As we travel on our vacations, the tendency is to take things—to take in the local culture and cuisine, take lots of photos, and take home souvenirs. All of those things are wonderful and worthwhile! However, our summer excursions don’t have to be limited to taking; we can also seek out opportunities to give back.
There’s an expression that goes, “Always leave a place better than how you found it.” How can we apply this idea on vacation? Like Johnny Appleseed who planted apple seeds along his travels, we can be people who serve as we journey. Here are a few ways to get started:
Take care of your environment, even when you don’t have to. Picking up trash even if it isn’t ours, or leaving our restaurant table tidy when we leave, are small choices that have a big impact. By taking the time to do something kind and considerate toward others, we contribute to the creation of a kinder, more considerate culture, and that is worth the minor inconvenience!
Offer what you have, even if it is simply your time or help. As nice as it is to be served, isn’t it even nicer to work side by side with someone, enjoying the satisfaction of the fruits of your work? Working together on a shared task is also a great way to get to know someone. Whether it’s by washing dishes with your host family or building a house with volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, offering our time and talents is a way to give of ourselves while gaining new experiences and friends.
Listen and learn. The places we visit have so much to teach us! Resist the temptation to do, eat or interact with only the things which are familiar. By trying new things and meeting new people, and especially by listening to their own stories, interests and concerns, we are choosing to give our attention and our appreciation to something unfamiliar. The more we choose to do this, it creates a habit of acknowledging the inherent good in every culture—and that sort of thinking can change the world!
When we take the time and the effort to give of ourselves when we travel, the entire world becomes our home. The people we pass on the street become our family members, and their hopes and needs become our own. Sounds like a nice place to be!
Share with us in the comments below: How do you factor in service into your travels?