Tauck World of Giving
Posted by Cindy Clarke
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
I was taught how to use a ratchet and an electric screwdriver recently during a work-facilitated volunteer outing in a nearby town, handy life skills I now deem critical for my survival tool chest. Our assignment was to build a community playground for a disadvantaged neighborhood, an initiative fostered by Tauck’s World of Giving program… and what a rewarding and fun learning experience it was! A group of writers and designers, creative right brain people all, paired up with local residents, carpenters, construction workers and strong men all, who patiently guided us as we screwed, hammered, dug and assembled swings, ladders, bridges and slides for the new recreation area. Not having worked with the tools we were introduced to that day, I came away with new abilities – and new friends – and felt richer for it. Not to mention the pride I feel just thinking about the smiling kids who will enjoy playing there for years to come!
As a travel writer who paints virtual word settings as a living, I don’t often have the opportunity to participate in real hands-on building projects. What I do have through my writing is the privilege of making connections to communities and people all over the world, getting to know them via research, visits and interviews. Then I write about them, inviting travelers to experience their unique charms and, perhaps, lend a hand in protecting them for future generations to enjoy.
Inspirational and often life changing, travel enables us to broaden our horizons in so many incredible ways. It’s one thing to read about a place that attracts our attention and peaks our interest. But it’s a whole new ball game when we can actually go off the beaten path to experience it, hands on, with the locals who live there. That’s when we discover the hidden treasures and distinctive cultural personalities that make each destination unique, unforgettable and ultimately priceless. That’s when we are touched and transformed by the people we meet and the places we go.
My daughter recently went off on a “silver linings” trek through Europe, Myanmar and Thailand. She was awed by the landmark sites she saw… Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, the Acropolis. The scenery in Alpine Switzerland, the canals in Amsterdam and the beaches of the Greek Isles took her breath away. Golden-clad Buddhas, bustling street markets and shimmering temples impressed her in Bangkok. But it was the children she met when she spent time at an orphanage in northern Thailand on the Myanmar border that moved her most. She is now working on an outreach project to raise funds for blankets, toys, coloring books, sustainable farming materials and dirt-moving tools to help them survive and thrive in their often water-logged, forever muddy jungle home.
Tauck guests are equally moved when they travel to tribal villages in Tanzania and meet the Maasai; they too want to reach out and help make their lives a little easier. Their generosity has built a library for a primary school, funded water tank installations and lots more needed and gratefully appreciated kindnesses. It is not unusual to find that their commitment to help continues when they return home. I remember a thank you letter our CEO Dan Mahar received from a family who traveled with us on a Tauck Bridges family safari to Tanzania. They wrote that their children had started a drive at their school for classroom supplies to send to the school they visited on their trip. Travel is most definitely a great way to foster cultural understanding and good fellowship.
You may not think about taking time out of your long-planned vacation to volunteer on a service project, but since 2003, more than 15,000 Tauck guests have pitched in, painted, pulled weeds, constructed fencing and cleaned up on their trips to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the North Church in Boston, the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, the national battlefield at Manassas… the list and good deeds go on. They’ve even stepped out of their sightseeing roles in Northern India to roll up their sleeves and work side by side with the locals to improve their villages in Bandhavgarh National Park, famous for the rare Bengal tigers living in this protected wildlife reserve.
After such an opportunity, people feel, like I do, that the rewards of helping out are so much bigger than the work performed. And while travel is the catalyst that lets us experience the global community, protecting what is precious to people across town or vast oceans make us truly come together and become part of each other’s world. I can’t think of a better way to make a travel experience last lifetimes.