Embarking on a mission trip has been on my bucket list for several years, so when I heard of the launch of Fathom Travel’s new cruise concept: impact + travel, I was immediately intrigued!
Voluntourism — or, volunteer tourism — is a topic that has gained a lot of air time recently, and one that I’ve been itching to gain some experience with.
We can take so much for granted in our day-to-day, and don’t often enough stop to realize how small efforts like volunteering a few hours on our part, can make a huge difference in the lives of others.
A more extensive trip is something I’d love to do with my little sisters and cousins in the coming years, but for now, this seemed like a great introduction.
Last week, Kristin + I set sail from Miami to the Dominican Republic for a bestie retreat and taste of impact travel with this new line, aboard the Fathom Adonia.
Here’s a look at our 7-day journey:
With 4 days at sea and 3 days in port, the Fathom agenda gives you plenty of time for traditional cruisin’ sun + leisure time (in our case, office hours), in addition to time to get out and about around the island.
At 704 passengers max, the Adonia is smaller but spacious, with everything you need plus a touch of decor and none of the extra stuff that can make cruise ships oh-so-cheesy (casino hall, I’m looking at you).
Whimsical workshops like “Curiosity Advantage” and “The Story of You,” mixed in with educational breakouts on Dominican culture and the local language made up our onboard activities, and all of the traditional cruise to-do’s like wine and paint parties, cocktail classes, fitness and meditation were available as well.
Impact excursions for the DR cover Community, Environmental and Women’s-focused activities including English tutoring, Water Filter Production, Recycled Paper Crafts, Reforestation and more.
The food was above-average for cruise-cuisine, the fruit was fresh, the sun was strong and the boat was refreshingly not jam-packed with people.
We had 500/704 sail on our particular voyage, which, seemed like the perfect amount. The smaller size let you get to recognize people from around the ship after a few days, and added to the community feel of the whole experience.
Kristin and I signed up for an afternoon of laying concrete floors, and in a matter of 5 hours time we mixed, passed, laid and paved concrete floors completely throughout the 2-room home of a middle-aged man named Lorenzo, alongside 10 other “impact travelers” of all ages.
Two high school girls, a few retirees, men, women and two families with young boys.
With the translation of our impact guide, Lorenzo introduced himself to us, shared his gratitude, and worked by our side every step of the way.
In the Javillar neighborhood where he lives, dirt floors that serve as a breeding ground for infection and disease are the norm, and it usually takes homeowners several years to save up enough to pave the floors themselves.
Lorenzo makes soaps for a living to sell at the local mercado, and just a year before his home had been burned down while he was away.
This made him especially grateful to have our help on this day, he explained.
What took so very little effort for us in our small group travelers on one hot day, helps give Lorenzo (and everyone in the Javillar community) a safer place to come home to for life.
This is the Fathom Travel mission.
I have to admit it felt some kind of strange walking back through a multi-million dollar port and onto a cruise ship with an unlimited food supply right after this kind of experience, but with Fathom’s goal being to expose as many people as possible to the idea of impact travel, the lighter introduction is a great way to “toe-dip” in if you’re not ready to commit an entire vacation to service, or just want add a little feel good to your day.
Personally, it left me wanting more, so they can safely say mission accomplished!
Our IDDI impact leader shared that more than 100 homes have been upgraded since Fathom’s initial sail in April, and at least the local community we connected with seemed absolutely thrilled about the inbound assistance. While we were working, other families and children in the neighborhood stopped by to check out progress, and one to share the cheer that their home had recently been paved as well.
The impact activities fill up quick — they were almost completely booked by the time we got on board — so be sure to book in advance if you embark on this trip to get access to the best selection and most activities!
“Voluntourism” can raise a lot of questions in the travel industry, about the actual impact brought by large scale programs and tourist foot traffic vs. the benefits on the ground, so I was happy to learn firsthand about Fathom’s partnerships with IDDI and Entrena.
By partnering with these two pre-existing organizations with long-standing history in the local communities, they help ensure that all of their impact experiences are truly authentic and beneficial for all.
It’s great to see Fathom working towards making impact travel accessible and desirable on a large scale, and I look forward to watching how they evolve into new destinations and programs in the future.
Would you spend part of your vacation on an impact trip? Have you? I’d love to hear about it!
currently exploring was welcomed onboard as a guest of Fathom Travel. As always, all opinions are my own.