Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Making an impact has become a blurry, diluted notion although it’s a fairly easy concept. You always make an impact with your actions and non-actions. What you buy at the super market is making an impact. What you leave in the shelf is making an impact. Whether you help an older person crossing the street or leave him/her doing it on his/her own, is making an impact.
An impact is every decision you make. In every moment.
In this 4-part series I want to help you increase your impact as a traveler by learning ways to do it beyond volunteering and receive actionable advice to apply in your own travels and travel-esque life style in your hometown.
Let me first define the term „traveler“ and „impact“ so we’re on the same page.
Travelers travel the world. They show their friends who stayed home what a place is like and how the people are. They will talk about cultural differences and their very personal insights. I have in mind an awake, attentive, observant and active (pro-active) traveler who is curious about a new country and place
You’re not a tourist
Mainstream tourism allows these insights in parts but not as much as it could be. Therefore, I’m not referring to a touristic traveler who sees traveling as something where you go into a place, be served by other people, buy souvenirs and take photos to prove that you’ve been at this place.
You’re not on vacation
This superficial way of traveling is commonly called vacation. It comprises relaxation, prestige and little contact with the authentic life of real people living in the country you visit. A touristic vacation like that is a circus where „vacationists“ are blind-folded with attractions, presented with shows but without showing what happens behind the curtain.
You’re digging deeper
When I say „traveler“ I’m not referring to vacation travelers, but those travelers who seek, explore and want to immerse themselves into a country, its culture and have conversations with locals for exchange and creating mutual understanding. The goal of a traveler is to learn, grow and become a better human person and professional in the respective field.
Impact refers to a positive, long-lasting and sustainable impact. No quick fix or rushed problem solution. In the manner of ON BOARD an impact is the basis for a long-lasting relation in either a social or environmental regard.
See what’s around, then act
Making an impact is when you listen and observe first to find the obvious solution to the existing problem after. You don’t create the problem. You don’t make it up yourself. You uncover the problem by spending time being an attentive observer. This can last one week and up to several years, depending on the complexity of the situation.
An impact step by step
When you make a directed impact you take responsibility for your actions. You direct your impact. All of a sudden every step you take is a step towards an impact. It becomes a step with meaning and purpose. In part 2 I will go into more detail about how to turn your feeling of responsibility into your duty.
A practical example
In our last learning journey in Colombia our group from Slovenia learned all about coffee. They were coffee lovers and were interested in how Colombian coffee is made. One of them (Tine Čokl owns a little café in Ljubljana that is selling only cups of coffee that has been produced in a fair trade manner. Another one (Živa Lopatič) has a shop in Ljubljana that only sells products made with sustainability and fair trade in the center.
Both have a project that encourages people to „begin repeatedly questioning where the products and services they are buying come from, how they were made and how their price is structured“ – BUNA.
A young Colombian coffee farmer
We met Sandra on this journey. She’s part of the young generation of local Colombian coffee farmers who wants to make the best coffee in the world. She’s very ambitious and showed us around her coffee plantation in the heart of Colombia’s coffee triangle. We learnt a lot from her, her colleagues and family. Also, we helped them making coffee.
Eventually, Živa and Tine bought Sandra’s coffee beans to roast and sell her Colombian coffee directly in Slovenia. Depending on how much their customers like the coffee, they will import more coffee from Sandra.
Promoting self-made entrepreneurs
From our side (as ON BOARD) we do help promote Sandra’s coffee outside of Colombia. Her brand name is „Pavo Real“ (peacock). Marcela spread the coffee already to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, as well as Portugal (and Germany soon).
Creating a space that allows unforeseeable encounters
Meeting Sandra was not planned. It happened because we listened carefully to one of our local mentors (in a little town we visited) who mentioned to talk to her. Meetings that happen because of serendipity (and synchronicity) are an integral part of an ON BOARD learning journey. We always leave room for uncertainty und surprise. In fact, we fully embrace it. Just like in everyday life, there is a gold nugget in every interaction. You just need to be willing to always investigate.
Group traveling as a way to impact existing conditions is at the core of our beliefs. In small groups we use the power of being many but also agile and flexible because we’re not too big – usually around 5 to 15 people.
