How Do You Get “Involved” When You Travel?

March 8, 2011

in environment, helping others

Last night, Bslam and I attended a CityTalk presentation at Town Hall. These talks have been going on for years and are aimed at making Sydney a greener, more culturally vibrant city by 2030.

This talk was particularly special, as it featured actress Cate Blanchett and her partner Andrew Upton, who gave a dynamic co-presentation on how to make the Walsh Bay area on Hickson Road in the Rocks, home to both the Sydney Theatre and Dance companies, more inviting for arts-goers. The event wrapped up with a panel discussion and a surprise performance from a Sydney Dance Company member.


Going to this event was Brendan’s idea, and to be honest, it’s the type of thing I was forced to cover back in Philly when I was a newspaper reporter. A natural question I asked myself then and now: If I don’t plan on being in this city long-term, why care about what happens to it in the next 20 years?

Maybe it’s age, a more global awareness, a growing knowledge of the fact that I will have children who will be alive in that so distant-seeming future, but I found myself really giving a crap during this talk last night and thinking of ideas to help its vision come true.

Even though I’m only staying here till next year.

One of the things the panelists said at CityTalk involved how many Sydneysiders don’t take enough advantage of the arts scene; in fact, many say nothing goes on in Sydney. I turned to Brendan and whispered, “But there are always things going on here,” because I think there are. From the Inner West Fringe Festival to Sydney Festival to Sculpture by the Sea, you can find something arts-related year-round.


But I get it. The more time you spend in a place, the less likely you become to seek out new things. That’s why fresh eyes — like mine, yours and every other expat and traveler out there — are key.

It crystallized for me last night that you can contribute to your adopted country or city even if your plans there are only short-term. Submitting ideas, treating the land respectfully, getting the word out about worthwhile initiatives — they’re all ways we can help a place grow and thrive even in our absence. In addition to chances to partake in civic engagement, local tourism opportunities that help the community also abound in many destinations.

How do you help make the country, city or place in which you’re temporarily staying better?

11 Comments - Add Yours!

  1. FutureExpat

    How sad but true, that we gradually become blind to what’s close by. I know I’m guilty of it. Thanks for pointing out why expats should get involved, regardless the length of their stay.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Thank you for the comment. I think we all do it, even in the places we’ve lived forever. Those of us who are new or temporary can contribute so much by way of a fresh mindset, though.

      Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Haha, Brick City, represent! No, here I don’t think it’s the seemingly laid-back attitude necessarily. I think Sydneysiders have a certain stubborn pride and many not want to take suggestions for how to improve their city, even though they may complain there’s nothing going on here. But I saw that back in Philly, too. That’s why newcomers are crucial.

      Reply
  2. Connie

    When I set off for a year in Asia in early 2010, I had planned to do volunteer work in some of the countries I was going to visit. I ended up volunteering in Thailand for three wonderful months. I wish I had done more, but sometimes it’s hard to balance travel and being constantly on the move with staying put.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Thanks for your comment! That’s terrific you were able to volunteer for so long. What kind of work did you do?

      Reply
  3. ayngelina

    My first step is couchsurfing. Even if it’s not staying with someone i like to meet local people because often the issues and complex and multi-layered and as an outsider it’s too easy to simplify them.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      You know, I really want to try that someday. It’s good that you seem to get something out of it. And I’m sure there’s a lot you see and hear behind closed doors when you’re on a local’s couch that you might not experience otherwise in the particularly place.

      Reply
  4. Pete Heck-tic Travels

    Nice post. My wife and I prefer to take our time when traveling. In the past 2 years we have spent extended amounts of time in Bolivia (3 months) , Ecuador (5 months) and now Honduras (6+ months) taking in the culture and at the same time giving back to the community. We love getting to know the people who live here and being part of projects that need our support.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Hi Pete! Thanks for your comment. It’s great you and your wife take so much time traveling to really soak in the place and its people.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *