5 Ways You Can Support People around the World from the Comfort of Your Own Home
Travel makes the world a better place. When humans are exposed to other cultures and ways of living, we open up and grow as individuals. With the freedom of travel currently on pause because of the COVID crisis, there are other ways to connect with the global community and make the world a better place.
While staying isolated (or at least 6 feet away) can help us all locally, there are more ways that we can help globally, other than by donating money to a charity. With the current travel bans in place, here are a few ways global travellers, wanderers and sun-seekers can connect and give back on an international scale, all from the comfort of your own home.
1. Find an International Pen Pal
Remember grade school days when you wrote to a pen pal in another country? How fun it was to check the mail waiting to receive a letter back from a friend you had never met before. This is the perfect time to reach out and connect with someone globally, someone who may be going through a tough time being isolated and needs a pal.
Fast-forward to modern day, there are so many ways to find a new friend around the world with sites like PenPal World and International Pen Friends. There is even a student letter exchange for younger writers called, Students of the World. With all of these websites, you can decide if you prefer contact through email, video calls or snail mail, but I have to say there is something whimsical about getting a physical letter in the mail these days.
2. Write an Online Business Review
With time on our side, make a list of your favorite businesses that you’ve supported while traveling and give them a positive online review. These can be any kind of small businesses like souvenir shops and restaurants, to tour guides and concierge services. Enjoyed that Eiffel Tower tour guide in Paris or that delicious pasta making class in Tuscany? Write a review!
Take some time to write about these businesses on Yelp or Google or on tour operators sites such as, GetYourGuide or The Tour Guy. Businesses that are fueled by tourism will be among the businesses that are hit the hardest by the current travel restrictions. Your review will create positivity during an unclear time and support their business when travel restrictions are lifted.
3. Donate Your Time
If you have a valuable skill set that others can benefit from, why not donate your time to projects around the world that could use your help? Consider donating your time to support a global charity (via Skype or email) if you have the ability to do so. For example, if you’re an architect, consider drawing up plans for a far-off project or as a writer, consider drafting a newsletter about the charity of your choice to get more exposure. Whatever your skill set is, you get the idea!
Don’t know where to start? There are many ways to find an international charity to assist, or maybe you already have a non-profit in mind and can contact them directly. However, there are also sites like, The Taproot Foundation that helps to connect nonprofits with skilled volunteers that would like to share their expertise pro bono. You could contribute invaluable knowledge to a charitable project in a developing country without even leaving your home.
4. Shop & Share Global Artisans
Artisans around the world are another group of people that will be hit hard by the current travel restrictions. These are the people that make most of their living by selling their work to tourists, like beautiful baskets or handmade jewelry. Some of these small businesses also sell their goods online, where people around the world can either shop to support them or simply share their website with others that may be able to support them. If you can’t afford to shop at this time, you can simply share their website on any social media platform or by email to give them exposure to a new set of potential supporters.
5. Donate Supplies
Product donations are a great way to support those in need around the world. Whether you have extra supplies hanging around, you are crafty and can make certain supplies or if you simply want to purchase items to donate. Any and all donations are welcome to charities in need.
In the current state of affairs, many people are sewing facemasks to donate around the world. But nonprofits accept other types of supplies too – from pharmaceuticals and basic hygiene products to clothing and education supplies. World Vision is an example of an organization that helps facilitate product donations around the world. This is a simple way to support others without breaking the bank.
