On luxury travel advisor Theresa Jackson‘s Hanoi travel for good trip in Vietnam, she spent 4 days exploring this bustling (some would say chaotic) city. Not only was she seeking culturally immersive experiences, she was looking for ways to give back to the locale. And, frankly, Theresa wanted a navigator in the maze of ancient streets and alleyways and through the ever-beeping rush of motorbikes.
One way she did this was in hiring local guides. The guides she worked with are community members and have expertise in whatever she wanted to explore. In Hanoi, her interests were food, the colonial period, changes from the communist era to today, and shopping.
Hanoi Travel for Good: Planeterra – Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine Education Provides Career Opportunities
For another part of my Hanoi travel for good Vietnam adventure, I was invited to meet up with a small group on a G Adventures National Geographic tour to explore the way this company helps the places it takes its small groups.
The concept, under founder Bruce Poon Tip, is to support social enterprises.
Social Enterprise in Vietnam: Giving Exclusive Travel Benefits While Helping the Disadvantaged
Enterprises that help disadvantaged populations while giving exclusive benefits of authentic travel experiences to its clientele.
The company incorporates special activities that support these projects, many funded additionally by its charity arm, Planeterra. As a Travel Advisor with a certification in Sustainability and Responsible Tourism, I am familiar with these.
But I wanted to learn more.
Only through this Vietnam trip and in getting to know our group leader (CEO, or Chief Experience Officer, in G Adventures lingo) did I learn of his own project to give back to his community, a restaurant cum travel experience, and why he felt compelled to do it.
It is through his life and career experiences that he and a few others have created a place that educates travelers in fun ways and authentic cuisine and provides opportunity for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Zoom Zoom’s One-of-a-Kind Hanoi Travel for Good Story – From Impossible to Possible
Dzung Dang, or, as he invited us to call him, Zoom Zoom, is an experienced tour leader with contacts throughout Vietnam. He grew up in a farming family in a small village in the province of Halong. As one of 3 brothers, he grew up with the struggles in a poor countryside under communist rule, but also experienced the growth of his family’s prosperity with lifting of communistic economic principles. His parents’ were committed to providing the sons the opportunity to attend secondary school (which must be paid for in Vietnam) and university.
This is no easy feat in Vietnam.
The only way to break the cycle of poverty there is through education, and the cost of this is too dear in most cases.
Breaking the Poverty Cycle
Zoom Zoom took us to visit his family. His parents now live with a son who is an engineer in a newly constructed home of cement construction and beautiful gleaming wood interiors.
It is built right next to the original home, a small wooden dwelling they now use as their kitchen where food is still cooked on an open oven of coals.
Zoom Zoom had told us of his childhood in Vietnam, which he enjoyed tremendously.
Knee Deep in the Rice Paddy
But one day, his father took him and his brothers to work in their rice paddy, knee deep in water and mud to plant the seedlings. At the end of the long day, he asked them if that is wanted to do for the rest of their lives.
If they did, school was not important. If they didn’t, they would have to study hard and excel at their studies.
All sons have attended university and now support their parents.
But this story is not everyone’s story in Vietnam.
The cycle of poverty leaves many families, particularly those in the countryside and remote mountainous areas, in dire straits.
In many cases, families cannot support all their members. Nearly 20,000 youth from poor families live on the street.
Yet I witnessed initiative and programs that strive to help these youths get a leg up in society.
They do it through work that supports their efforts to achieve higher education and certifications to enter the workforce. Read the 2nd part of the Hanoi Vietnam Travel for Good food culture story here.
2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism
The UN had declared 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development — an entire year dedicated to reminding us that tourism just isn’t about seeing the sites:
it’s about connecting with local people and local cultures, minimizing our impact on the environment, and growing local economies. It is about growing peace through understanding.
Basically, we can make a difference in each other’s lives no matter where we are in the world.
Ambassador of Change
I am proud of my role as a 2017 Ambassador of Change to support #IY2017. At Enlightened Journeys Travel, it is my mission to help you #TravelforGood- good for you through handcrafted itineraries for immersive journeys of a lifetime in comfortable world travel, and good for the destinations you visit.
If you’d like to have more ease in your travel planning, I’d love to help!
You can stay informed and inspired in planning your travel in 2018 by reading more of my blogs. You can also follow me on Facebook. Twitter @enlitndjrntrvl, and Instagram @enlightenedjourneystravel. Sign up to receive the blogs and a newsletter filled with more insights and offers so you don’t miss a thing.