Travel With Purpose [Q&A]

Got big plans for a summer vacay? If not, maybe it’s time to skip tradition and embark on an adventure that makes memories while making a difference.

Melinda McAlister, a senior trust officer for U.S. Trust, says there are many ways to invest your downtime, talents and passion to help others whether it’s here or afar. We asked McAlister her suggestions on how to have an impactful travel experience.

How do we create a vacation experience that involves giving back?

McAlister: How you spend your time and your money is really based on what you value. If you value helping others, then we would recommend doing your homework on the people and the place you’re about to visit. Find out what they need and create a plan.

For instance, I have a client who is passionate about helping others and is investing in bringing clean water to developing countries who need it. Traveling with a purpose can mean the difference between wasting your downtime and making a real impact.

How can investments benefit women in countries that have been hard hit with catastrophic weather?

McAlister: Women constitute the majority of the world’s poor and can be especially vulnerable to climate impacts, according to a United Nations report.¹ Yet while they are most at risk, they are also an underutilized resource for change and that makes them an important part of the picture for people who are considering gender-focused or climate related investments.

In many regions of the world, a family’s primary caregiver is a woman who might spend up to eight hours a day cooking and searching for food, water and fuel.² Female farmers currently account for 45 to 80 percent of all food production in developing countries, depending on the region.³

Weather disasters can make their work more demanding, which means they then have less time to earn a living. This can lead to more poverty. When it comes to hunger, we know that scarce food can affect an entire population, yet women face hunger more often.⁴ This is because there are disparities in income and limited access to employment or means of production.

Also, many cultural practices mean smaller portions for them when food is in short supply, according to Oxfam International.⁵ Hungry, and malnourished, they may be too weak to respond effectively during a storm or afterward to travel in order to receive food.

What can be done to help those who are severely impacted by catastrophic weather events or other events like war, natural disasters or widespread cultural constraints on their movement when a disaster strikes?

McAlister: We can invest in them! For example, women in developing nations can play crucial roles in mitigating climate change and helping communities adapt to its effects.

In Mali, India and elsewhere, women are leading projects to improve forest sustainability.⁶ Ensuring more trees or limiting their destruction could help lower global greenhouse gas levels. Less deforestation means less greenhouse pollution,⁷ according to World Resources Institute.

U.S. Trust research shows that despite the long list of disadvantages women face, there is a growing range of investment strategies that may offer the opportunity to improve the welfare and productiveness of women or help mitigate CO2 production.

We really encourage people to learn more about investment strategies that are appropriate for their overall investment goals and that align with their values.

Bottom line is this: Go. See. Do. Explore other cultures, whether they’re right here in our own backyard or across oceans. Talk to your financial advisor about how to put your wealth toward something that inspires you and helps others. We bet you’ll agree traveling with the purpose of helping someone in need is time and money well spent.

1, 3 “Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change,” WomenWatch, U.N., 2014. | 2 Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves,, 2014. | 4, 5 “Hidden Hunger in South Africa,” Oxfam International, 2014. | 6 “Climate Change Connections,” U.N. Population Fund and Women’s Environment & Development Organization, 2009. (Latest available data.) | 7 “Forests,” World Resources Institute, 2014.

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