6 Ways You Can Travel From Home This Summer
Did COVID-19 postpone or cancel your summer travel or study abroad plans? As someone who had 2020 branded as her ‘Year of Travel” for the past 3 years—I feel you. When or if international travel will return to “normal” is undetermined as of yet. But, life goes on! So instead of dwelling on what could have been, here are some ideas on how to keep your travel spirit of mind alive while at home. 1.) Decorate your space. If you’re indoors all day for something reason, be sure to surround yourself with images of you traveling in the past, where you want to go in the future, and things you’d like to manifest into your life. Printed off your favorite Instagram travel photos and pin them up, or change the background of your computer and your cellphone. Your bedroom, your office, your kitchen. Inundate yourself with inspiration, positive memories, colorful photos, quotes, and everything else travels related that puts you in that global state of mind. 2. Adventure, virtually! Go on Google Flights (ah, these cheap prices!) and pretend to book something. Now go on Airbnb or Booking.com and decide where you want to stay. The budget is no worry because this is, of course, imaginary. You’ve landed. Yay! What do you want to do? Depending on where you’ve decided to mentally venture, you might go on a virtual museum tour like that of The Louvre in Paris or Tate’s Modern in London. Sip some wine, close your eyes, put on a “grass” or “summer breeze” candle, and imagine yourself exploring that city, going back to that stunning Airbnb with a jacuzzi and a view, and planning for the future. 3.) Explore locally… distantly. While international travel might be one huge question mark, it’s no question that American cities are slowly beginning to dip their toes into reopening (some, more quickly than others…) When your region’s lock-down orders are lifting, try to find ways to see your local community in a new light. Drive through that neighbor with beautiful houses you can't afford. Drive through the wilderness with a friend or family member, take a socially distanced sunset hike. No matter where you live, there’s a high chance you haven’t seen every there is to see within walking or driving distance of you. Look into it! 4.) Become part of your bucket list—start your own Airbnb experience! If you’re the #1 expert on everything about your home town, a certain topic, or you have an extraordinary, teachable skill—share it with the world! Invite people from across the globe into your passions and your home via an interactive online experience. It will help you feel like you’re traveling because you can consistently be meeting new people, asking people what interests them about your destination or topic, researching, and most importantly, entertaining and connecting with beautiful cultures and personalities. And of course, the best part is actually making money doing this! Win, win! 5.) Create the ambiance in your own home! Flights to Paris might be on pause, but you can bring a little je ne sais quoi into your own home with a little creativity and planning. Create an ambiance for whatever country you’re trying to embody. For a Latin night in Puerto Rico turn on some salsa music, make some homemade salsa and guacamole, and YouTube some dance moves. For a night in Paris create your own charcuterie board, try a new wine, and watch Amelie. I highly suggest checking out the tourism board’s website for whichever country you’re trying to channel, because now more than ever they’ll have exciting, education, virtual resources available to you. 6.) Join online travel communities If you’re seriously short on time and funds you can get your travel fix completely online! Join one of the many travel Facebook groups, follow some awesome travel bloggers on Instagram, and join in on #TravelTuesday Twitter threads. Just get involved in the travel talk! This way when you finally are free to travel as you want you’ll be chock full of ideas and maybe have some new travel buds.
How some endangered species are benefiting from reduced human activity
There are more endangered species now than ever before in modern history. According to the 2019 IPBES report, one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction—many within decades, thanks to unsustainable human activity. Thanks to new regulations amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, some endangered animals are benefiting from reduced human activity. Due to a lack of travel, there’s been a reduction of carbon emissions and pollution around the globe. Seismologists have also reported lower vibrations from “cultural noise”. These factors create safer environments for endangered species. “It’s too soon to tell if specific endangered species have experienced a real rebound in terms of overall population numbers due to shifts in human activity. We’ll only be able to tell this over time. The species taking advantage of things like stay at home orders generally are not endangered species, but rather wildlife that already coexists with humans,” says Rolf Skar, Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director. While the long-term impact of reduced human activity amid COVID-19 on endangered species is unknown, there have been a few examples of behavioral changes and the introduction of legislation that may benefit certain animals. Sea turtles in Thailand Vulnerable leatherback sea turtles are coming ashore to lay eggs on the beaches in the typically overrun tourist destination Phuket, Thailand. Leatherbacks were classified as protected species under Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act in 1992 and were elevated to the more critical status of preserved in 2019. