The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that we take every safety precaution possible should we decide to go traveling this year, both domestically and internationally. There are no two ways about it: our movement and capacity to travel are greatly limited, and it’s not to restrict our freedom, but to help eradicate this virus as soon as possible. Since traveling is a luxury these days, consider using this time and privilege to enrich your mind and heart, should you decide to fly somewhere else for leisure.
Here are some ideas for travel and holiday activities that can help enrich your knowledge and personhood this 2021.
Take part in an archaeological dig.
If you’ve always been interested in ancient history, there are paleontological and archaeological digs all over the world that are always on the lookout for volunteers who are willing to lend a hand and get dirty. In exchange for hard work and a tuition fee, volunteers will receive hands-on training, lodging, and the deep fulfillment of contributing to invaluable scientific discoveries. Most of these excavations are physically demanding, strenuous, and would require you to get dirty since they involve a lot of walking, squatting, and literal digging.
There are times when you would have to tolerate rugged accommodations without electricity. But despite all of these hardships, there’s nothing like the feeling of taking part in discovering more of humanity’s rich history through these digs. While there might not be a lot of digs this year due to the pandemic, research what institutions and universities are still currently on the lookout for volunteers and consider applying if you’ve always loved history and have dreamt of going on a great adventure and discovering something incredibly valuable along the way.
Volunteer your time to repair or build people’s homes.
Another way to make your travels mean more is by volunteering for reputable non-profits like Habitat for Humanity, which offers people the chance to repair or build homes for underserved families. It’s a deeply humbling experience to help build a world where everyone—no matter who they are and where they are in the world—has a decent place to live.
One example of a relief effort you can help with is Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program, which allows international volunteers to help build homes for disaster-ridden and underserved families in other Habitat for Humanity-affiliate country. It’s a wonderful opportunity for volunteers to have a first-hand experience of being with people from other cultures while doing incredibly meaningful work, and building homes for families that need it.
Another example from the non-profit organization is their “Together, We RISE” program which aims to help vulnerable Filipino families who lost their homes and everything they owned during the typhoons that struck the Philippines late last year.
Join disaster relief and response operations.
Speaking of disasters, another activity you can consider is volunteering for disaster relief and response operations. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that disaster can strike at any moment, regardless of geographical location. But when natural disasters strike, those who live in less privileged nations than the U.S. will be hit much harder because they don’t have the same resources that we do.
While true and lasting help can only come from powerful institutions and global leaders, there is still so much we can do as individuals, and together, our collective power will mean and produce so much. If you have special skills like cooking or driving, consider getting the proper certifications so you can offer your services to these operations. For example, Toyota has partnered with the American Red Cross to train volunteers to drive forklifts so they can become certified forklift operators. In times of emergency, local governments will be able to utilize trained operators and a forklift equipment rental to help save lives.
The pandemic and the recession that followed have truly stripped us of the things that don’t really matter, and at the end of the day, the only things that will last are the good that we’ve done for others during these unprecedented times. So if you must travel, consider doing activities that will help enrich not just your knowledge, but also the lives of the people you will come across. Just don’t forget to be safe: Abide by the state or country’s COVID-19 guidelines, wear the right mask properly, keep a distance of at least six feet from other people, wash and sanitize your hands frequently, and be respectful of other cultures while you’re there. Let this difficult time turn you into a better traveler and in turn, a better person.