If you follow our blog here on Go Overseas over the past week, you may have noticed a trend. In the last week, we've published stories focused exclusively on a single topic: building peace through travel.
In turn, we have considered the different ways that travel can build peace. We looked at how the speed at which we travel can have a lasting peaceful impact on the world. We considered how studying abroad, volunteering abroad, and teaching abroad can all build peace. We provided our community of program providers with some insights on how their work can be peace-building. We also had some general tips for how any trip you take is an opportunity to create peace in an often conflicted world. This series of posts finished yesterday, the United Nations International Day of Peace -- or #PeaceDay if you are social media savvy.
We chose to devote an entire week of our editorial year to peace because, in the era where collecting travel points, city hopping, and country counting has become the norm, we are deeply committed to the kind of travel that goes deeper.
At Go Overseas, we call this "meaningful travel," and our definition encompasses all kinds of travel which generate lasting positive impact on both the traveler and the host community. Whether it's a student who returns from a semester abroad with a 'second family' from their homestay experience or a gap year traveler who extends their stay to continue important volunteer work in a community, each of these travel experiences is the kind we work tirelessly to create more of in the world.
We believe there is an opportunity start a conversation about travel and peace in the moments where the world briefly turns its short attention span to this important topic. As we've shown in this week's articles, these meaningful travel experiences are important because they have an impact. As travelers we have a responsibility to try and ensure that impact is positive -- hopefully, it improves the quality of the world by making it a more peaceful place to be.
Our commitment to peace-building, meaningful travel isn't arbitrary; it comes from our own experiences in the world. Here are three stories from within the Go Overseas family that remind us how travel is a unique opportunity to build peace.
Tucker Hutchinson, COO
"In 7th grade, I volunteered with a small California-based NGO called Seeds of Learning. They send volunteers (middle schoolers, high schoolers, families) to El Salvador to build schools. Their general fundraising activities also help support supplies and staff at those schools year round.
'In the 1990s, the U.S. government supported the repressive government in El Salvador (including supplying weapons the government used to attack and kill thousands of revolutionaries). The village we were building in had a town hall covered in a huge mural that depicted the American involvement in that war. It was a sobering sight to see as a young person.
"Governments, including our own, are not always 'just...' Nevertheless, individuals have the ability to represent their country and people however they choose. I hope our time there volunteering meant something to the local Salvadorans, or at the very least showed that Americans are more than the actions of our government past and present. When my mom passed away all donations went to Seeds of Learning. They put a plaque in her name on the school we'd built together back in 7th grade:"
Tucker's story shows an example of how long-lasting our impact can be as a traveler; the plaque in honor of his mom is an indelible reminder that we can build peace on an individual level. Learn more about opportunities to build peace through physical building projects:
Maya Tobias, VP of Marketing and Growth
"I lived and worked as a volunteer teacher in Israel the year after I graduated from college. In a country that feels like it’s constantly on the brink of war, peace is a very heavy word.
"My roommate Rachel was an artist. She did a collaborative painting project where she would set up a blank canvas on the street and invite strangers to paint whatever they wanted. I joined her on many of these outings. We did paintings in the Old City of Jerusalem, in a refugee shelter, and on the streets of Tel Aviv.
"I’m not gonna lie, it didn’t always end well. Sometimes we had to quickly put away our paints and canvas because we were in uncomfortable situations. But for the most part, the project worked. It gave Rachel and I an opportunity to engage with people from all different backgrounds and gave different people the opportunity to unleash their creativity and work together on a communal project."
Through art, Maya experienced a war-torn region and ways to connect and build peace. Dive deeper into art programs on Go Overseas:
Mitch Gordon, CEO
"I just recently hiked the Abel Tasman Track in New Zealand. It’s a breathtaking ~50-mile multiple day hikes through the jungle and on the side of cliffs overlooking the ocean. There are a number of rustic huts located throughout the trek.
"At the end of each day, we stopped at a hut to eat, recharge and sleep. The huts are a great place to interact with people from all over the world. On multiple days of our trek, there was a group of about 12 students we shared a hut with. They were hiking the trail together, as a group. Almost none of them were from the same country. They were from China, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, Denmark, Malaysia, Japan and more. They all used English to communicate and I found the cacophony of different accents to be equal parts interesting and inspiring. These were people who cared about each other and were interested in each other’s cultures.
"After a trip like that, there could be no illusions about the “superiority” of one culture over another. They were learning to have fun with people from different backgrounds and to respect different ideas and ways of looking at the world. They were the perfect representation of why we all travel. After their trip, they’ll return home to their countries and bring back different ideas and, most importantly, a tolerance and understanding of other cultures.
"In my time around this group of students, I found myself filled with hope thinking, “This is what everyone in the world needs: genuine, real interaction with people from different backgrounds. It really can change the world.” That’s the Go Overseas mission!"
Sometimes, we travel to 'get away,' but find that those few fellow travelers we encounter during these experiences teach us lessons anyway. Explore more in our new section called "Tours & Trips," which offers meaningful multi-day tours in a variety of activities all over the world:
Why We Are Inherently on a Mission of Peace
We share these stories and highlight these meaningful travel opportunities so that you can see what we see: the world is full of opportunities to build peace. It can be trekking in New Zealand, building a school in El Salvador, or teaching and living in Israel. Each and every time we travel, we can help build peace.
Our mission at Go Overseas is to empower more people to spend meaningful time overseas. Every day, we work hard to craft content, share programs and travel opportunities, and build technology that makes this meaningful travel accessible.
We believe that a more peaceful world is possible, and travel is one of the most powerful ways we can help accomplish that. We hope you'll join us on our mission, whether it's through your own travels or by creating meaningful travel opportunities for others.