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3 Ethical Vacations You Can Feel Good About

Leti Bueno

The average American worker took 17.2 vacation days in 2017. That’s the highest vacation usage since 2010, according to Project Time Off. There are many reasons we don’t take time off—the cost, our children and pets, and even concerns about work. But guess what? It’s time to take that vacation!

Consider this: What if you took a vacation that positively impacts other people and the environment? What if you turned your time off into time on by learning about other countries and cultures?

Here are a few ideas for vacations that focus on education, spirituality and community.

Fair Trade Tour in the Holy Land

Love fair trade? Since you’re reading this blog, you probably do! This might be the trip for you.

Holy Land Handicrafts Cooperative Society held their inaugural Fair Trade Tour in May 2018. The society represents Palestinian artisans working on the West Bank. Founded in 1981 by olivewood and mother-of-pearl artisans, the co-op preserves the area’s centuries-old craft and design traditions and provides a market for Palestinian workers.

Participants on the May 2018 Fair Trade Tour learn about the importance of fair trade in the local communities. Photo courtesy of HLHCS.

A trip to Palestine provides an opportunity for travelers to meet fair trade artisan groups, visit Holy Land sites, learn about Palestinian culture and gain an understanding about the needs of the country. Basma Barham, director of International Relations for HLHCS, says that bringing people to meet artisans firsthand gives her hope that their voices will be heard.

Dee Toups, a traveler with the tour, says,

“Before this tour, I had been aware of fair trade practices in general . . . [and] the many positive, ecological and economic impacts fair trade can have on marginalized families. . . But this tour was remarkable. Never had I imagined the real, life-altering influence fair trade can have on families in places like the West Bank, where work opportunities and social interaction with the ‘outside’ world are limited. Fair trade brings an alternative to charity, and therefore brings self-reliance, dignity and self-worth. . . Most of all, in Palestine, fair trade brings hope to people who feel unwanted and forgotten. In Palestine, fair trade brings peace.”

For more information about the next HLHCS Fair Trade Tour, slated for spring 2019, visit hlhcs.org.

Outdoor Adventures with Creatio

Seeking a vacation that combines outdoor adventure, service and time for spiritual growth? Consider Creatio.

Creatio is a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 as a means for Catholic adults to travel together, volunteer in service and share moments for rest, recreation and reflection. Trips are coordinated across the United States and in countries like Peru, Ecuador and Italy. There are also pilgrimages, such as the Pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico and El Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Creatio participant takes in the view during the Galápagos Adventure Mission. Photo courtesy of Creatio Missions.


Ricardo S., a recent traveler to El Camino de Santiago says,

“What stands out is the time for reflection and a realization of what’s important in life. Everything seems so clear on [El] Camino.”

Trips can be customized for you and your friends, or you can join a trip to meet new people. Through these experiences, Creatio works to build an environment of encounter with God, with travelers and with creation. Learn more at creatio.org.

Coffee Tour With Equal Exchange 

For coffee lovers out there, here’s the vacation for you!

Our friends at Equal Exchange, in partnership with the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice, offer interfaith journeys to their farmer cooperatives in Nicaragua. Visitors enjoy a week long immersion exploring the power of fair trade.

Delegation participant tends to coffee plants during Equal Exchange coffee tour to Nicaragua. Photo courtesy of Anne Maloney.

Earlier this year, an interfaith group of visitors helped plant and harvest coffee and met with local human rights groups. CRS Fair Trade Ambassador Anne Maloney shared her experience with us:

“I’ve been promoting ethical products for years, but it wasn’t until I visited Nicaragua and spent some time with coffee producers in a small farming community that I really started to understand—and appreciate—the tremendous hard work, dedication, ingenuity and community resources that go into small-scale coffee production. Meeting farmers, and getting a glimpse of their land, their lives and the many challenges they face, inspired me to want to find new ways to share their stories and promote fairer trade.”

Learn more about Equal Exchange’s partner tours on their blog.

Responsible vacations are easier to arrange than you might think. And they can create rewarding travel experiences for you—while also caring for others and the environment. When we use our time off to learn and grow, gratitude leads the way. Happy travels, friends!


Leti Bueno is the communications and events development associate for the CRS Ethical Trade program. She lives in Austin, Texas.