Hello fellow traveller!
Welcome to our virtual home. We’re Karen and Paul and we’re delighted you’ve stopped by.
If you’re anything like us, travelling makes you feel alive. You travel to explore, to learn, to create meaningful memories that you’ll cherish for life.
You believe that enriching travel respects a destination’s culture, its resources and its inhabitants. You’re careful to tread lightly wherever you go while being mindful that your impact is a positive one.
You’re looking for the best in responsible destinations and activities. You also want to find that little tip or hidden gem that’s going to help you create a unique experience on your next trip. You dream of returning home with tales of amazing adventures, near misses and newfound friends.
We started globalhelpswap to show the world that responsible travel can be easy, comfortable and very special. We’re on a mission to hunt down the most magical, responsible experiences on this wonderful planet of ours so that we can share them with you. We want to share our stories so as to inspire you to create your own.
So how did we end up here?
In 2009, Paul and I had being dating for a year and while we were happy together, we weren’t that happy with the life we were living. I (Karen) was stressed out, working way too many hours and I couldn’t stop thinking that surely there was more to life than this.
Paul and I both dreamt of packing our bags and taking off to see the world. We would spend long evenings imagining the magical adventures we would have.
One day we were faced with a dilemma. Paul had just sold a property he owned and I had some money saved up in the bank. We started thinking about buying a home together until a question popped into our heads….what if we used the money to go see the world instead?
Well you can guess which option won. So in August of 2010 we packed our bags, left our jobs, said goodbye to our family and friends. We set off on what would turn out to be a life changing, 18 month adventure.
We travelled from London to Asia without using planes, taking it slow and getting to know the local way of life wherever we went. As we got to know more about our planet we were filled with this deep desire to help out and make a difference in some way.
We originally started globalhelpswap to promote free volunteering around the world thinking that this would be a great way to help both locals and travellers. Unfortunately we soon learnt that not all volunteering opportunities benefit people. We read about orphanages in Cambodia that turned out to be money-making operations that trafficked children, or schools that were built by unskilled volunteers making them pretty dangerous. We were scared that we were doing more damage than good and decided that every volunteering opportunity we promoted had to be carefully vetted to make sure it genuinely helped everyone involved.
We felt sad and discouraged and on many days we felt like giving up.
We started thinking about the experiences that had stayed with us during our travels and we realised there was a clear theme emerging. The most magical moments happened when we spent time with locals, or did activities with people who were passionate about protecting some aspect of this world, be it people, animals or the environment. Years later we still talk about snorkelling with whale sharks in the Philippines, bathing elephants in Thailand and travelling with the locals on the trans-Mongolian train.
In the same vein, the times that had been hardest for us were when we saw the ugly side of travel. Travel that exploits.
I’ll never forget the distress I felt when visiting Patong in Phuket and seeing a sea of drunken teenagers and young Thai girls dancing on poles looking jaded. I remember a young European girl collapsing drunk right by my feet, and me spending the night trying to get her home safely. Surely, this isn’t what most of us want from our travels?
We realised that we wanted to inspire people to seek out enriching experiences that would stay with them for life. We realised that when travellers visit a destination in a responsible way, not only are they helping that destination but that destination is also helping them in return.
And so a new meaning and a new mission was born for globalhelpswap. To protect the world and its inhabitants while enriching our travels and our lives.
We’re proud to have been recognised as a top travel site by The Guardian Newspaper, featured in the Sunday Times magazine and in the Rough Guides.
We’d love it if you joined our tribe of responsible travellers and shared this journey with us. Will you?