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Thailand has seen the largest number of nests of leatherback sea turtles in two decades. Sharks in Indonesia There are 470 known shark species, 25 of which are listed as endangered. In Indonesia, endangered sharks are benefitting from the cessation of the fishing industry due to COVID-19. Indonesia has the world’s highest diversity of sharks including endangered scalloped hammerhead, sawfish, whale shark, oceanic white-tip shark, and the vulnerable bigeye thresher shark. West Nusa Tenggara, the leader of the country’s shark fishing industry, reported a 68 percent trade drop in the first quarter of 2020. Pangolins in China Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal which has made them endangered. There are four types of the species in Asia, three are endangered and one is critically endangered. After the outbreak of COVID-19, China banned the trade and consumption of pangolins for food on February 24th which resulted in wild animal markets across the country being shut down. It’s too soon to measure the impact the ban will have on pangolins but it’s likely they’ll be less threatened by humans due to the new legislation. Bees in The United Kingdom The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists 16 species of bees as vulnerable, 18 as endangered, and 9 as critically endangered globally. Bees in the United Kingdom are benefitting from the reduction of grass being mowed in public and private landscaping areas resulting in more wildflowers blooming which is great for pollinators such as bees. Lions in South Africa Kruger National Park has been closed since March 25th and vulnerable lions are enjoying the empty park and reduction of human activity by lazing around on paved roads. Kruger Park's Skukuza Golf Course has also been a hotspot for lion hangouts. Kruger National Park continues to monitor security, emergency services, and wildlife crime operations to protect species within the park such as lions. COVID-19 Isn’t a respite for all endangered species The benefit of reduced human activity isn’t evenly distributed across the animal kingdom. Many rely on humans for protection, conservation, and preservation. At African wildlife reserves, many endangered animals such as elephants and rhinos are at-risk without having rangers to protect them from poachers. Governments are focused on public health thus leaving gaps in law enforcement in protected areas. To continue to protect endangered species you can pick up trash and dispose of it properly on daily walks if they’re allowed in your area. Never buy anything made from an endangered species such as coral, ivory, and turtle shell products. Tweet your representatives about the importance of the Endangered Species Act when bills are being considered that may negatively impact local fauna. Educate yourself by taking a complimentary online National Geographic Exploring Conservation course on ocean conservation, illegal wildlife trade, and more. Skar recommends advocating for bans against the trade of endangered species and wildlife and for stricter enforcement of the bans.
Editor's note: helping you Rediscover America during a global pandemic
Just like so many of you, 2020 has been quite a wild ride for me. In February, I was handed over the reins to Budget Travel as its Publisher. At the beginning of March, a tornado hit my neighborhood in East Nashville. Then the COVID-19 pandemic largely wiped out the travel industry’s immediate future (and ad budgets). It truly would not surprise me if next week, the alien invasion sent us all back to phase 1. 2020 is a crazy ride. East Nashville after tornadoes hit on March 2, 2020. Photo by Laura Brown As the Publisher of a travel magazine during a global pandemic, I’ve been wrestling with this moral question: how can we ethically promote travel at this strange moment in history? We’ve gone to great lengths to answer this question. We’ve had a full team researching and extrapolating the ways COVID is affecting travel. We’ve reached out to local tourism boards for their recommendations. We’ve polled you, Budget Travel’s readers, to understand how your travel has been affected by the pandemic (the answer: a lot). And many of us have road-tripped across the Southeast to see it all for ourselves. We’ve been writing all summer. I am proud to announce that this week, Budget Travel is launching ‘Rediscover America,’ a content series that will focus entirely on how Americans can safely explore this beautiful country of ours. We’ll focus on road trips and amazing getaways you can drive to in all parts of the country, and promote activities that can be done while maintaining adequate social distancing. We will share travel deals that can be booked flexibly into 2021. We will adhere to CDC guidelines and advocate for wearing masks. Most importantly, we’ll remain flexible to adapt to new information and circumstances. If we work hard enough as a society, there may come a time in the future when we can all relax a bit. Until then, our commitment to promoting safe travel is not up for debate. Keep checking Budgetravel.com for fresh inspiration, and let us help you Rediscover America.
