Educational Travel: Teaching Sustainability


What do tropical rainforests, coral reefs, misty cloud forests, and unique island habitats have in common?

Besides being hotspots of biodiversity and beautiful places to visit, they also happen to be some of the best classrooms on Earth. There is no better way to teach sustainability in an engaging way than through meaningful educational travel.

This type of adventure inspires travelers to connect with the beauty, explore the issues, and learn about positive solutions for conserving the natural wonders of our planet.

One of the best parts about educational travel is the capacity to inspire. Real educational travel is not just about seeing beautiful places, but about helping travelers understand the intricate connections between organisms, ecosystems, people, history and culture.

This deeper understanding breeds deeper appreciation for the places, people, and cultures that the traveler engages with. Thoughtful educational travel incorporates inspirational moments throughout the trip, from swimming at the base of a waterfall, to hiking to the rim of a volcano, or simply admiring the diversity of life in every square meter of the rainforest. Immersing travelers in the wonders of the natural world is a key element of inspiring ongoing interest in preserving our natural resources.

Another important component of educational travel is helping travelers engage meaningfully with some of the issues facing our planet.

TinoLearning firsthand about issues ranging from monoculture and pesticide use, deforestation and degradation of habitats, to loss of cultural traditions is an important step toward finding solutions to conserve biological and cultural diversity.

Meaningful educational travel does not seek to gloss over issues and present an idealized version of places, people, and cultures. Instead, travelers should take the time to learn about different perspectives and real challenges to sustainability on environmental, economic, and cultural levels.

Finally, well planned educational travel showcases positive solutions for sustainability, and helps the traveler connect these ideas to his/her life at home. Educational travel offers a plethora of examples of people working for sustainability: local scientists dedicating their research to protecting endangered species, community organizers building one of the most successful organic markets in Central America, and artisans working to keep their craft traditions alive in a tiny Andean village.

A crucial element of putting it all together is helping travelers connect such examples with their lives at home, and helping them find ways to make a positive impact on their home communities and daily lives once the trip is over.

SlothWith pressing environmental issues facing our planet, educational travel is becoming an increasingly important and powerful way to foster understanding and a lasting commitment to sustainability.

When done correctly, educational travel is much more than about visiting amazing places – it is about enjoying, engaging, and making the impact of what you see, learn, and do inform your choices and last long after the trip is over.

Chill Expeditions Crawford Hill is the owner and director of Chill Expeditions, an educational travel company focused on cultural immersion. An expedition leader, former biology teacher, and educational innovator, Hill has been guiding students and adults on wilderness adventures since 1974. Over the years, Hill has led thousands of students and families on experiential learning trips to Costa Rica, Belize, the Galapagos Islands, Peru and Spain. Hill revels in the opportunity to be able to work with students and families across the country with the world as his classroom.