The power of travel
One year ago, the thought of planes being grounded and destinations closing their doors to international visitors was unfathomable. Over the past nine months, many people have vowed to never take travel for granted again. From giving back to local communities to life-changing encounters made possible by exploring the world, Travel Courier chats with travel advisors about what travel means to them and what they’ve gained on the open road.
At the age of 21, Erin Kemp backpacked throughout East Africa for six weeks with an organization called Operation Groundswell. While staying in rural communities in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, the group completed projects that were requested by locals.
“While I know volunteer tourism has its pros and cons, I think that there is a place for it when done correctly,” Kemp, Travel Consultant and Director of Marketing & Events at Kemp Travel Group, tells Travel Courier. “The communities knew when we were arriving and would have proposals and budgets ready for projects they wanted completed. They would present the projects to us on day one and based on our groups abilities and funds raised we would pick one to four projects to complete in the community.”
Throughout her stay, Kemp worked on a variety of projects ranging from building a footbridge to helping stock and develop a library system at a local school.
“It may be cliché but this trip truly changed the way I looked at the world,” she says. “I fell in love with Africa over those six weeks and am constantly trying to get back. Interacting with locals and learning about what was important to them made me realize my problems are minuscule by comparison.”
As part of the experience, she spent two days with a family with four kids — three of their own and one adopted — during a home-stay visit.
“I spent two days with them, completing house-hold chores, meeting their friends, family, neighbours, friends of friends, playing games with the kids, attending the local church service on Sunday morning and having a family meal with them,” Kemp recalls. “I’ll never forget this experience, they didn’t have much but I don’t know that I’ve met happier kids. It wasn’t about the material things – it was about their friends and family they had around them. I’ve tried to adopt this, striving for experiences over material items.”
Having had the opportunity to travel with her family at a young age, she counts herself fortunate and says she’s learned many lessons along the way.
“Travelling has given me a better understanding of people, their cultures and religions. By experiencing these places firsthand it becomes real, pushes you outside of your comfort zone,” she says. “Travel has made me more confident, independent, adventures and compassionate. Understanding that people live differently around the world and opening my eyes to what those differences are has been very important. I’ve learned to appreciate what I have and have become more grateful for my friends and family than ever before.”
Kemp has also travelled with G Adventures on multiple occasions and experienced numerous Planeterra projects in Peru, India and Japan.
“I can’t say enough about them. It is one of the highlights of my trips every time,” she says. “Getting to meet locals and learn about their culture, food, handi-crafts and know that by just coming to see their projects we are supporting them in keeping these traditions alive.”
Another memorable experience has been travelling with Canadian organization Sleeping Children Around the World, which delivers bedkits to underprivileged children around the world.
“I travelled to India with my grandmother and my father, and we delivered bedkits in the surrounding areas of Mumbai,” she says. “While each experience has been very different all have been equally important to me and solidify the need to travel sustainably and support the local communities that you are travelling in.”
Looking ahead, as she continues her career in travel and to explore the world, Kemp says she aims to support tour operators, hotels, cruise lines, etc. that are actively committed to sustainable travel.
“We have been focused on sustainable small group tours and have a few planned already like Peru in September 2021 and South Africa in 2022 and working on our newest in Egypt for 2023,” she says. “Our goal is to bring our clients closer to the local communities we travel through and practice sustainability where ever we can. Our world is a beautiful place and we must protect it so it is beautiful for generations to come.”
To the left is new Los Olivos school, to the right, the old one.
Huatulco, Mexico, will always hold a special place in Barbara Crowe’s heart.
“It was here that I, along with friends, financed the construction of a rural preschool and elementary school, a teacher’s room and bathrooms. Later we added on a kitchen,” Crowe, the President of Ixtapa Travel in Saskatoon, SK, tells Travel Courier. “During the pandemic, the kitchen became a community kitchen and food was prepared for the rural community. We recently installed Internet and donated iPads. As Godparents of the school, we continue to help out where needed.”
A 40-year industry veteran, Crowe has travelled extensively and loves exploring new cultures, new foods, new wines and meeting new people.
“Travel can change you for the better if you let it. Travel has made me more thankful and appreciative for what I have in Canada.Travel has taught me that my beliefs and thoughts are not always the right ones,” she says. “I have learned to be more open-minded, to look at things with a different perspective.”
Through exploring the world, she’s also learned how to be patient and not stress about the things she can’t change.
“Travel has taught me to just ‘roll’ with it. Travel has taught me to be adventurous, to go outside my comfort level and try new things — although I still can’t crunch down a grasshopper,” she says. “Travel is a way of life for me. My life, like everyone’s, is busy. Traveling slows me down and to live in the moment. It allows me time to reflect on myself.”
A highlight of being in the industry is hosting group trips.
“Taking people to new places and watching their faces light up with a new experience —it is the best!” she says.