The pandemic travel freeze gave many of us time to sit back and reflect on our priorities. We found ourselves looking out at the world with a new perspective—using words like “us” and “we.” As the world started opening up again, we saw a new professional environment that embraced digital nomads, location independence, and social impact organizations.
With an increased propensity to move around, many companies have heeded the call for sustainable, inclusive, and responsible travel. While these organizations include both non-profit and for-profit companies, all are focused on providing positive social and environmental impact through various initiatives.
This article discusses what social impact is, how it applies to digital nomads, and lists some of the best social impact travel companies to use in 2023.
What is Social Impact Travel?
Social impact travel is a response to growing awareness of the impact travel has on local cultures and environments around the world. While there is no single definition, the general idea of this travel style is that we can make conscious choices in our behaviors to provide a more positive social impact.
As this type of travel grows in popularity, social impact companies like G Adventures are partnering with nonprofit organizations to support local communities through impact trips and goodwill initiatives.
Social Impact Travel for Digital Nomads
A big concern that arose from the digital nomad revolution is flight carbon emissions. This negative environmental impact is inherent to global travel.
Similar conversations are being had about gentrification, though I must admit digital nomads are becoming the scapegoat (see here, and here) for a much larger problem that involves expat and tourists just as much if not more than digital nomads. (Articles like this one are now being written in response to the above articles).
In response, nomads are seeking more sustainable ways to give back and support systemic social benefits.
Digital nomads are uniquely positioned to create a worldwide positive social impact, from minimizing carbon footprints to engaging with local community members.
Many governments have jumped on board encouraging digital nomads to stay in one place longer through the emergence of digital nomad visas which can allow “slowmads” to stay in a country for up to 2 years.
Types of Social Impact Travel
Social impact travel takes on many forms empowering local cultures through ethical, respectful, and sustainable behavior. Here are a few examples:
Broadly encompassing most forms of social impact travel, sustainable travel emphasizes responsible and conscious action where travelers minimize negative impacts on host destinations.
Supporting local communities is one of the easiest ways to give back. From shopping in local markets to staying in locally-owned accommodations to engaging in local projects, deliberate decision-making is all it takes to make your trip locally-conscious.
Also termed “green travel,” this style aims for low- or zero-ecological impact. Many “eco lodges” are designed specifically to minimize their impact on the environment and educate their guests.
Digital nomads can make a difference by volunteering their time to various organizations in host communities. The options for volunteer work vary widely, as do the time requirements. It is important to look for locally-sourced opportunities to ensure you are supporting the needs of the community.
Some organizations offer opportunities to work directly toward the conservation of local flora and fauna, while others contribute proceeds to these causes. Typically, conservation travel can be found in wildlife-rich areas. Think Costa Rica, Indonesia, or Thailand.
The Impact You Could Make
The digital nomad life brings us up close and personal with many different cultures and environments. As a result, we make a social impact wherever we go whether or not we realize it. Whether the impact is positive or negative is up to you.
Companies with social impact could enable you to do the following:
- Offset carbon emissions
- Boost local economies
- Support small business owners
- Help with animal conservation and rehabilitation
- Create jobs for local residents
- Support local projects
- Foster education
- Revitalize culture and art
- Preserve of heritage
- Strengthen communities
The Best Social Impact Organizations for Digital Nomads
If you’ve made it this far, you’re likely ready to take the next step in making a positive social impact while traveling. There are tons of social impact organizations specifically designed to fit the digital nomad lifestyle. Take a look at the list below for some social impact travel possibilities.
1. Nomads Giving Back
The name says it all with this social impact organization. Nomads Giving Back offers digital nomads the chance to give back to the local communities they call home through their volunteer matching program.
Organizations list their needs on the website, creating a worldwide database. After you fill out a simple form, you are matched with an organization in your area so that you can have the greatest impact based on your particular skills and circumstances.
From social impact-themed trips to advocacy events to impact workshops, this is the place to start making a difference.
