Just what is ecotourism? According to Martha Honey, co-founder of the Center for Responsible Travel, “Ecotourism is travel to fragile, pristine and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and (often) small scale. It helps educate the traveler, provides funds for conservation, directly benefits the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, and fosters respect for different cultures and for human rights.”

According to Wikipedia, ecotourism “focuses on volunteering, personal growth and learning new ways to live on the planet… Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation and creation of economic opportunities for the local communities.”

Finally, if you talk to the people who’ve traveled with Go Philanthropic, it’s a damn good vacation mixed with some truly good works. Founded by a husband-and-wife team who found enlightenment while traveling with their children in France and Costa Rica, Go Philanthropic is a pioneer of the “travel philanthropy” concept, in which travel itineraries are built around exposure to local social and conservation programs striving for self-sustainability, such as school and clean water projects, environmental conservation and business micro-financing.

In addition to ecotourism, the company follows the principles of “leave no trace” ethics—pick up after yourself and dispose of your waste properly, just like your summer camp counselor admonished—and offsets its clients’ carbon emissions in getting to their destinations.

Itineraries are build-your-own and include donating to local libraries and community centers in Belize and supporting local conservation efforts while exploring the rainforest. Or learning Thai cooking techniques in Bangkok after exploring an elephant preserve, then spending time with villagers affected by the 2004 tsunami. In Uganda, you can visit with women involved in Bead for Life, a program that is taking a traditional jewelry-making process and transforming it into work that sustains entire villages, and go on safari to the Nile River, with the Mountains of the Moon as your backdrop. Lest you begin to think of these efforts as work, take a quick gander at the Go Philanthropic website, where clients are pictured snorkeling, hiking, eating with aplomb—albeit with a certain ineffable sense of satisfaction evident in their faces.

As AOL co-founder Steve Case said, “A vacation is not just the opportunity to expose people to a different place and a different set of experiences; when you are on vacation you tend to be more open to ideas, even to the degree that you will change fundamental parts of how you live.”

Okay enough quotations. It’s time for a vacation!

Through the end of July, call Go Philanthropic at 800-655-3403, mention EcoStiletto and get $100 off your next trip.

Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is the founder and editor of EcoStiletto. You can find more info about Rachel on our About Us page.

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Author's Bio: 

Intent.com is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, Intent.com aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.