Tuesday, January 5, 2016

fathom Impact Travel - Voluntourism: What is it? Why do it?

As you probably know I am a very enthusiastic proponent of the new startup cruise/travel company fathom, which is owned by Carnival Corp.  It's operations consist of one cruise ship (the 684 passenger Adonia, which in its previous lives was an R-Ship and a P&O Ship) and various social impact projects; primarily in the Dominican Republic, but with some in Cuba as well.
While it has yet to sail, as I wrote in my first article:  fathom Cruises: A Great Way to Have a Great Time Doing Really Good Stuff! it is going to be great way for families to both spend time together and do something truly worthwhile at the same time.  Multi-generational travel with meaning!

Today I read an article in the Britain's Mirror wondering if (better "declaring" that) fathom is having difficulty selling its "voluntourism" experience.  The problem with the article, and even with the concept that magically a new concept that is still developing is going to instantly succeed, is that it is presumes failure.

Ironically, that is exactly what fathom and voluntourism overall is designed to address:  Finding ways to take what appears to be a desperate and downtrodden situation and make it succeed and thrive.  It is not easy.  It takes hard work, adjustments and an open mind.  But it takes more than that.  It takes inspiration, fortitude and an extremely positive attitude.

fathom's Adonia
Next week my daughter and I are flying with fathom to the Dominican Republic. We are not merely going to observe what fathom is doing, we are going to live it for four days.  (No cruise and we were invited to stay a bit longer than a normal trip to see and experience as much as possible:  There are a variety of offerings.) We are going to engage in the social impact programs that fathom has created (which are always developing) so that you can better understand, and be inspired to engage in, them.

And let's face it, it is a great opportunity for me and my daughter to share something that is socially relevant and enriching.  Two winters ago we went on a Celebrity cruise for a week.  It was nice (I do like Celebrity cruises for families), but it was a typical, sort of lazy/empty, week in the Caribbean.  My daughter got a tan, we had some good father-daughter time, but there was nothing memorable (other than naming our theoretical - and now very real - new dog).  This year we will remember, and be significantly impacted by, this trip!

fathom's Adonia Pool 
A cruise out of Miami to laze around and hit the beach or a cruise out of Miami to laze around, hit the beach, learn something, make a positive difference in someone life (even if just a little bit) and experience something totally new?  Surely there are many that prefer the former (it is your vacation and that it what you want to do).  But there are others that believe it is your vacation and your life and you want to do more with it.  There is no right answer.  It is, alas, a personal choice...but fathom gives a choice that isn't otherwise so readily available.

And that brings me to how it is that my daughter is coming along on this trip.

A few weeks ago I sat next to fathom's president, Tara Russell, at the Travel Weekly Awards Dinner in New York City continuing our discussions about fathom.  And then it hit me:
I spent approximately $9,000 for each of my children to participate in the famous People to People Student Ambassador Program.  That is an $18,000 investment for my children to engage in its mission, which is:  "To enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural, and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures."   
It sounded so good and, in the end, it was a huge waste of money and a terrible disappointment for my children.  ("Dad, remember when you sent me on that horrible three week trip where they treated me like I was six and we did nothing?")  The pre-trip orientation meetings were more like schlepping to some place an hour away to learn how to be away from home for the first time.  And the trip was more about ticking off sites without really understanding them, while the social impact activities were, frankly, stupid.  As my daughter said, "We picked up rocks from a field."  (My son's experience two years earlier was pretty much the same.)

So my sixteen year old daughter, who is a far better writing than I, will be writing about her experience, her feelings and her perceptions of fathom's social impact programs and comparing them to her People to People Student Ambassador program.  I will share her writings here so that you can have some first hand information from the perspective of a well traveled, independent, parent and of a mature teenager.

I am confident, even before I have my airline tickets, that you will be inspired by fathom and what we write and will say:

I think both myself and my children will have a real experience that will be so worth it.

If you are interested in a fathom cruise to Cuba or the Dominican Republic? Please give me a call:

United States:        (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:  020 8133 3450
Australia:               (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else:  +1 732 578 8585


Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.