• 03.01.07

Changing the World, One Luxury Vacation at a Time

Philanthropic travel combines exotic destinations with a dollop of social conscience.

Do-good travel doesn’t have to be a gritty exercise in banging nails into the side of a house or digging ditches. That’s textbook “voluntourism,” where travel is coupled with hard labor in support of a humanitarian cause. Exquisite Safaris, on the other hand, is a private luxury tour company that creates the extravagant itinerary of your choice (expect to pay about $1,500 to $2,000 per person, per day) in such locales as Kenya, Vietnam, and Peru, and then shoehorns a humanitarian element into the trip. In between watching cheetahs on the plains of the Serengeti and getting pampered with spa treatments, you may spend a morning teaching kids how to read. “Voluntourism is for people with more time than money,” says Exquisite founder David Chamberlain. “Our trips are for those who have it the other way around.” He calls this “philanthropic travel,” defining it as a sojourn that safely exposes wealthier travelers to downtrodden places glossed over in guidebooks. Though time spent in the trenches can be minimal, participants are frequently transformed. “We spent a week in the slums of Nairobi where we bought bags of rice and delivered them to orphanages, then we visited Tanzania where we saw 300,000 wildebeests,” says Tom Dowd, CEO of industrial chemical company Dowd and Guild Inc. Since his trip last fall, Dowd has made significant contributions to relief organizations. That’s what philanthropic travel is all about: Leaving a place stronger than you found it–without the sweat investment.