Once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences call out to those of us who seek adventure, who are inspired by new cultures and want to revel in the breathtaking views of an ancient structure or natural phenomenon. But seeing the world comes with its own set of consequences. As concerns about traveling responsibly and sustainably make headlines, tourists to-be are rightly questioning the impact of their travel plans.
The good news? We’re in a new age of tourism, where you, the traveler, can make informed choices to indulge your wanderlust in a way that conserves local cultures, supports local economies and creates global connections. To help, we’ve created a bucket list with a sustainable twist.
At ME to WE Trips, we’re dedicated to that awe-inspiring adventure—but the kind that helps preserve a place for generations to come. ME to WE Trips was built to give back to our non-profit arm, WE Charity, and its sustainable development projects around the world. If you’re adventurous and conscientious, this list is for you.
With the following seven trip highlights from our locations in Ecuador, Kenya and India, make the most of these bucket-list-worthy destinations with built-in sustainability. (We promise: we’ll still take you on a safari, but you’ll also gain deeper insight into Maasai communities that have lived alongside the wildlife for generations.)
Why it’s bucket-list worthy: Discover the origins of chocolate on a sustainable farm in the heart of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, where evidence suggests humans first consumed the treat thousands of years ago. Experience chocolate like never before as you sample the tantalizing cacao fruit and learn how this innovative farming school in the middle of the remote jungle is helping farmers revive failing crops.
How it helps: WE’s Agricultural Learning Center works with small-scale farmers in a region where limited resources make it tricky to care for the finicky cacao crop. This 170-acre training ground is changing farmers’ livelihoods and restoring Ecuador’s prized national cacao bean, Fino de Aroma.
Why it’s bucket-list worthy: Intricate beaded jewelry marks significant life events in Maasai culture. Join women who were taught this traditional art by their mothers and learn how to make your own cherished piece. In addition to creating your own handiwork, you can further support local craftsmanship through purchasing pieces from ME to WE Artisans, which provides gainful employment to over 1,600 women.
How it helps: With the onset of safari tourism in Kenya and Tanzania, Maasai artisans started to sell their elaborate bead work in cheap tourist markets for diminished prices. ME to WE launched Artisans in order to provide women with access to a fair market and a sustainable wage.
Why it’s bucket-list worthy: These are no ordinary goats. In India, ME to WE travelers connect with women from Rajasthan’s remote tribal areas and help feed the four-legged creatures at the heart of their dairy businesses. During a remarkable opportunity for candid conversation with these women (translation often goes from the local dialect of Mewari to Hindi to English and back again), you’ll learn how their special herds are transforming daily life (and yes, goat selfies galore).
How it helps: Fondly referred to as “super” goats, the Sirohi goat breed provides families with more milk, more offspring and more income than the local breed. WE Charity sources the goats from a region several hours away, helping the women with travel and veterinary care to keep the animals happy and healthy.
Why it’s bucket-list worthy: Meet the warrior generation that once marked manhood with ritual killings of lions, but now considers education the ultimate accomplishment. Discover the changing Mara landscape with someone who knows it best, and learn what it means to be part of a traditional tribe in changing times. As ambassadors for WE Charity’s development work, these Maasai warriors offer travelers an in-depth look at the intersection of culture and development.
How it helps: To become a Maasai warrior requires extensive training and reflection. We are honored to work with these men, who want to share their traditions and knowledge and to help others gain a deeper understanding of their tribe.
Why it’s bucket-list worthy: Kumbhalgarh Fort boasts the second-longest fortified wall in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage site was built in the Mewar Kingdom in the 15th century, but the grounds house temples dating back to the 2nd century BCE. One of those temples protects a flame that is said to have been burning for more than 600 years … see if you can find it.
How it helps: This architectural feat celebrates Rajasthani design and supports the local economy. Not only will you walk up to the top of the fort for sweeping panoramic views of some of the oldest mountains on Earth, but you will be guided by a local resident—and ME to WE legend—who was born inside the fort walls.
Why it’s bucket-list worthy: How is it that people living in the rainforest (emphasis on the rain) don’t have access to clean water? While exploring the marvels of the Amazon, visit residents living near the shore of the Napo River to understand their challenges with clean water access. And how they’re overcoming it.
How it helps: Discuss the environmental challenges that threaten local communities and what you can do to protect the largest tropical rainforest on Earth. You might even lend a hand, helping to build a new water project.
Why it’s bucket-list worthy: Kenya’s Baraka Hospital is a beacon of care set in a rural community on the outskirts of the Maasai Mara. Its state-of-the art maternity wing and surgical unit have saved thousands of lives in a region that otherwise lacks proper care. But don’t just take our word for it. Check out this music video that women from surrounding communities made to say thank you.
How it helps: Baraka Hospital serves a catchment area of 67,000 people and offers extensive services, including outpatient care, maternal health and, most recently, a surgical unit and in-patient wing. Tours of the hospital provide remarkable insight into the importance of health care and our collective power to create a positive and long-lasting difference in the world. Let that vision inspire you, wherever you roam.