Here's What Happened When I Made Service the Goal of My Travel Experience

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This article has been syndicated from Television of Nomads, on behalf of Fathom. Read the full post here.

Taking travelers into the heart of communities to connect with locals on a deeper level, Fathom Travel’s Cruise for the Caribbean trip blew us away with experiences enriching for the eyes, the mind, and most importantly, the heart.

The mission of Fathom cruises? Social impact travel. That is, to establish meaningful connections with locals and other travelers, coming together to make a positive impact in local communities. The goal of Fathom cruises is to be much more than a typical cruise: it’s to inspire travelers to become a part of something bigger than themselves while also helping them explore in their own ways. By guiding people to have deep travel experiences, Fathom hopes to inspire cruisers to make meaningful connections with the world around them, and to carry this inspiration into all aspects of their lives, not just while on the Fathom cruise line. Here’s what happened when we made social impact the goal of our travel experiences.

Antigua: Freedom to Explore

The island of Antigua, blessed with sparkling beaches at every turn, was the first stop on our Cruise for the Caribbean with Fathom Travel. Antigua was more fortunate than many of its Caribbean neighbors, and was spared widespread devastation by the 2017 hurricane season. With this in mind, Fathom travel had no onshore activities planned in Antigua, instead giving its travelers the chance to explore on their own and seek out what the island has to offer. For us, that meant riding local buses to a beautiful beach and then later to a local market to taste some delicious local fruit and snacks!

St. Maarten: Beach Cleanup and Healing with Art

Next, our social impact cruise with Fathom visited the Dutch/French island of St. Maarten, where we joined Fathom travelers in being the first tourist group ever to join a St. Maarten Nature Foundation beach cleanup. Visiting the beautiful and wild Guana Bay Beach, which is a nesting habitat for three kinds of sea turtles, our Fathom team collected a shocking 1.5 tons of garbage from the beach.

Our social impact travel on St. Maarten continued with a visit to the St. Maarten National Institute of Arts. The art institute implemented a free Art Heals program after the 2017 hurricanes to bring the community relief from the trauma wrought by Irma and Maria. Taking part in musical and bodily exercises, we got a unique perspective into how the art program provides the community with the tools to recover. Fathom also provides the institute with donations funded by cruisers’ ticket costs, ensuring that the positive influence will last long after our Fathom cruise ship departed St. Maarten.

St. Thomas: Donation Drop Off and Community Engagement

Fathom’s social impact travel in St. Thomas consisted of a pre-cruise donation drive for Fathom travelers for needy young families. These donations, totaling over $15,000, were then given out to over 200 local families at a dockside “baby shower,” definitely the largest baby shower we’ll ever attend! Visiting families were given baby and child products that they needed, as well as free health screenings. All of this was accompanied by a very talented local band and young dancers, which made for quite the party scene! Here, Fathom travelers could directly witness and enjoy the fruits of social impact travel as we vibed and played with the locals on this leg of our Cruise for the Caribbean with Fathom Travel.

We then visited the local branch of the Boys and Girlsclub, for whom Fathom had also collected donations. Our social impact travel experience with Fathom here meant getting to know some wonderful local children and young adults, as well as coming together in constructing activity tables for the club and painting parts of the facilities. We felt truly welcomed by the community, and it was a delight to get to know both the young members of the Club as well as the adults who care for them. Our Fathom impact cruise provided the opportunity to interact with locals in a setting that we wouldn’t encounter on our own, which is what Fathom cruises are all about. 

Dominican Republic: Rebuilding Homes

With dozens of previous sailings to the Dominican Republic, the Fathom cruises have a well-established network of different sites near the northern city of Puerto Plata where cruisers collaborate directly with the local community in various ways. Fathom cruisers have the opportunity to try paper recycling at the RePapel facility and chocolate making at the Chocal chocolate factory, as well as getting their hands (and feet) dirty with community rebuilding efforts in the hillside hamlet of Loma de la Bestia.

For our Fathom travel experience in the Dominican Republic, we put our hands on deck with the rebuilding! Fathom’s social impact travel efforts raised over $11,500 to completely fund the building from the ground up of two homes for local families (in addition to repairing a school building and donating chainsaws). Helping lay cement floors at Loma de la Bestia, we felt firsthand the experience that Fathom creates in its travelers and the local community: a sense of unity, cooperation, and deeper human interaction that lasts much longer than a single social impact cruise.

Making Deeper Human Connections

As one fellow Fathom traveler so eloquently expressed it, the Fathom experience offers a “myriad of stories coming together under one narrative.” The stories and personalities of the people we met along the way in each island on our Cruise for the Caribbean, as well as the committed and impassioned Fathom travelers who accompanied us, made this narrative a special one.

There are stories in every face you look. In the Dominican Republic, there was 17-year-old Abigail, who kindly showed us around her home and shyly shared that she could speak 4 languages. We shared special moments with Abigail, who gleefully led us to a framed picture of her family on the wall, gently lifting it down to tell us about each family member. We built a home for a family with five children, and enjoyed every minute of interaction and collaboration with the family and all of their neighbors. The sense of community we felt as each member of the neighborhood stopped by to contribute a hand, faces beaming with joy each step along the way, was unlike any travel experience we’ve been privy to thus far. 

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