Direct exchange in a group is a huge bonus. You can brainstorm and validate ideas easily and quickly (all within the same space), only because you travel with a group of people that is like you interested in making places better than they were before.
Since a journey starts and ends at a specific time, the time constraint is your friend as you will want to come up with ideas in this time restriction or set a timer yourself.
While a limited time puts pressure on you and your fellow travel-learners, it also forces you to focus on only the most important thing – the one thing. This is especially helpful when you made progress in your observation of the situation, can identify already real, existing problems and start ideating first steps towards a solution.
In every bus journey and walk through local places I experience that traveling and knowing you’re moving activates your thoughts. You gain all these new impressions that strongly help you in your problem-solving. It’s as if your brain suddenly starts working again.
You’re not another person with a different mind. You’re the same person who puts yourself into a new environment, an environment allows your brain to work differently gaining new perspectives.
Making a lasting impact means committing to make progress every day in an area you chose. It can mean that you are directly in a place acting according to the impact process (observe, analyze, reflect, construct) or geographically far from the place you want to make an impact on using online tools.
When you’re being held accountable or hold others in the group you’re traveling with accountable, it means you’re helping stick to their commitments. You become an explicit or implicit accountability partner and exchange the current status and how far the both of you have come in reaching your goals.
Social pressure acts as a positive pressure that enables the other person and yourself. It works because you don’t want to disappoint your accountability partner.
Holding each other accountable is a powerful tool when you’re in a group-traveling environment. People doing what they’re saying is often more an exception than the rule. By walking your talk, you’re already an exception although it sounds ridiculous if you think about it.
What you talk, is what you walk (and work) upon. Therefore, accountability is a crucial element for making a sustainable impact in the world. It makes you stick to your commitment. But what if a group of many people is involved in this commitment?
When a group of many people with different backgrounds being experts in their respective field are facing existing realities, a well-coordinated impact process can lead to unexpected and really disrupting results.
The way these people think and collaborate in combination is so out of the norm that potentially their solution for a problem they focus on becomes innovative. Design thinking is an example for a concept that enables innovative problem-solving.
„The Design Thinking process first defines the problem and then implements the solutions, always with the needs of the user demographic at the core of concept development.“ — d.school
Let many brains (domain experts in a heterogeneous group) work on one problem and you’ll be amazed by the outcome.
Traveling enables your learning. Traveling amplifies your curiosity and speeds up how and what you learn. Since you’ll be discovering Catalonia through the eyes of the people (connecting with local projects, entrepreneurs, communities and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country), you’ll understand that traveling is the most authentic way to learn.
Learning from locals and their realities makes you learn about your own reality. These take-aways you can apply to your own life. On the journey, you’ll become a gold digger that is permanently looking for gold nuggets in every interaction and exchange. Sometimes hidden, sometimes more obvious. You’re the explorer in this adventure, with cool people accompanying you.
The itinerary includes Barcelona, coastal towns along the Costa Brava (like Sitges and Tamariu) and abandoned rural villages (like Solanell) that have been revived to be used as modern co-working and co-living spaces for digital-phile people like you – while keeping their historic charm.
You will learn from local people and get to know how the reality of Catalans looks like. With interesting stories from them and a continuous learning exchange with your fellow travelers you’ll learn in intimate 1-on-1 conversations, group-learning setups, Barcamp-style workshops and expert talks.
Learning is in the center of your journey so that you can grow as a person and professional. Especially when you’re feeling „lost in transition“ this journey allows self-reflection, self-discovery and the mutually beneficial exchange with a variety of interesting and cool people that go on this road adventure with you. A good way to tune in with yourself, ground yourself and get in profound touch with yourself again.
The journey is an all-inclusive program. Three meals a day, accommodation, entrance fees, transportation, lots of learning, fun and exchange in 12 days with an awesome group of people. Everything is covered.
It’s 950€ all inclusive. If a person you refer ends up joining an experience having gone through the application process you receive a 50€ discount per referred person.
Also, we’re traveling with not more than 15 people in total (including the facilitators, local mentors and experts that will be with us). Therefore our seats are limited to 12 participants.
Apply until June, 25!
The application form is open until the 25th of June. It would be great to see you on this learning trip that will transform your life and the life of all people (locals and fellow travelers) you’ll meet 🙂
Find more information about the learning journey through Catalonia.
Also published on Medium.