Responsible travel in action

For Exodus, responsible travel combines two elements: one, a consideration for the impact travel has on the communities and countries visited, and two, our responsibility towards the environment and the ecosystems travel can affect. These principles permeate every one of our trips, whether it’s eating locally sourced meals in a family-run hotel or ensuring no litter gets left on a high mountain trail. We spoke to one of our champions for these policies.

Richard Thornton is on the Board of Trustees for Baraka Community Partnerships, one of the charities Exodus supports and a driving force behind our Get Involved trips. Here, he outlines the reasons why travelling responsibly is so important to him, and how he feels these trips make a difference.

"Travel is a privilege, affording the opportunity to experience different cultures and lifestyles.  Combine this with the opportunity to immerse yourself in and work alongside local communities and you have an Exodus "Get Involved" volunteer trip.

Whichever project you choose to visit, your days will be filled working alongside the community. In my experience this could be helping to decorate homes, mending irrigation channels, helping to build a toilet block or litter picking. The great thing is that the projects are put forward by the local people. It is part of their vision for their community. The basis of a volunteer trip – beyond asking your leader Andy as many times as possible what time breakfast will be served – is to get involved in a shared enterprise and to work towards a common goal.

Trips are not just about work: an important part of the experience is the social interaction, usually embodied in a game of football, cricket or rounders. You’d think these would be "friendly" affairs – you’d be wrong. There is always a competitive edge. I recall with some degree of pain a match against locals on the sands of the Sahara. A blistering start from the Exodus team soon dissolved in the heat to a 5 -1 reverse!

Best known to me is the village of Tijhza (Morocco), a remote community in the Atlas Mountains.

Straight from your door there are countless treks to suit all levels of ability and fitness. The view of the valley from behind the village is stunning, particularly at sunset and sunrise.

If, like me, you can’t string together two words of the local dialect, don’t worry, it isn’t a barrier. Universal hand signals and gestures tend to see you through and no matter where you travel in the world there appears to be a sound knowledge of the Premier League! Although very few appear to have heard of my team, Southend United. Can’t understand why that would be!

Evenings are spent playing cards with local families, discussing project work with the villagers or just relaxing and checking out the day’s photographs. You can sense the feeling of achievement as members of the group mull over the day’s activities before heading for a well-earned rest. With many volunteers returning year on year they see at first hand the long term impact of the projects and build lasting relationships with communities.

Suffice to say it is not all work; there is ample chance to relax after the work is done. Whether that be in the wonderful coastal city of Essaouria (remember to visit the ice cream shop in the main square), canoeing down the Zambezi(avoiding the hippos) or visiting the temples of Cambodia."

"All round an experience and certainly a privilege."

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