There won't be much under our tree this year...
Oh sure, there will be a few modest gifts and some stocking stuffers for the kids, but this year will be unconventional, to put it mildly.
It’s almost Christmas.
Time for decking the halls, caroling, parties, and PRESENTS! When you have children, oftentimes it seems more and more difficult to keep the focus of the holiday on what it truly represents, and not the acquisition of more material goods for their greedy little hearts. You know what I’m talking about. The mounds of plastic toys and latest and greatest electronic that they just MUST have. The overflowing stockings and all the “stuff,” has become more and more of a focus in our affluent American culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love my stuff too, but, somehow, I want to demonstrate to my children that it TRULY is better to give than to receive. So, my kids are getting an extra special surprise this year courtesy of their Travel Professional mom.
Instead of an exorbitant number of toys that they will leave broken and abandoned in a matter of days, my husband and I opted to gift them something that will last a lifetime. Memories. Because, honestly, in a few years they won’t remember what shiny gadget or little knickknacks they received for Christmas 2016. They won’t remember which friend or loved one even gave what to them, or what happened to it (mom secretly smuggles these items out of the house for donations when nobody is looking but shh, don’t tell). So, what will they remember? I hope they remember it as the year our family went away for a week just the five of us to spend some time together making some memories. So, you have probably guessed what we are getting them by now. A vacation of course! But not just any vacation. This is a vacation that is focused on others and giving back to those less fortunate than ourselves. I call it my double whammy Christmas gift.
Perhaps you have heard the term “voluntourism.” It’s a big buzz word in my industry right now. Basically, it takes a vacation and turns it into a service opportunity where you work alongside your fellow travelers and locals to give something back to the communities you are visiting. On January 1, 2017 the five of us will be boarding with the cruise line Fathom to go to the Dominican Republic for 8 days. This type of travel is sometimes referred to as impact travel as well.Impact travel is travel with a purpose. The purpose is to change lives - often yours. You work alongside the people whose country you are in and immerse yourself in their culture to create an enduring social impact. Fathom believes that the strongest catalyst for change is the person to person connection. They have a long-term systematic partnership with the countries they visit paired with the unique business model that allows for sustained impact and lasting development.
I can’t wait to share this experience with my family. I pray it really does bring the life long memories they will carry with them always. You know - “Remember that Christmas our crazy travel agent mom gave us vacation that we had to go do work on?” No, but seriously, I look forward to building these sweet memories of service with them.
But, you don’t have to wait for Christmas to see what other types of impact travel or voluntourism is out there. It’s a rapidly growing segment in the travel industry. And, it can be more than just for families and individuals. Companies are sending groups as a team building experience. Churches and other community organizations are sending groups to serve as well. Are you looking for a service project? Maybe your sorority or fraternity would want to go over spring break. The possibilities are endless, and everyone has something to contribute to help those in need around them all the while experiencing an amazing destination and immersing yourself in the culture and its people. To follow our impact travel experience follow me on Facebook. I will be posting reviews, videos, and pictures to share our voluntourism efforts and inspire more of you to consider doing the same. Contact me to learn more about impact and voluntourism travel and the many options available that can be customized specifically for you, your group, or your family.
I hope this holiday season brings you joy and happiness. May you make some wonderful memories with your friends and loved ones that will last a lifetime. Because remember, life is short.
Stop dreaming. Start going.