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Well, today is the day. The day that I am eating my words that I, Susanna, would never book an organized tour. I’m thankful I tried something new since after exploring New Zealand with Traverse Journeys, a responsible travel company my mind on organized tours has changed. As a tour guide for many years who accompanied busses full of people around my home state of Alaska, I vowed to never be one in the mass of people that stepped off a cruise ship and onto a bus only see the view from the window. I vowed to never be one of those tourists shopping for products made in China, when I was in Chile. I vowed never be one of those travelers that stayed in massive resorts where my money goes to a corporation and not the locals. Instead, I would always be a conscious traveler carefully curating my own itinerary to give back to the local economy and to be socially and environmentally conscious. So, what changed my mind? Did I loosen my morals in order to travel to New Zealand? Not even close. The only thing that changed is finally a responsible travel company, Traverse Journeys, is raising standards on group travel in more ways than one.
As an ethical, sustainable, and responsible traveler, I reached out to Traverse Journeys a company that aligns with my morals, and we agreed on a partnership for their upcoming trip to New Zealand.I feel passionate about representing this company, but all views are my own. To book any tour with them use code sk100 for $100 off.
So, let’s take a look at the many reasons why Traverse Journeys changed my mind on organized tours.
1. Their Responsible Mission of “People, Planet, and Purpose.”
Traverse builds their itineraries around three main principles: people, planet, and purpose. Together, these three elements ensure that each and every group trip is ethical and meaningful.
PEOPLE: From local guides, like-minded travelers, and local non-profits, the people involved in each TJ trip are committed to engaging in cultural exchanges while giving back to the local community.
PLANET: Traverse Journeys offers trips to 15+ destinations with the idea of doing no harm. All accommodation has eco-friendly practices, the food is local and the vendor partners engage with the local community.
PURPOSE: Traverse Journeys creates travel that allows the traveler to grow and learn through engagement while taking the pressure off planning. Each trip donation 5% of sales to the local community partner.
These three things alone cover the most important part of travel, ethics, sustainability, and responsibility and would honestly be enough for me to book a trip with Traverse Journeys, but they don’t stop there, in fact, they are just getting started.
Cathedral Cove, New Zealand. Photo Credit: Andy Belcher for Traverse Journeys
2. They Give Back with Community Partners
I had a blast reading through all the various community partners that Traverse Journeys partners with. Each destination works with a local NGO/charity/non-profit called a community partner. My upcoming trip to New Zealand will be working with a charity called Project Jonah. Project Jonah works to save marine life while educating humans how we can be better allies to the oceans. An excursion with the community partner is worked into every itinerary. In New Zealand, we will be going on an ethical whale safari. In addition to getting to know the community partners, 5% of the sales for every trip is donated to this partner. This empowers the local charity to continue doing their work to make each destination a better place.
My nightmare of being stuffed in a massive motorcoach while 60 other people invade my personal space before we descend on a small town causing it to buckle under the weight of mass tourism will never come true, thankfully. Traverse Journeys focuses on small group travel with a max group size of around 12 people. This ensures that every connection the group makes with each other and the locals is meaningful. This also protects destinations from over-tourism which can do more harm than good.
4. I Travel with Experts
The tourism industry is bloated with guides who aren’t acquainted with the destination. These types of guides are often lacking in fundamental knowledge in social, cultural, and sustainable issues for the destination. I was so thrilled to see that Traverse Journeys typically works with local guides. Having local insider knowledge for facts and to help navigate cultural and social situations is a great perk for booking with this responsible travel company. Most traverse journeys work with local guides, or experts – like yoga instructors for yoga retreats, location experts who speak the language or have been to the destination many times.
The local guide for my upcoming New Zealand trips is Maxy. Maxy alone was a huge reason I booked this trip. As a fantastic photographer, he is going to be offering on the spot photography tips and an exclusive photography excursion in New Zealand. I can’t wait to learn tips from this pro and capture an intimate look at this gorgeous country! Booking this trip with Maxy as a guide is going to seriously up my photography game – and yours too, if you join us!
