Let’s face it, business travel can suck the soul right out of you.
There are myriad ways, however, to put that “good” right back into your trip, small things that don’t take a lot of effort but that leave the road better than when you found it.
Here are five great ways to give back when traveling:
At your hotel, see that bathroom amenities are put to good use when you leave. Clean the World, one of my favorite travel nonprofits, collects and recycles soap and shampoo from hotels to distribute to at-risk populations and prevent hygiene-related illnesses and death. If your hotel doesn’t participate in Clean the World (check for signage or consult the website), leave a brief note at the front desk for the general manager to suggest they join. Amenity Aid is a similar program, but you need to mail the products to its Rhode Island facility (or drop-off locations in RI).
Donate spare change to a good cause. Since 1994, UNICEF and American Airlines have partnered in the Change for Good program. The “hat” is passed on board participating AA international flights, and donation boxes are located in some Admirals Clubs and Flagship Lounges, too. MeaningfulChange coin collection boxes are situated at TSA security checkpoints across the U.S., and the money is donated to partner nonprofits. Similar but airport-initiated collections at Denver DIA and Vancouver YVR support local charities. Don’t see a place to donate as you scramble to head for home on an international flight? Go old-school and just give your remaining coins and bills to a child—guaranteed to make that kid’s day!
Did you think your crazy-busy travel schedule means you can’t mentor a young person? Not so. You could be mentoring, even as you wait at the gate for your next flight. Digital mentorship is a growing trend, often doesn’t require a long-term commitment, and is as easy as an email exchange. I’ve mentored through studentmentor.org, but there are plenty more organizations out there, including icouldbe.org, which focuses on helping at-risk middle and high school students stay in school and achieve.
Similarly, it’s easy to “micro-volunteer” when you’re hanging out in your hotel room. At skillsforchange.com, fill out a brief profile and they’ll periodically email you with nonprofit challenges that fit your skill-base. I’ve had challenges as simple as “Help us come up with a catchy name for our spring fundraiser.” Or at helpfromhome.org you’ll find a smorgasbord of opportunities from citizen science projects to letter writing. As their website says, “You can dip in and dip out with absolutely no commitment.”
Finally, traveling offers endless opportunities to just reach out to others who are stressed. When Mother Teresa was asked how people can best make a difference, her answer was simple: Smile. “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do,” she said. While you’re at it, why not take it a step further: Voice the compliments that cross your mind. Think the mother entertaining her busy toddler is doing a great job? Say so. Admire the skills of the Excel power-user in the seat next to you? Say so. Really enjoyed your meal at a restaurant? Walk back in the kitchen and tell the chef. Impressed that the pilots pulled off a smooth-as-ice landing in the crosswind? Say so.
Travel would be so much more enjoyable if we all were a bit kinder to each other.
Do you have any travel practices that make the world a little better? Please share in the comments.
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