There is a landscape you love to visit. There’s a trip for which your plans have had to change. There’s a place, or two or three, that you’ve dreamed of going, but you have not yet made it there. There are friends and family who live at a distance.
Travel allows us to connect with places at across the world, and with people who live at a distance too. Caring and concern for others is part of this.
How can you help friends and strangers and places at a distance?
Even in these challenging times, there are a number of ways to do this. Some of them involve having a bit of extra cash to offer, but many do not.
There are places across whichever country you find yourself in, and across the world, that will welcome your time, energy, and skills. By sharing and building up those skills you’ll be preparing for future travel, as well.
As you begin to explore these ideas, consider:
What country, region, or place are you most interested in or drawn to?
What skills to you have, and how could you share these online, over the phone, or some other way with people at a distance?
What resources are available to you? Maybe you have that cash you won’t be spending on travel just now. Maybe what you have instead a lot of is time. Perhaps you are looking for ways to engage the children in your life to keep up their schooling. Maybe you live in the midst of a big city, or perhaps you live near a park, or in the country. These can all be resources.
You could be thinking: Where is this going? How can thinking about all this help me, or anybody else, when my travel choices are non-existent?
Explore your (distant, virtual) landscapes
You can volunteer to use the skills and resources you care about, for people and places you care about.
It make take a bit of research and a bit of creative thinking and perhaps some perseverance, but you’re an intrepid and curious traveler, aren’t you? Those traits will stand you in good stead, whether you choose to look for opportunities in your own neighborhood, across your country, or across the world.
You could begin with the big picture. Idealist is a major site which connects volunteers of all sorts with all sorts of organizations and projects (it’ll also point you to paid positions if you wish). United Nations Volunteers connects folk interested in sustainable development with projects in more than 180 countries.
If you know a second or third language well, Translators Without Borders could likely find a place for you; they offer support to non-profit and humanitarian organizations around the world. Points of Light is another group with a big platform to connect virtual volunteers.
Share your skills
If you’d like to support a particular country or region, searching on the name of the place and such terms as volunteer from home or virtual volunteering will often turn up ideas. Such a search in Ireland told me that I could help the National Library of Ireland sort and date items in its online photo archive, or (okay, this is not in Ireland but it is pointed to from an Irish volunteer site) help scientists learn about penguins by examining and evaluating photographs of the birds in remote regions such as Antarctica. “Anybody older than about age five can help,” the scientists write, and they offer lesson plans too, so perhaps a good homeschooling project as well as a way to expand your travel knowledge.
Make a purchase, give a gift
Looking toward a different aspect of connecting, are there places you have stayed or places you have enjoyed eating out which could use your help? Many lodging businesses and some restaurants have plans in place where you may buy certificates now for purchases to be redeemed in future. Look up your favourite places and see if they do this, or contact them directly to ask.
If you have friends who live at a distance, perhaps you could arrange a gift certificate or delivery for them. You could order products by mail too if those are offered. The point being, you may be helping the place where you are just now by doing these things, and being a traveler, you have the knowledge to extend and honour your worldwide connections in the same way.
Music is a way to connect across distance , too. Many musicians have seen their incomes go away as concerts have been canceled for months to come. Many venues which present these concerts have lost income as well. If you have the means, this is a good time to buy music, to donate when you watch an online concert, to sign on for a lesson, as ways to support all those who work in the music industry.
Teach, knit, and more
There are many other ways to connect with your favorite places around the world, as you will find as you search. National and regional park services in many countries have volunteer needs such as website maintenance, for instance, that can be done on line. The Virtual Senior Center (it is US based, but online classes are open to anyone) is looking for people to teach one hour long classes to home bound seniors; one of the subjects that is in demand is travel. There are a number of groups which could use your fabric skills to knit toys for children in many parts of the world.
Who can you help?
Who can you help? How can you do it? With your skills and experiences as a traveler you have created a wide community. There are many ways you can continue to stay connected, and to help others, as current situations unfold.
–>Update: The people who work at Visit Bloomington, the travel office in the city of Bloomington, Indiana, in the US, had two other ideas you may find useful. They suggest writing reviews of your favorite places on your social media channels, and posting photographs your favorite travel experiences. This could help people who live locally to these places. They may be looking for nearby places to explore. You could be helping others with dreaming and planning as they stay safely close to home, as well.
Image of lifesaver ring by Stan Petersen from Pixabay Image of man at table by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay. Other photographs by Kerry Dexter, made in County Louth, Ireland, and Glasgow, Scotland. Thank you for respecting copyright.
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