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5 Ways to Leave a Positive Impact When Travelling

Jul 27, 2022 | OLA Giving Back, Popular Reads, Travel Tips

If you’re reading this, then that means you have a passion for travel just like us. Or even so, a passion for ensuring we can make a positive impact on the local communities that we travel to. The travel experiences that have a positive impact on the local economy, environment, and communities are the most rewarding. Traveling with the purpose of learning and doing good will leave you with a fresh outlook and a deeper understanding of the world. Over the past two years, there has been a significant impact on the local communities due to a lack of tourism. That’s why your travel choices—including those related to accommodation, dining, transportation, and more—directly affect the places you go. It’s more important than you might think. So, how can we make a difference? Keep reading because we’ve compiled a list of 5 ways we can leave a positive impact when travelling.


Visiting local schools

One of the most humbling feelings you can have when travelling is seeing the difference you make, especially if it means significantly impacting the outcome of someone’s life. All kids should have equal access to education and as such, the opportunity to be what they dream of when they grow up. Many of our favourite vacation places are in underdeveloped countries with little educational funding, where even the most basic essentials are either unavailable or scarce. If you get the chance to visit a local school, this provides an incredible opportunity for not only cultural exchange, but you’re able to contribute donations – whether that be school supplies or monetary.

Financial donations not only help with the general maintenance and preservation of the facilities and the provision of food at the school, but this also contributes to the development of general infrastructure. Improving the area in which children learn will make a significant impact on their development. If you’re unable to make any donations, it is still an excellent opportunity to exchange conversations and allow the kids to practice their English skills. Every little bit counts.

School visit, Palawan Island, Philippines

Reducing Plastic Waste

It’s challenging to fully comprehend how much plastic waste is floating in our beautiful oceans and what it actually means for marine life, undersea habitats, and coastal towns. By 2040, 29 million metric tonnes of plastic rubbish are anticipated to enter the oceans each year, nearly tripling today’s level. Plastic can take thousands of years to decompose, as travellers, we must do our part to reduce our use of plastic. There are a few easy changes that we can implement that can make a significant impact to reducing the amount of plastic that is being left in communities.

Plastic water bottles are an absolute killer! It is hard, as a lot of countries which are underdeveloped don’t have safe drinking water, so a lot of tourists rely on bottled water. Bringing your own reusable water bottle can make all the difference. The majority of hotels, hostels, and homestays should provide filtered water refills or at the very least, boiling water. You can also carry purification tablets or purchase a bottle with a built-in filter. During your travels, it’s really simple to obtain lightweight, reusable bags that can fit neatly in the pocket of your travel backpack. You won’t need to use plastic bags if you constantly carry a few with you wherever you go. A major factor to consider, is when dining in restaurants, you will generally always be given a straw! Straws are a massive contributor to our plastic waste usage, simply by carrying a reusable straw or saying no to a straw can significantly reduce the amount of plastic pollution.

A great way to have a positive impact on local communities whilst travelling, is to help collect any rubbish along your travels. This can be as simple as swimming an extra couple of meters to grab some rubbish floating in the ocean during your next snorkelling trip or walking some extra steps to pick up rubbish during a stroll along the beach. We do our part and have introduced a beach clean-up morning whilst visiting Port Barton during our 10-day Philippines tour. Not only does this reduce the amount of waste within the community, but also encourages the locals to get involved and become more aware of their plastic consumption.

Beach clean-up, Port Barton, Philippines

Supporting Local Businesses

Starbucks, McDonalds, Taco Bell or even Burger King – did you really travel halfway across the world to go to a chain restaurant and order the food you could get from back home? You should try to taste some of the local dishes produced by locals wherever you go! Large chain restaurants are one of the biggest money sucks for a local community as none of their profits go back into the community. At local restaurants that are independently owned, and your money will go the furthest. These restaurants also serve delicious and healthier meals but with half the price tag. Supporting locally owned businesses contributes to the improvement of local communities’ quality of life and the creation of jobs for the residents.

This is something we take pride in when we are planning our tours. During our 12-day tour in Sri Lanka, we make a conscious effort to support the locals. One example being the visit to a homestay that is tucked away from the main street. Here we meet Chandi, she provides our guests with some of the best local Sri Lankan food that is made with so much love. Over the time that we’ve worked with Chandi, we’ve seen her business flourish and expand as a direct result of the extra income we bring from our tour groups. Knowing that we can make a positive impact whilst exploring new places is one of the greatest rewards of all.

This same concept applies when selecting accommodation: make it a point to stay at smaller, independently owned hotels rather than choosing the flashiest hotel brands. Not only does this ensure that your money is staying within the community, but you also gain unique cultural experiences.

 local business, Indonesia

Protecting the Marine Wildlife

Everyone loves snorkelling, especially us, but what if we were to tell you that all the beautiful coral reefs could disappear in the future? Forbes reports that a prediction of between 70-90% of all coral reefs will vanish during the next 20 years. Many of us simply view coral reefs as a stunning spectacle to behold beneath the ocean’s surface. However, coral reefs are useful for more than just that. Coral reef structures shield shorelines from over 97 percent of the energy from waves, strong storms, and floods, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This therefore lessens the likelihood of property damage, erosion, and even fatalities.

So how can we make a difference to the marine wildlife whilst travelling? Well, by doing some research before your next snorkelling trip, you can find local businesses who have a strong commitment to restoring the underwater flora and wildlife within their community. One example is the largest man-made Biorock project in the world, located in Pemuteran, Indonesia, it has over 115 structures. Founded in 2000, the main purpose of this project has been to restore the coral that has been ravaged by dynamite and cyanide fishing. We visit the Biorock project in Pemuteran on day 11 of our Bali tour! Putting your money into companies like this, will ensure that your money is staying within the community and helping to maintain further development for this project.

Additionally, whilst snorkelling there are a few other key factors to consider. It is crucial to completely avoid touching any of the reefs and marine wildlife – this can hurt the delicate coral creatures and inadvertently contribute to killing the corals. Another factor to consider is the type of sunscreen you use – many sunscreens on your local supermarket shelf contain chemicals that damage the corals and cause bleaching.

By implementing these key changes, we can ensure that the coral reefs will be here for generations to come and enjoy, as well as protecting our marine wildlife.

 Pemuteran Biorock, Indonesia

Donating Any Unwanted Goods

Have you ever purchased flip flops solely for vacation use, maybe a coverup to enter a place of worship, or even an umbrella for that unexpected rainy night? Or maybe it’s come to the end of the vacation where we are trying to lighten our load to avoid those hefty luggage fees. Well instead of throwing away any unwanted goods or trying to earn a couple of extra dollars on your Facebook Marketplace, there are many locals who could benefit from your second-hand items.

These straightforward items may not seem like a big deal, but not everyone can obtain such items – especially locals in the more remote communities. Donating your items not only benefits the locals, but also reduces the amount of waste that builds up. Unsure of where to donate your unwanted goods though? If you’re staying at homestays or guesthouses, you can ask the owners if they need anything or do some of your own research to find charities within that area that take donations and give them directly to people in need.


One of life’s greatest privileges is the ability to travel to other countries. Many of us want to observe and understand local life and culture when we travel to a new country, but with increased tourism comes increased impact. It is therefore crucial for us as tourists to ensure that we can leave only positive impacts on local communities that we travel to.

If you’re unsure of where to start your research, you can alternatively join us on one of our tours where we have already done all the research to ensure that we are optimising our travel impacts. You can find our tours here.