Yes, we’ve all seen it. Those ridiculous Black Friday Flight deals. Looks like you and your crew get to do some “volunteer work” (Instagram posts + safari tours + charity work) in Tanzania. I’m not saying to not “do you,” just do it while bearing in mind that your relaxation may come at the expense your new surroundings. Yes, you still should check out the amazing Unguja Beach and Mt. Kilimanjaro, just remember that social media should be used socially, with some precaution, but not for competition.
We all know firsthand all the grueling steps it takes to plan a country-wide trip, and how a four-day trip quickly amounts to two checked bags (yikes!). So, one can image the toll it takes to fly overseas to a vastly different culture/region/lifestyle. So for those of you taking the selfless journey to Africa, here's some light reading while you pack and scope out the weather (fingers crossed it’s bright and sunny!) Here’s a list of things to consider:
Don’t be an emotional tourist. I get it, cue bright-eyed children with heart-warming smiles that make all of us want to upstage Madonna. While this is cute and harmless, remember to not indulge ourselves in emotional tourism and instead reaffirm our commitment to continually improving the situation. Now don’t get discouraged here, I’m not asking you to save the world. I'm just saying we all can utilize our curiosity in a self-analytical manner. Simply, put the phone down and talk to the residents, hear their experiences, converse on their difficulties even if you can’t relate. Then, put it into action via non-profit group, school fundraiser, or simply blogging and sharing the message. Knowledge is power after all.
iPhones aren’t edible. Don’t debate this for the sake of argument. They’re not. Each second a photo or video is snapped, cash isn’t flooding these communities, aid isn’t falling from the sky. Think about this every time you pull your phone out for anything other than calling someone. Use this to check yourself when you find that glamorous shot, and pause on the photo and rethink of other ways that can directly benefit the community. If you can’t seem to keep your Instagram album below 10 pictures—a day, then maybe volunteerism isn’t what you thought. I mean that sincerely coming from a girl who once took a trip to Greenwood, Mississippi where I spent my entire spring break with my journalism class in an abandoned firehouse. No one believed me when I told them I observed Emmitt Till’s site, hosted a dance-off in our pad, and hung out with emerging rappers in the community. No one believed me because I kept my phone off.
What about Equality? I’m going to be very brief with this last one. Just think about how out of place and weird it would be to go to poverty ridden Ukraine and engage in emotional tourism over there. Weird, right? Okay, I digress.