Finding New Ways To Give Back When We Travel


We used to have a desire to kick back on holiday, but now the desire to give back has moved to the forefront when it comes to booking that dream trip.  Proof that there’s more than one way to join in with the “feel good” factor, the “Travelling Eco-Book Depository” combines the traditional idea of recycling with the ethical mindset of today’s travellers – “reduce, reuse, recycle,” entering the travel sphere. 

Simplistic it may be, but while most initiatives are generally tour operator led, this concept is focused on the people choosing to travel with Acacia Africa. An adventure specialist that has been actively involved in ethical tourism for near on 20 years, voluntours and school visits are very much part of their portfolio, however, the company doesn’t see this as the only way to generate a positive impact on the continent.

The idea is simple, make a little extra room in your backpack for a book or two, and leave what are much needed resources behind you when you go. 

Socially Conscious Packing

Education is something most of us take for granted, yet in Africa, and more especially in Malawi (one of Africa’s poorest nations), books are scarce.  Of course, resources from pens to paper are lacking, but there’s a more immediate need for resources rich in learning. Being culturally sensitive is something the company is well aware of, then again it’s not surprising that being spoken on an international level, books written in English are highly sought after.



The Travelling Eco-Book Depository is targeted at primary schools throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Acacia Africa’s line, “If it’s age appropriate, it’s a welcome gift”. And, as Toni White, Editor of the Reclaiming My Future travel blog says, “Actively encouraging people to pack and drop books will be a great help as there's always that never-ending question of what to bring?” 


An informal way of giving there will be no statistical data to prove the initiative’s efficacy, but the motivation behind the idea comes from real need – a need the tour operator is clearly hoping to lessen.


Leanne Haigh Product & Development Manager, comments, “We guarantee over 600 departures a year, so we’re sure our on-going campaign will be beneficial to the communities and schools we visit. This way, travel and the traveller can club together to do more for the people and places they are visiting. And, with up to 24 people on any one overland tour that’s a great deal of giving.”


Most of the visits happen while the children are in class, and even though one group might bring the whole school to a halt, it’s a continuous, interactive process.




Leanne Haigh comments, “A song performed by the students is still an essential part of learning, and with travellers spanning the globe there’s always a definite interest in geography and far-flung countries. Outside of that it’s not unusual for passengers to conduct classes and depending on the schools proximity to the camp, Kande Beach in Malawi being only a ten minute walk from the local school, travellers can invest more time in these sorts of activities.”


Travel Further & Give More

It’s where you go and what you do that can make the difference, and overlanding offers up endless opportunities to meet communities and visit schools across Africa.  Based on the length of your tour you could well find yourself covering up to seven or eight countries, each one catering to the ethical tourist who is looking to delve deeper into the continent. 

You might be visiting a local school in Malawi or taking a horseback ride to a local village.  Alternatively, your itinerary might involve meeting and greeting with the people of the Cape’s Townships. Even if there’s no scheduled visit it doesn’t mean you can’t give back, as established tour operators often have informal links with various organisations.


How To Give Back

  • Give responsibly – hand any books to your tour leader so these can distributed directly, and more importantly fairly, to the children by a teacher or village elder. 
  • Pack light – make a list of what you think you need and then re-evaluate it a few days later. Still not sure? There are plenty of helpful well-travelled bloggers out there who can help you fine-tune your list.
  • Give to give back – if you don’t have younger siblings or children in tow, visit your local charity store and pick up a few children’s books before you travel.
  • Tweet Ethically – Tell other travellers about your experience and encourage others to give back books!



The Travelling Eco-Book Depository was recently launched in June 2012 by Acacia Africa: 020 7706 4700; ATOL No. 6499 and ABTA No. W4093 PROTECTED.  The tour operator offers year-round overland expeditions, small group safaris and voluntours.

An afternoon at a local school in Malawi is included on the 22-day Zanzibar, Victoria Falls & Kruger overland itinerary. Alternatively, adventurers can saddle up on horseback and ride out to nearby villages. From £1,321pp (no single supplement). Starts Dar Es Salaam – ends Johannesburg. The price includes camping accommodation, transport, most meals and services of a tour leader/guide. Excludes return flight.  All prices subject to availability. 18+ years.

Toni White, Editor of Reclaiming My Future ( travelled on the 41-day Cape Town To Kenya overland expedition (

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