If you live in a developed country such as the US and care about the environment and issues such as climate change, you probably try to do your part to help be a part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. You may recycle, try not to waste water or energy, bring reusable bags to the grocery store and perform other environmentally friendly acts. You may also advocate for environmental protection laws, vote for candidates that share your values and buy environmentally friendly products. Yet, are you really doing all that you can for the Earth? To truly understand the issues facing our planet and your own role in solutions, you must understand the culture and environment of other countries. It is important to realize that over 7 billion people live on this planet and it is very big place. To really do this properly, you must travel and see how people live in other parts of the world and how they treat their part of the world-wide environment. It is especially important to visit the poorer and less-developed countries of the 3rd world.
Over half the world lives in extreme poverty and earns less than $2 per day. Most people in developed countries, like the US, have never seen places like this with their own eyes. They only know what they have read in books or a narrow and sanitised view shown on television. Those who go get to see amazing natural wonders, ancient ruins and rich cultures. The also see the environmental challenges and their causes outside of our own borders. According the US State Department, only 38 million out of 320 million citizens have passports. However, statistics show that only 5% of the population travel abroad and most destinations, outside of Canada or Mexico, are to Europe or the Caribbean. A very small percentage of all trips are to 3rd world countries. In fact, less than 3% of all US international travel is to anywhere in the entire continent of Africa, which is made up of 54 countries. Statistics also show that most international travellers are high wage earners, in the top 2% of income. Many people think it is beyond their reach. However, international travel can be more affordable that most people think, especially if you know a few of these helpful travel tips.
1. Do your travel research. When planning your trips, realize that most destinations have high (expensive) and low (cheap) seasons. There are expensive cities to fly into or stay and less expensive ones. Check airline and hotel prices for different times of year, or even to neighboring counties. Then use local transportation once you get there. For example, if you would like to go to see the most popular tourist destination in SE Asia, Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, you may find it less expensive to fly to Bangkok, Thailand and take a shuttle ride and stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
2. Travel light. You can save money by traveling with less luggage. Not only do airlines usually charge for baggage these days, but too much luggage will make it hard to take advantage of dirt cheap local travel options. For example, in many 3rd world countries, you can travel across a large city in a Tuk-tuk for $1 or on a local bus for 25 cents. A great option is backpack with wheels or other carry-on style bag with a shoulder strap. You can find some good deals on such luggage options using Groupon Coupons for the store, 6pm.
3. Use airline miles to pay or defray the cost of your flight. If you fly much at all, save up those miles for an international trip. Explore your options at your favorite airlines. You may be surprised to find many international flights take less miles than a trip across the US.
4. Sign up for your favorite airline’s newsletter and newsletters about budget flights, to snag the rarest of cheap tickets.
5. Realize that when you get there it is going to be cheap! Because the cost of living is so low in the 3rd world, hotel and food costs are much less expensive than in the US. Most places you can get a clean, western-style private hotel room for $10-15 per night and hostels even cheaper. A hearty meal can be had for $1-2 or less. Get a “Lonely Planet” guide book for the country that you are going to visit. Their books will point out not only interesting places to visit, but inexpensive places to stay and eat, even off the beaten tourist path.
6. Work or volunteer your way to adventure. Look for temporary or part time work or volunteer opportunities abroad that can reduce or eliminate your cost of travel, food and lodging. Some options are working for a charity or NGO, teaching your native language, becoming a tour or photo workshop guide, or working at a hotel or eco-resort.
You need not be wealthy to travel abroad, if you follow these tips. Once you have seen the 3rd world, your perspective will change forever. You will see both beauty and hardship that few westerners can even imagine. You will surely be inspired by seeing many who live with so little enjoying their lives so much. You will understand environmental challenges beyond your country’s own borders and better understand your own place in the world and how you can change the world for the better.