As a child growing up in the Dominican Republic one of the things my family and I did the most was go to the beach. On long weekends or Summer breaks we would go to the resorts and enjoy all the things so many tourists do on a yearly basis.
However, because I started my life growing up in extreme poverty and have always been sensitive to it, and because I also lived in the country, I wasn’t blind to how important the jobs of the many men and women who worked the grounds of Casa de Campo or served the food at Club Med, were.
I knew that past the crisp cleanliness of their flawless uniforms and gracious, friendly smiles, theirs was a world of poverty and struggle bigger than any one job could ever get them out of. I knew that this job, this very low-income position with long hours took them away from their children, sometimes for days at a time, but provided much needed food, books and shelter.
I knew that at the end of their shifts many would ride on the over-crowded buses into the poor barrios or shanty towns sometimes not too far from the luxurious resorts, yet hidden away from the relaxing tourists.
This awareness was never far from my mind. My tips were always greater. My demeanor always friendlier. My gratefulness for the sacrifices they made to be there, to serve and entertain me, was obvious in my gestures. At least that was my intention, at least this is what I hope.
With every trip that my family and I made to the various local resorts and villages during my teenage years, we understood that even with the fun came the opportunity to give back, to have an impact if only in a small way, to those who made it their lives to make this moment a memorable one for us.
But I am also familiar with the selfish traveler, the one who lacks awareness or concern, who is irresponsible and rude, who lacks respect, and is blind to his surroundings. Whose constant negative impact can lead to the crippling of an entire society, whether it be physically, environmentally, or morally.
No matter who we are, no matter where we go or how we travel, our very presence, regardless how brief, leaves a mark. My hope is that we are more conscious of this and strive to make it a positive one.
Janice Waugh, a travel writer who I most admire and the voice behind Solo Traveler, recently brought together a group of seasoned travel writers asking them to share their thoughts on traveling for a common good. The responses are what I consider to be the most beautiful representation of what being a traveler in this world is.
These are only two of the wonderful thoughts shared on the post, which I encourage you to read more of:
“As members of democracies, we want our leaders to reflect the lessons we learn from travel: that we are part of a global community, that though we have differences (sometimes very beautiful ones) at basis we are brothers and that it is our job to protect and preserve this planet for our children and grandchildren.” Pauline Frommer of Pauline Frommer Guidebooks
You don’t have to build a school, or restore a village. You don’t even have to travel overseas. There is a lot we can do as travelers and community members right in our own cities and neighboring states.
There are stories we can share, not only with our readers, but with our hosts. There is hope and happiness we can bring, and satisfaction we can give others for the jobs that they do each day. It isn’t always about giving money, but when you have it, spare it. A smile and courteous behavior can do wonders, not only for the receiver but for the giver as well.
Thank you to Janice and all the wonderful travelers who inspired this post. Their message is one I felt needed to be repeated and one I hope to keep alive in the many journeys I embark on in my lifetime.