Travelling to Meet Changemakers
It was an inspiring and very humbling experience for me to visit social entrepreneurs, to see their work with my own eyes and to learn from their struggles and successes. It was in 2012, when I participated in a tour of Journeys for Change in India, that I realized that watching videos and reading about social ventures is nothing compared to actually having the opportunity to meeting them on the ground.
The experience impressed me in such a way that about a year later, Luna Shrestha Thakur, the head of Changefusion Nepal and I, decided to establish Hidden Journeys Nepal that offers similar tours for engaged travelers, volunteers and development experts. It is not as easy as may sound, considering the globally growing trend of social entrepreneurship and the interest in special travel experiences. Despite those developments obviously helping, it has still been a challenge to venture into a rather unknown business area for which a market is only starting to exist.
However, looking back at the first few tours that we have now conducted, it was all worth the struggle. What we have seen when taking guests to Nepalese social ventures, is that they thoroughly enjoy two days of thorough interactions and appreciate getting real insights into the challenges of a developing country and understanding successful approaches to address them.
All of them, and this includes Nepalese and expatriates living here, have been more than surprised by learning about the achievements of social entrepreneurs they had not even heard of before. Even more important than learning about the challenges and understanding some concrete approaches to address them, seems to be the motivation people take from those tours. Meeting individuals who, despite the array of problems, stay dedicated and keep pushing to make their community a better place seems to be an inspiring experience that lasts beyond the actual tour. We have also seen that participants actually learn from each other and stay connected to work together afterwards.
We are very hopeful that through those tours, we can also share best practices and the learning about failures across borders as those individuals who make the effort to go beyond the usual sights tend to have a greater and lasting interest in change and keep traveling and sharing their experiences.
In terms of the hosting ventures we see that they benefit from increased exposure, connections and new ideas from actively curious travelers. They also gain confidence through communicating their work and a chance to reflect on how they have achieved impact. Recognition as part of a wider community of social entrepreneurs is also a useful boost for those forging a pioneering path.
We hope that through our tours and slowly connecting with other, similar organizations like Pepy tours in Cambodia, the Hong Kong based FYSE, Journeys for Change in India and Social Traders in Melbourne or Experience Bangladesh, we can contribute to promote the Social Enterprise ecosystem and a new way of traveling, learning and connecting. With impact travel platforms like the Asian Letsplayplanet or the Berlin-based Philantravel.org coming up it will also become easier for travelers to learn about such opportunities.
We are sharing our experiences here on one hand to inform about this upcoming trend, to invite readers on a learning journey wherever they might be and also to encourage a discussion about the (potential) impact of such social impact travels, and ways to link this to the broader education on social entrepreneurship.