.
Employment provides a lifetime of meals, the ability for a family to send their children to school, and a sustainable way for a family to pull themselves out of poverty for this and for future generations.
As a travel agent, I love helping people who work hard all year get to play hard on vacation. But do you know what I love even more? Knowing that when you travel to a developing nation, you are helping to provide real, sustainable jobs in that country. You help employ people at the airport who unload luggage and work in the restaurants. You help employ drivers who take you to your resort and back to the airport. You help employ workers at the resort. You employ farmers who grow the food you eat on the resort. You feed families by purchasing local souvenirs in town. The taxes the resort charges? Those help pave roads, build new schools, open new hospitals and medical clinics. The excursions you take? They help preserve national monuments and local culture.
We just returned from a week-long family vacation to Mexico. It was a wonderful, relaxing experience, but it was also very educational for my three teenagers. While we were there, we decided to take an all-day excursion an hour and a half away from the resort so they could experience the local culture, see the beauty Mexico has to offer, and even climb a Mayan pyramid and experience local cuisine. Throughout the day they met many locals employed by the tourism industry who patiently shared with them about their national history and culture, and my teenagers put away their phones, enthralled with everything they learned and discovered.
Our tour guide explained at the end of the tour how much he and our driver appreciated having jobs and by us going on an excursion with them, we were allowing them to support their families and their communities.
Real jobs supporting real families. So take your shoes and travel.