Cast your eye across any travel blog, or Instagram account, and nobody would blame you for thinking the world was full of caring, sharing philanthropists lightly treading about, oozing empathy and respect for other cultures.
Given the power to pan out on most of those cuddly images, there’s a high chance you’d find several disgruntled locals, just out of frame, staring in horror as another great, galumphing tourist lumbers through their ‘oh, so authentic’ lives.
Meaningful Travel gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in your travels in a responsible (and fun!) way, giving you a taste of the true spirit of a place or its people.
But actually travelling meaningfully without causing offence, chaos, or taking complete (mostly unintentional) advantage of local communities, isn’t as easy as several million selfies imply.
What’s the real meaning of Meaningful Travel
Rickshaw Travel specialise in Meaningful Travel and, for over a decade, they’ve been designing fantastic adventures for families who want to wander the world lightly, thoughtfully, and responsibly; have authentic experiences, and leave, without leaving a trace.
Characterless package holidays in tourist areas aren’t the Rickshaw way. You choose from the bite-size experiences that Rickshaw offer and they do all the hard work behind the scenes so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
The selection is diverse, ranging from overnight stays in remote Vietnamese hill villages to traditional Indian dance classes to jungle trekking in Borneo. Drawing on the first hand knowledge of Rickshaw’s team of seasoned travellers, every experience is authentic, unforgettable and entirely original.
The only standard element of your family holiday is an unwavering commitment to Meaningful Travel, and that’s just how Rickshaw works.
They know and understand the communities they partner with; local people benefit directly from tourism; social, cultural, and environmental responsibility informs every single experience; and low-impact isn’t wishful thinking, it’s a Rickshaw rule.
Good to remember sometimes, that every family holiday you take influences the way your kids will travel themselves one day.
Hopefully for them, Meaningful Travel will be the norm. Until then, have a look at how extraordinary it is with Rickshaw Travel right now.
Travel lightly to the heart of Vietnam
Vietnam is mesmerising and complex and most families stick to holiday islands, visiting Hạ Long Bay or settle for city tours of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
But to see Vietnam as a country and not just a destination, you have to get to know its people, travel to less travelled regions and explore their traditions, culture and customs.
That’s the side of Vietnam that Rickshaw understands intimately. Kids probably won’t notice the learning experiences, because they’ll be having too much fun but you’ll appreciate them, along with intriguing places to stay and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. If you want some beach time built-in, that’s easily arranged too.
Visit the ancient Vietnamese capital of Hue on the banks of the Perfume River, it’s a city like no other, and its air of tranquillity will take your breath away.
Kids will probably be more taken with a day spent toiling side by side with local farmers, harvesting rice crops, having lunch with fellow workers, and finding out first hand that world’s greatest food staple doesn’t just come in a bag.
Bai Tu Long Bay isn’t as famous as nearby Hạ Long, but it is just as stunning, and the immense karsts are a lot more fun to kayak round, without crowds of tourists on the water. Spending the night here on a traditional Chinese junk is almost adventure overkill for kids, but not quite.
Learn the ancient art of lantern making with skilled local artisans in Hoi An, it’s a fascinating experience, and supports local non-profit initiatives.
The ethereal landscape of Vietnam’s Central Highlands really is the country less travelled. Here kids can discover the true depths of the hidden caves in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, cycle through remote villages, and gaze in awe at Asia’s oldest mountains.
The mist wreathed peaks of rural Vietnam are home to ancient hill tribes, and getting to know more about their way of life is an inspiring experience. You’ll be warmly welcomed by local people, fed wonderfully well, and the even the simple village accommodation is destined to charm you completely.
Everyone knows Borneo’s legendary orangutan, but Rickshaw Travel are just as well acquainted with the island’s curious Iriwaddy Dolphin, mischievous monkeys, dozens of frog species, and forests full of show-off fireflies.
So their family tours in Sarawak are intrepid enough to satisfy free spirits completely, designed round the type of wildlife spotting that leaves ardent young zoologists stunned on a minute-by-minute basis, and an open door to the intriguing life of Malaysia’s oldest tribes; and some of the noisiest frogs on earth.
Semenggoh Nature Reserve is a world leader in conservation, and dedicated to protecting the endangered wildlife of Sarawak State. Not only do kids get to sleep in a treehouse here, they have doleful and delightful orangutan for company.
Sailing on Santubong River is a rare insight into Borneo’s remarkable bio-diversity. It’s also a fantastic voyage for kids where anything’s possible from sinister crocodiles to chattering macaques, and fireflies after dark.
Remote and atmospheric Batang Ai National Park is home to the ancient Iban tribe. This is the place for jungle cruises on traditional wooden boats, overnight stays in authentic longhouses, and time spent getting to know the ancient culture and intriguing customs of the Iban themselves.
Over 60 frog species have been recorded in Kubah National Park. Kids can explore their jungle habitat on boardwalks, take a head count, and be thoroughly amazed by how much noise amphibians can collectively make: oddly musical once you get used to it.
Rickshaw’s kayak tours in the Bengoh Forest are effortless paddling, mixed in with jungle thrills, so pretty much kid heaven. And the fact that they’re topped off with wild swimming and a visit to a Bidayuh tribal village is even better.
An ideal introduction to incredible India for kids
India is a limitless land of wonders, so immense and diverse, it should really be a continent.
It’s also densely populated, speaks more languages than anywhere else on earth, and has some of the most awe-inspiringly loud and chaotic cities you’ll ever have experienced.
Introducing kids to this astonishing country takes skill, and that’s where Rickshaw’s range of family tours excel.
They’re colourful, thrilling, exotic, and endlessly enthralling, but on the right side of the chaos that can make India seem like a daunting prospect. And of course, they’re local, which is the best way to meet some of world’s kindest, friendliest, and most hospitable people.
Rose-tinted Jaipur is exactly as magnificent as you always imagined it would be: a city of palaces and gracious mansions, bustling markets, wildly strange sights, and wonderful food. Grandeur even whispers into Rickshaw’s choice of hotels here, and a pool is always welcome at the end of a day in Jaipur.
The southern city of Cochin is another historic icon. Centuries of colonisation have left their mark from the ancient Jewish Quarter to the Dutch Palace, but the true spirit of India is ever present. For an all-round experience you can stay in a colonial mansion, visit the country’s oldest European church, and take traditional Kathakali dance classes with the kids.
Kerala’s mysterious backwaters are famous for houseboat cruises, and dense, jungle-like forest. A mix of sailing and trekking is the best type of adventure in this part of India, and the chance of spotting anything from wild boar to mongoose is high.
Ranthambore National Park is tiger territory and a family tour here is just as memorable as it sounds. The landscape of crumbling ruins, and dense vegetation is wonderfully evocative, and in between trekking tigers, kids can be on the look out for shy gazelle, prehistoric crocodiles, and dozens of other exotic inhabitants who make their home in this vast, and lushly green wilderness.
Beaches are an inspired end to a family holiday in India, and Karala’s shores have some of the country’s loveliest. A blend of village charm and easy energy, makes Marari one of Rickshaw’s favourite resorts for a few days – or more – by the sea.