How One Travel Company Creates Meaningful Travel
Years ago, at the end of a trek through the Himalayas, an American traveler asked her Nepali guide, If you could do anything for your village, what would you do? It’s a question that regularly comes up on cultural tours, especially in a place like Nepal, where families often struggle to put food on the table but readily open their doors and hearts to passing strangers. Naturally, we wish to return their generosity and reflect their good will, but how?
The American trekker, in this case, was Antonia Neubauer, our Trusted Travel Expert for Nepal andBhutan. Her guide responded that he would build a library for his village. Antonia, a former language teacher and education researcher, knew about libraries and about the impact they can have on entire communities—men and women, adults and children. And as the founder of a travel company specializing in Asia, she had the drive and the resources to create one in a Nepali village.
That parting conversation was the beginning of READ Global, an international organization that today serves 2.5 million people in three countries—Nepal, Bhutan, and India—and has garnered a string of prestigious awards. The latest: The 2015 Legacy in Travel Philanthropy award, sponsored by American Express, which recognizes sustained impact for more than 15 years. The award, announced in December, went jointly to Lindblad Expeditions and Myths and Mountains, the travel company Antonia founded in 1987. From the beginning, part of the mission of Myths and Mountains has been to give back to the communities that bring its customers so much joy (you can watch Toni talk about it in this video).
In October 2016, Antonia will be taking a group to Nepal to visit several of the READ libraries, which function not just as book lenders but as community centers, bringing information—how to grow better crops, how to raise healthier children—to rural villages. (The initials stand for Rural Education and Development.) On that trip, travelers will:
- Have dinner in Kathmandu with the READ board, which includes key members of Nepali society, to get a unique perspective on life in the country;
- Have breakfast with the Jomson Mother’s Group, a women’s organization that has established a library, a children’s center, a microcredit program, and a water-treatment plant;
- Learn about the efforts of Tukche villagers to rebuild following the 2015 earthquake, and visit the furniture factory that sustains their library;
- Meet the remarkable Tharu people who reached out to other communities after the quake, saving many lives.
When your travel specialist engages in the type of philanthropy exemplified by READ Global, you cannot help but share in the benefits. Over and over, travelers tell us their most memorable moments have little to do with snowcapped mountains and everything to do with the people they meet. As “Antonia’s friend,” you are welcomed with open arms, and that’s just the beginning. Throughout your trip, you have unparalleled access to people and places, and extraordinary experiences as a result. Finally, the question of how to thank your hosts becomes a no-brainer when there’s an award-winning organization to accept your check—all because of a lot of behind-the-scenes work on the part of your Trusted Travel Expert. It’s a travel experience in which everybody wins.