Travel has a way of changing you, exposing you to an entire way of life that’s unfamiliar to your own. It causes you to catch on to nuances of a culture and to feel alive and at home in that moment. This very sentiment is why we at AFAR believe travel is the best form of education. This led us to launch Learning AFAR, a foundation that provides group scholarships to youth who otherwise would not have the opportunity to explore our world. Through these immersive trips, we hope to instill a sense of global citizenship that will last a lifetime.
When I learned of Elevate Destinations’ Buy a Trip, Give a Trip model, I was thrilled to learn of another company offering the gift of travel to the world’s youth. Both unique and impressive, I sat down with Elevate Destinations’ Travel Consultant Lana Byal to learn more.
What gave you the idea to launch Elevate Destinations’ Buy a Trip, Give a Trip Model?
Elevate Destinations was formed as a travel company that gives back, building travel that matters and connecting our clients more closely with a destination. Staying rooted in this mission, our Buy a Trip Give a Trip model began as a collaborative project within the company to help the youth in the destinations where we organize trips. We take them to iconic locations within their country, like Machu Picchu in Peru or the coral reefs in Belize, so they can experience why travelers love their home so much. We want them to be proud to be where they’re from, as we educate them about the importance of conservation and what makes their country’s culture unique and special.
How does it work? Who gets to partake in these trips?
We work with our on-the-ground partners to select the schools we work with. They know their community best, and we look to them as a resource to choose who could benefit most from the experience. We take groups of 15-30 kids, and we end up seeing the ratio of guides to kids being 1:3: for every traveler who books with Elevate Destinations, around three kids are provided with an opportunity to travel in their country.
What kind of trips do the children take?
The children get to experience parts of their country for the first time, and it’s a joy to see. In Zambia, kids get to go on a wildlife safari. In South Africa, we take trips to Table Mountain and the famous Boulders Beach, also known as “penguin beach.” In Cambodia, the children get to see the religious monument of Angkor Wat.
How do you think this impacts the children’s perspective on the world?
It changes how they see the beauty of their own country. We hope it instills a sense of pride within them, and gives them a new understanding of what it means to be from where they’re from. We’d like to offer an educational experience, highlighting the importance of safeguarding their country’s natural resources. If it sparks an interest in conservation, then that’s amazing. Knowledge is power, and the more exposure they have to the richness and heritage of their own country, the more that will carry over to an inspired future. The idea is to expand their worldview and to create national pride—and also to have fun. We want them to have a day to simply enjoy being a kid by visiting somewhere special.
Why is this important to you and Elevate Destinations?
The premise of our company is to give back. We want our travelers to have a sense of connection to a place. Although they may not meet the children, they still have a connection to the community. By doing this, we create an environment of exchange. Giving back is important to both our travelers and to us, and this is our way of fostering that connection—through socially responsible tourism. It’s a responsibility of ours to make these opportunities available, and we want the children that participate in our trips to leave more inspired and encouraged.