As I read through the day to day itinerary for New Zealand I found myself nodding my head in agreement and excitement. “Oh, I would have done that anyway.” “That is right up my alley.” “Sounds exciting!” “Wow, they chose great companies!” I found myself saying over and over again. You can tell they put a lot of work into each itinerary to get a great taste for your destination. Some of the things to look forward to if you join me in New Zealand are: a whale safari with Project Jonah, a midnight beach excursion to avoid the crowds, a traditional Maori welcome, supporting a Maori owed geothermal spa, cave exploration, star gazing at Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (I’m definitely packing my night lens), hiking at Hooker Glacier and much more!
Castlepoint Wairarapa, New Zealand. Photo Cred: Daniel Rood or Traverse Journeys
6. I Can Customize My Trip
Along with the set itinerary, which includes a ton, you’re given a lot of additional excursions. You can customize a more extreme adventure trip or a more relaxing trip. These additional excursions do cost money, but there’s a price range of cheap to expensive to cater to all budgets. If you’re not in the mood for additional activities, you can just enjoy exploring on your own, which is perfect for a more introverted person – such as me. I did, however, pick some awesome additional activities including an excursion to see penguins, a glow worm cave exploration and the chance to ethically get up close and learn about preserving a rare dolphin local to New Zealand.
Glowworm Caves in Waikato, New Zealand
7. I’ll Get Acquainted with Local Culture
Have you even traveled to a destination if you only seek out experiences that are just like home? Part of being a responsible traveler is engaging in cultural exchanges with locals. However, this is a tricky thing to do. Often cultures can be appropriated and sold for the sake of tourism. Growing up in Alaska I saw too many tourist traps capitalizing on Indigenous culture to make money. So, there is a right way and a wrong way to learn about local culture. Traverse Journeys works directly with locals so you can create bonds and support their business ventures.
In New Zealand, we will be welcomed to the Whenua (land) with a traditional Maori welcome ceremony, complete with Haka, Waka, Hangi dinner, traditional dances and other cultural education at the Mitai Maori Village.
Maori Man from New Zealand
8. I Rest Easy, While They Plan
Being a responsible traveler, it is in my nature to obsessively research and scrutinize each destination, hotel, restaurant, and excursion to make sure I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Several times I emailed Traverse Journeys asking for details on a tour operator to ensure my money was going to make the difference they advertise. Every time, my nerves were calmed with details and sound research on their part and eventually I realized I should let go. Traverse Journeys does all that research I would normally do and they do it with local connections. I can relax and know that I am going to be eating local food, staying in green hotels and working with ethical and local tour operators. I am in good hands. Their standards are on par with mine and that is saying something.
Milford Lodge, New Zealand
9. They’re a Member of Responsible Travel
If you’re like me you’ve used the website Responsible Travel to research tour operators or read their travel guides. This name has been around since 2001, before responsible travel was cool. Traverse Journeys is a proud member of this organization, so you can feel good they are being vetted by a big name.
During all my communication with my travel representative at Traverse Journeys, I’ve felt like I’m talking to a like-minded friend and not a big travel company. I can’t wait to meet the rest of the people traveling with me this November and I know I am going to make some life-long friends!
Aoraki Lake, New Zealand. Photo Cred: Will Patino for Traverse Journeys.
Convinced? Join Us!
I know, I didn’t think such an ethical travel company existed either, so it’s time to support Traverse Journeys so they can keep making a positive impact around the world. There is still space on the November trip to New Zealand. If you can’t squeeze in a last minute trip there will be another trip in April and you can use the code SK250 for either one of the trips to receive a $250 discount on either trip. Read more about their upcoming trip to New Zealand here, and book directly on their website.
Susanna grew up in small-town Alaska where the changing climate was always on her mind. Through traveling, she gained an interest in the power of sustainable and regenerative travel. She now attends a Master's program for Ecology and bridges sustainable travel with the science of ecology.