Tag Archives: social travel experiences

Why Your Travels Should Incorporate Social Good

Why you should volunteer and give back is a tricky question, because on the surface we all tend to have this notion of helping out others is “good,” but acting on that, and understanding the motivation behind service is harder to pinpoint. I left to travel back in 2008, and at that point I planned to volunteer throughout my travels, but I had no concrete understanding of the specifics—I just knew I needed to integrate service in some way, to connect on a deeper level with each place, and also as a way to show my gratitude for the circumstances of my own life, that allowed me to travel.

wadi feynan

Learning about the local Bedouin culture at an eco-lodge in Wadi Feynan, Jordan

Once you set out on the road and travel, it’s immediately apparent the similarities among cultures—we all have the same basic wants and needs, similar goals for life: education, work with dignity, and freedom to provide for our children. There’s a commonality there that I didn’t understand until I left, and once I found this shared thread among all people and cultures, it deepened for me the understanding that we are all on a shared journey. We are connected by our humanity and in that connection there is a responsibility to take care of one another, and the environment—our shared home.

In the early days of travel, I mostly confined my service activities to volunteering in a handful of places and letting that suffice as my way of giving back—and it was a good way to be sure. But the longer I have traveled, I have realized there are smaller ways to create social good and change at every step through responsible travel and supporting small, local communities through tourism and business.

I realized along the way that giving back is a mindset, not just actions, and it is this mindset that I think has the ability to allow all travelers to have a deeper travel experience and a more profound understanding of their place in the world.

In 2011, I launched Grassroots Volunteering and began writing free responsible travel guides because I wanted to empower travelers to connect more deeply to the people and places they visited. This database lists out social enterprises—small, local businesses with underlying social missions—as well independent, grassroots volunteer opportunities. It’s these travel experiences, where we are incrementally and slowly embodying the change we want to see in the world through our actions, that I believe we have an obligation to support.

So much in my life has been given merely through circumstance of birth. My education was free all the way through until I graduated University, I live in one of the only dozens of countries where being a female does not hamper my ability to live a life on my own terms, and I have access to resources that are beyond those of the majority of the world’s population. Wealth and resource disparities have created significant chasms in the opportunities each person has on this planet, and we each have a duty to find ways to serve others—even the small integration of a service mindset has the ability to catalyze positive change in ourselves, and in the world.

Shannon O'Donnell

A storyteller and knowledge-seeker captivated by the world. Formally an actress and web-nerd, I left in 2008 to travel solo, volunteer, and hunt down delicious vegetarian eats all over the world. She recently published "The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, and her travel stories and photography are recorded on her world travel blog, A Little Adrift.

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The Vision Behind Oh Hey World – Part 1

Despite the enormous sums of money that have been thrown at the online travel vertical, the online travel experience still sucks.


Literally not a single website does a great job of unifying or improving my travel experience — either the research leading up to a trip or the experience while I’m in a particular city. The social sites with potential lack my network to make them truly useful. Or, if they do exist, I haven’t heard of them. Meanwhile, the ones with scale have crappy user experiences. I’d say HostelWorld is the only site close since it has all my hostel data since my first trip in 2005 — but it really hasn’t used that data to make my travel experience better. Sure, there are some regional sites such as TravelFish that are great when you are in a particular spot in the world. But overall? Online travel is a fragmented landscape dripping with mediocrity, or worse, outright crappiness.

What is Oh Hey World setting out to do? Aside from the obvious answer of changing the world (duh, that’s a no-brainer) we’re aiming to connect you with nearby people and things that are relevant to you.

As with any startup, building a product is a gradual process. Connecting you with other locals and travelers you know is a natural step 1, since you already know these people and likely want to see them again in person. You just need a simple and intuitive way to find them. Those that have traveled know traveling with others – whether that be your spouse, significant other, best friend of 10 years, or a random backpacker you met 2 days ago – is always a better experience than traveling solo. Even a solo traveler is never truly solo — they meet others constantly, floating from group to group as they see fit. Going one step further — if local knowledge is part of that equation, travel goes from good to great. Many of the best travel experiences I’ve had have been because of local expertise. Someone living somewhere knows which bars to go to. Knows where to take you off the tourist trail. Can take you to a local party, and get you a feel for their hometown’s true culture.

As of about two weeks ago, we have a new home page up that gives you a peak into what’s we’re going after in version 1.

  1. Inform your loved ones of your whereabouts
  2. Track your travel history
  3. Connect with locals and nearby travelers

If the proposition of a more social travel experience sounds appealing to you, go ahead and sign up to be in the first group to try our beta. Go ahead, I’ll let you and won’t bite.

As you can imagine, this is just the beginning of the journey for Oh Hey World. Stoked to see where it leads…

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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