There is, of course, no shortage of travel options in many of our lives. From mini-getaways to grand tours in far-off continents, the choices of when and where to go are staggering. But rather than ask where or when, what if we asked why? Why should we go a certain place? In fact, why travel at all?
For some of us, the reason to travel is to experience a different culture, a different way of life, a different slice of this globe we live on. And what if we could not only experience it as a tourist, but could engage on a personal level with the people and places we are visiting?
That’s the kind of connection the participants on our Benefit Tours are making with the weavers in Peru. By going into the villages and seeing where the weavers live, how they raise their animals, care for their families, preserve and practice their weaving heritage, we gain an appreciation and respect for these artisans that becomes personal. We have a name to go with that shawl we purchased, we take a picture of person who knit the hat we’ll give to our grandchild. The face in the picture shows the pride in what has been created, sold, and will travel to be lovingly treasured by people who live thousands of miles away. The world shrinks.
And, importantly, by putting money in the pockets of these artisans, we help ensure that the weaving traditions survive, and that the village children can go to school and grow up to have choices in the way their lives unfold. A weaver told one of our travelers that she used to feel out of step with the modern-day Cusco, still wearing her traditional clothing and living in traditional ways. But now she feels pride. She holds her head tall in public spaces because people know the weavers are making money and are respected, contributing members of their communities.
The weavers and their families are not the only ones benefitting by this type of travel. A case can be made that we travelers benefit the most. We gain something quite precious in our world: respect for our differences. Respect for the different lifestyles, religions, and cultural traditions of our diverse world. The stamp on our passport stands for the people we met, the meals shared, the laughs we had with the children, the friendships gained. These are trips that keep on giving!