What a sustainable restart to travel could look like
Once the COVID-19 lockdowns, quarantines and restrictions end, I know I’m absolutely raring to start traveling again. But one of the things that many of us are coming to realise is just how fragile the world we love to explore is, and how important it is to be good stewards of it while we do so. There’s a whole industry out there for ecologically friendly holidays, and that’s great. But beyond the eco-yurt – although we do love a good eco-yurt – there are choices that we can all make to reduce our contributions to climate change when we start traveling again. Many older aircraft won't return to the skies © imagean / Getty Images / iStockphotoNewer aircraft with lower emissions For most travelers flying to their destination, the airline journey will be the largest part of their environmental footprint. That’s not just because of the emissions produced, but also because they’re released at higher altitudes, which amplifies their effect. Newer aircraft like the Airbus A350, A320neo or A220, or the Boeing 787, have an emissions footprint about a quarter lower than the jets they replace. With COVID-19’s drop in the demand for travel, many of those older aircraft have been retired and won’t return to the skies, and we’ll be flying on those newer and more efficient aircraft. Look out for the newer aircraft when booking – although the kind of aircraft you’ll actually travel on is never guaranteed – and, if none are available, contact your airline to make your views known. Beyond that, you can make a number of individual choices to minimise your personal environmental impact on the plane: bringing food with you, selecting vegetarian or vegan meals on board, and packing as light as possible, for example. Night trains are having a comeback, particularly in Europe © Laborant / ShutterstockMore lower-carbon travel options In many parts of the world, there are great alternatives to air travel for short-haul or even medium-haul travel. These aren’t just lower-impact, they’re often more fun and provide a fascinating slice-of-life view en route. The growing numbers of high-speed rail networks in many regions, as well as their city-center-to-city-center networks, make them a superb option – even for passengers who might previously have jetted between multiple destinations in a single trip. Night trains, too, are having a comeback, as more and more travelers discover how convenient, cost-effective and time-saving a way to travel they are. Keep your eyes peeled for more and more of these being introduced, especially in Europe. But of course it’s often complicated to find, plan and book trips that include rail rather than air travel, and takes, time, effort, and resources. Fortunately new tools and guides are coming online all the time. Much better rail integration One of the areas where a bit more coordination effort is needed is in getting rail networks in particular to play better with each other and with other forms of transportation. An example: if you buy an airline ticket with connecting flights, the airline is (by and large) responsible for making sure that you make your connection or are rebooked free of charge to the next flight, and provided with accommodation if an overnight stay is required as a result. This is known as a “protected connection”. Protected connections are very rarely available in rail travel. Apart from the CIV rules covering international tickets within Europe, which allow for next-train travel if your previous train is late, it can be very complicated and there’s no guarantee space will be available. It’s not just rail-to-rail connections that need work, either. Rail-to-air tickets are growing in availability, but these will usually have a clause stating that the airline isn’t responsible if the rail part of your trip is delayed. Lufthansa’s Rail&Fly service, in cooperation with Deutsche Bahn, states: “Every passenger is responsible for arriving at the airport in good time. Lufthansa accepts no responsibility for missed flights due to the delayed arrival of a bus or train.” Overall, the travel industry really needs to start making it easier for travelers to make more sustainable choices. Several large cities are working to be bike-friendly, but more can be done © canadastock / ShutterstockBetter walking and biking options It’s been fantastic to see so many cities and towns boosting their cycling and walking facilities to help people get around during the coronavirus crisis. The trick with this when traveling, though, is access to cycling in particular as part of an integrated travel network. Making short-term and medium-term cycle rentals available to travelers is often complicated, and without wanting to get into the perennial debate about helmet requirements, making them accessible to those travelers who would like them is not yet mainstream. Some larger cities’ bike-share schemes are a great start, but there’s much for accommodation providers to do here as well. That’s especially true for hotels, which are in a great position to reduce their guests’ environmental impact, whether they decide to create their own bike provisions or partner with a local company to take care of the details. Booking sites too, can do more to flag up these choices or offer them as filters. Travel is important: it broadens the mind, exposes us to new ways of life and new parts of our shared world, and can be a vital part of global development. More than ever, though, it’s crucial to make travel more conscious and more sustainable.