Remove the overuse of the word “wanderlust,” and you are left with a term that truly defines the insatiable want to explore outside your own bubble and see a part of the world that’s very different from where you live. But what happens when wanderlust leads you to a part of the world so different and disadvantaged from your own that you are left feeling helpless and yet overwhelmed with the urge to do something— anything—to help, when it’s obvious that you have the means? Your options are not usually clear.
That’s where Kind Traveler comes in. The rewards-based platform is dedicated to helping those that roam give back to the communities they visit. While Jessica Blotter, CEO and co-founder of Kind Traveler, was on a bus heading to see Mayan ruins during a trip in Belize, she realized that her fellow travelers suffered from a sense of disconnect when faced with the sight of harsh living conditions. “We saw a lot of poverty,” says Blotter. “We saw emaciated dogs running around everywhere and women laundering their clothes in really dirty water while trash floated by… I don’t think anyone was prepared to see this kind of devastation. We went on this trail and the emaciated dogs came up to us and were asking for food. Everybody walked by them and ignored them.”
Blotter, a former volunteer at Best Friends Animal Society and Much Love Animal Rescue, felt an urgent desire to help. She went into a nearby market and bought as much dog food as she could. She started to feed them and when she looked up, she saw that other travelers from the bus had done the exact same thing. “We got on the bus feeling better that we had done something, [that] we didn’t just ignore them. The whole sentiment of the bus changed from worry and sadness to joy, and even a little bit of laughter.” That moment was enough of a push for Blotter to spend years creating a platform that would reward travelers while benefiting local and global causes.
In 2015, she launched the concept of Kind Traveler with a fairly simple premise. The traveler donates a minimum of $10 to a local or global charity and in return, a discounted hotel rate is unlocked. With many different charities ranging from human rights to animal welfare, you can choose to give back locally or contribute to a global cause. “It’s incentivized giving,” explains Blotter. “At the end of the day the quality of your travel experience is only as good as the quality of the environment and the community you’re in.” We’re sold.