We all want to leave the places we visit better than they were when we found them. But sometimes that can feel daunting, especially when you start wondering what sorts of small steps can you take to make a big impact when you travel. Here are three ways in which you can support positive change in the communities you visit and elevate your experiences at the same time.

Get social

With just a little research, you easily can find social enterprises working to lift up less fortunate or underserved members of just about any community. For example, Seattle has FareStart, a restaurant that provides homeless and disadvantaged individuals with culinary job training. The food at FareStart is delicious, and is made even more scrumptious by the impact that a meal can make. 

Restaurants such as FareStart are making a difference in cities all over the world. So, too, are businesses that donate a portion of their earnings toward local causes. As you plan your adventures or explore new areas, keep your eyes out for businesses with clear giving programs.   

What FareStart stands for

Reward work

Experiencing a new destination can mean coming face to face with some difficult realities—in many parts of the world, begging is an unfortunate fact. It can feel heartbreaking to turn away a beggar, especially when that beggar is a child. What may came as a surprise is that there are potentially devastating ramifications to supporting begging. For one, children are often kept out of school to beg, which means that they are not able to get the education that increases the likelihood that they will break the vicious cycle of poverty. 

When you are visiting a destination where begging is a reality, consider saving your money to reward those who have made it to the first tier of employment. Generously tipping servers, attendants, and wait staff (to name just a few) is one way to honor the service you are being provided and lift up those individuals at the same time. It also is a way to make sure that your money does not perpetuate the troubling, counter-productive aspects of begging.

Viewfinder Tip: Traveling with children? Kids of parents who travel conscientiously become adults who travel conscientiously.

Buy local

One of the best ways to make a positive impact on the communities you visit is to support local artisans, crafts people, and locally owned businesses. An excellent example of this is Seven Candles, a guesthouse, tour operator, and nonprofit foundation in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The organization is owned by a Cambodian family and operates a broad range of tours, including a very popular street food tour. The organization also donates some of its revenue toward expanding and strengthening education in the community.

Not only will purchasing local goods help the community, it also is an excellent way to create a more authentic and unique travel experience. You’ll make it home with some great souvenirs. More importantly, you’ll leave knowing that the choices you made while traveling had a positive impact on everyone involved. The way we see it, there’s no better souvenir than that.

Travel can be a transformative experience for each of us. By taking the time to support social enterprise, buy locally, and reward individuals who are breaking the cycle of poverty, you can make sure that it is a transformative experience for the communities you visit as well.

What are your tips for leaving a destination better than you found it?