Photo: Vladimir Dvoynikov/Shutterstock

7 Ideas For Helping The Locals You Left Behind

by Emma Jacobs Jun 12, 2008
In our global age, even when you cannot be traveling and working abroad, you can still do a lot of good long-distance.

One of the most challenging things about traveling in developing areas can be returning home. Once back in familiar surroundings, you can feel miles away in more ways than one.

It’s hard to know what you can do about the things you’ve seen and done abroad. You may have left, but there are still ways to stay involved in the communities you’ve visited.

In our global age, even when you cannot be traveling and working abroad, you can still do a lot of good long-distance.

1. Keep in touch

Most importantly, stay in touch with the people you’ve met. Write by snail mail and by email to keep up with friends and acquaintances you’ve made abroad. There’s nothing like a pen pal to keep you up on current events and to help you stay connected to the community you’ve left.

2. Round up donations

The community let you visit and learn from them. So why not try mailing back things they can use?

Collect school supplies or books. Help start a micro-project. A lot of the clothing and items are cast away where you live can mean a business opportunity for someone in another country.

3. Help build partnerships

Look at the businesses and institutions you’re involved with to see if you can help build bridges between them and others in the country you’ve been living in abroad.

Think about what you can collect. Then consider what fifty motivated people could collect. Sister schools, rotary clubs and other groups that round up old computers and supplies and send them abroad can help organize and fund cooperative projects.

4. Create a website

One Italian tourist was so grateful to his guide in Dogon Country, Mali that he created a website for his guide to help other tourists find and hire him.

Could you do a similar project? How can you help people abroad communicate with people in your home country?

5. Find an organization at home

If you care about an issue, chances are there are others who do too. There are lots of organizations working for human rights or fighting poverty around the world that would love to have you on their side.

If you look around, you can probably find one that’s focused on a region you’ve visited. Offer some of your time. Find an internship or volunteer.

6. Practice the language

Just because you’ve left doesn’t meant your language study needs to end! Sticking with a language is the best way to keep engaged in the place and culture you have left and bring it home with you. And if you practice long enough, you may find a way to go back and speak it again.

7. Keep talking and writing about what you’ve seen

You have had an opportunity to visit a part of the world other people may never see. Share the country you’ve gotten to know, in all its dimensions.

Make yourself known as a contact person for others headed abroad. Try writing for a wider audience.

All sorts of publications would love to hear about different aspects of your experience-try submitting to a publication on travel, development, food or music or human rights.

Share your photos, your advice and your experience and let other people get to know the country you’ve come to love.

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