We have all left our hearts in a place that was not our home.

Travelling captures the imagination and inspires the soul. Our world has become smaller in recent decades thanks to the improvement of technology and transport, yet the planet suffers from a vast range of human impacts. The travel industry has been pushed into the spotlight for obvious reasons.

Climate change is unavoidable, both as a reality and as a topic. It may seem hypocritical to be discussing it in the same breath as praising travelling, but I am here to explain one way in which tourism can be for the greater good.

Charity work.

Combine this into your environmentally-aware eco-vacation and you’re well on your way to providing the Earth with some of the tender loving care it truly needs.

Let me dip into my admittedly small well of experiences as an example (I’m hardly someone you’d call well-travelled, but the places I have been to are the sort that leave you feeling full of love for our planet).

Malawi, Africa. My first time on the continent. A relatively small landlocked country, it’s a nation known for its welcoming nature – of which I warmly received.

My purpose here amongst baobab trees and vervet monkeys is less about sunbathing by the pool, although I did enjoy a dip or two, and instead revolves around spending time with a charity called Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. Established in 2008, the Trust runs the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in the country, caring for rescued animals that require medical assistance and providing a home for those that would not survive in the wild.

Involving myself in the Trust’s digital communications, I helped their team generate social media content, assisted with events, and embraced the unexpected spontaneity of charity work.

I found myself adapting quickly to this temporary home despite its differences to England. Night-time traffic noises were replaced with chirping insects. The moon smiled down at me from a different angle. On more than one occasion, I noted that the sky felt bigger in Malawi.

I’ll be the first to put my hands up and confess that I drop my Malawi adventure into conversations with all the passionate good-intentions of a gap year student. But can you blame me?

This wasn’t just a vacation. This was helping a wildlife conservation charity make a difference. I got to meet a diverse, eclectic mix of people; from dog trainers preventing ivory smuggling to conservationist Ian Redmond to local musicians that supported the Trust.

I learnt a few phrases of Chichewa, the official language alongside English.

I made eco-bricks out of recycled paper with a group of widows as part of a community project to provide income and reduce the use of coal as fuel.

I watched vets carry out a procedure on a sedated resident yellow baboon at the Trusts’ Wildlife Centre.

That’s not to say that I didn’t spend a decent amount of time relaxing, either. The gentle lapping of waves against a sandy shore isn’t something you expect to hear in a country with no coastline. Nevertheless, it’s a relaxingly peaceful sound you can enjoy if you visit Lake Malawi, the third-largest lake in Africa.

I went on safari in Liwonde National Park, too, which was my first time getting to see some of the animals I’ve watched with wide-eyed wonder in nature documentaries. Thanks to organisations like the Trust, Malawi is becoming a place where wildlife can thrive in harmony with people.

It also secured its position as my favourite place on Earth.

So my point, which I know I have to return to despite my memories threatening to spill themselves out onto the keyboard in front of me, is this: you will get much more from travelling when you use it as an opportunity to help others.

Travelling abroad is a privilege that we’re lucky enough to indulge in. Being able to use it to the advantage of other people and the natural world will enhance lives. Your own included.

Book trips that collaborate with charities. Donate your time and money. Reach out to charities based near to where you’re planning on staying.

Keep an open mind and an open heart.

It is a worthwhile pursuit.

I promise you.

  • Rebecca Bloomfield
  • : As I child, I once helped rescue a duck that was stuck in a fence. Incidentally, that was my first word (duck, not fence). After a couple of decades, I am a university graduate who endeavours to keep helping wildlife through creative pursuits. This involves writing, taking photos, and trying to split my time between staring at my laptop screen and exploring nature.
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  • : This is the first time this story has been published.