2. Nomads Skillshare
An offshoot project by Nomads Giving Back, Nomads Skillshare is a growing community in the nomad space that brings together philanthropic-minded global citizens. Inside the community, you can join conversations about giving back, meet with like-minded nomads, and learn about exclusive service opportunities.
Through the Skillshare with Impact! program, you can participate in virtual or in-person workshops focused on social impact. This same program offers a scholarship to local Indonesians so they can learn digital skills online.
Use discount code THEPROFESS10 for 10% off their online courses to help you level up your skills to live and work effectively as a digital nomad!
3. Ventures with Impact
Ventures with Impact is a 4-week coworking retreat where digital nomads will participate in a skills-based volunteer opportunity. Choose between four amazing locations—Medellin, Chiang Mai, San Miguel de Allende, Lisbon—and enjoy 2-3 bedroom apartments with private rooms and access to co-working spaces.
While on a trip, each volunteer opportunity is personalized based on your skills and interests and the needs of local organizations. You will be placed at an organization where your professional skills fill a resource gap. In a sense providing ‘pro bono’ work to help develop the local infrastructure.
Voluntouring helps you find volunteer opportunities all over the world. This social impact organization provides a listing platform for organizations to advertise their projects and get the help they need.
Using the site is as simple as inputting keywords in the search bar at the top, and then scrolling through the results to find the perfect match. There are both paid and free programs.
Re:Build is a community of people passionate about building regenerative villages. This organization is answering the call for more sustainable communities that operate in tandem with nature and local cultures. The goal is to bring together “re:builders,” landowners, and investors to create places that embody regenerative values and principles.
Projects are distributed across the world, predominantly located in popular digital nomad destinations. You can participate by joining as a community member or attending one of the live or virtual gatherings. This is a great way to ensure you’re taking less than you’re giving and help build a more sustainable global environment.
6. Thriving Nomads
Thriving Nomads is a network of digital nomads empowering individuals and businesses to create positive impact projects and jobs. This social impact organization is specifically created by and for digital nomads with an emphasis on location independence.
Virtual events and in-person conferences bring together like-minded social impact makers. Thriving Nomads also hosts smaller workations for deep-dive experiences and organizes local meetups. This organization is in the growing stages, but is driven by socially-conscious, passionate people.
I interviewed the founders of Thriving Nomads in my Remote Work & Travel series! They have a to of interesting insights and projects happening. Check it out here.
While giving us the freedom to venture into the unknown, location independence has also heightened our awareness of the importance of community. From local residents at our destinations to other digital nomads, the digital nomad life is anything but a solo endeavor. Economadia harnesses this concept with a vision of building “global villages” with international communities as their inhabitants.
Economadia organizes workations/retreats and event crews to explore various impact projects around the world and to raise awareness. The goal is to connect digital nomads with rural coliving and coworking places, promoting the connection between technology and sustainability.
8. Social Nomads
A great way to give back in a less-visited place is to join a social impact workation with Social Nomads. These workations are designed for digital nomads, location independent entrepreneurs, and freelancers. During the workations, you can participate in masterminds focused on your work and making a social impact, and you will enjoy scheduled “laptop hours” for your personal work time.
Social Nomads is run by the founders of the 22STARS Foundation, which strives to combat poverty and empower Ugandan families. During the workations, meals are prepared by the women of the 22STARS Foundation which supports their businesses.
As avid travelers, digital nomads are uniquely positioned to make a difference in the world. With a lifestyle that is centered around global mobility, it puts us in contact with numerous cultures and environments apart from our own.
It is our responsibility to ensure that the difference we make is a positive one, and neither apathy nor ignorance are excuses. It’s up to us to ensure we are respecting the wonderful communities who welcome us.
Even the smallest effort can result in a meaningful and sustainable positive social impact. That is why it is vital that we embrace social impact travel. Take the next step and consider supporting one of the social impact organizations in this article.