Humanitourism: Saving Dogs and Cats in Greece
“Humanitourism” Offers a Greek Adventure and Help for Animals in Need
By Steve Flahive
Want to visit Greece? Interested in fighting animal cruelty? If so, a Colorado-based company called inside/out offers a unique combination of cultural immersion and cause-based alternative travel.
Participants of inside/out’s “humanitourism” trip to Greece will visit the largely un-touristed Zagoria region to provide hands-on help to a project which desperately needs outside assistance.
Located in the country’s mountainous north, and blighted by an overpopulation of dogs and cats, this Greek province has been the site of shockingly inhumane conditions for domestic animals.
Half the time in Greece will be spent providing assistance to the overwhelmed and understaffed animal advocacy groups.
The goal of this portion of the trip is to improve the lives of the countless maltreated animals in Ioannina through efforts directed at raising public awareness and by more straightforward projects like constructing feeding facilities.
Altruism, Ethnic Immersion, Adventure-Travel
Stephanie Downs, who will be one of the participants traveling to Greece, explains how she was drawn to the nature of the project: “I have volunteered and worked in the animal welfare/rights industry for over 10 years. I was not specifically aware of the animal welfare crisis in Greece, but was drawn to the trip as it combines adventure and my specific passion into one experience.”
“The program inside/out offers is a cool combination of giving back, experiencing the local culture, and wrapping-up with some adventure travel to unwind before heading home.”
Katsulos points out, “This combination is a big selling point for inside/out tours;” when they’re not working to help the animals in need, participants will split time between soaking in some Greek culture, and exploring the stunningly beautiful terrain as they embark on an eco-adventure of trekking, rafting, and sea kayaking.
The Taste of Greek Cuisine
According to inside/out’s founder, Zoe Katsulos, “inside/out arranges trips with a balance of structured activity during the days and free time for people to explore on their own in the evening.”
This way, “people have opportunities to explore local cuisine or check out what’s around.” But if you enjoy the comfort of an experienced guide, such independent detours are simply optional; you can always hang back with the group.
The key is keeping the choice in the hands of each participant. “We allow people as much latitude as they want. Participants can explore a beautiful and unfamiliar place on their terms and at their own comfort level if they wish to do so.”
Eco-tourism and adventure travel will be part of the trip with hiking, trekking, and kayaking
The Outdoors Insider
Zoe Katsulos, is also the guide for each trip. As a professional guide and outdoor skills teacher, she has led outdoor trips and teaching backcountry skills in Colorado for the past 8 years.
Katsulos explains the benefits of humanitourism as a means of philanthropy where donators not only see the results, they produce them.
“A portion of what each participant pays for to join a trip goes to the project that they are working on” so, participants find themselves “In the trenches with the people they’re helping.”
Because any donations associated with a particular traveler’s trip fees go directly to the cause they assist, “the project money might have funded parts of the project they are working on or may go toward sustaining or providing for further work” and travelers “can actually experience what their financial contribution is going toward, instead of just writing a check”
Finding Projects Responsibly
The locals’ needs play a direct role in the decision regarding any specific jobs participants work during each trip: “We chose our projects carefully so that no jobs are being taken away from locals; we only want to provide a service or fill a need that cannot be met solely by the community/village or at least does not detract from their local economy. In fact, our goal is to be socially responsible and infuse money into the local economy.
In the case of Greece, a segment of the population has voiced a need to help these animals but the groups tasked with providing aid are drastically short on resources—there simply aren’t enough resources so outside aid is an ideal solution.
While most of the actual work gets done during the time abroad, the cause can be supported once the trip has ended: “Greece, for example, we hope to continue awareness after the trip, maybe raising awareness with the travelers’ home communities, or even continuing to donate to the cause after the trip is over.”
Not an Off-the-Shelf Experience
If groups have their own trip in mind, “inside/out can create customized small group trips. If it is a family of six people, for example, we could create a customized group trip for that.
“ If you want to try one of these customized group trips, “depending on what the project might be or where it goes, the lead time could range from 3 months to a year, depending on how uncharted the waters are.”
Whether you jump on a trip with other travelers excited to try humanitourism, or you have a group going together, the mission underlying each trip remains the same.
Zoe explains, “What we really strive to do is to offer an authentic experience by choosing unique locations within a country. Like in Greece, it isn’t the islands, like most tourists see, instead it is a very authentically Greek location; this provides more of an authentic experience of the culture.”
One Trip at a Time Katsulos’ experience as a traveler and guide is central to the identity of inside/out. In fact, according to Stephanie Downs, who met Zoe when she was a guide on a fundraising event at the Grand Canyon, knowing the personality and experience level of the tour guide was a big selling point:
“I was impressed with how she handled the program and guided us through the trip. I am looking forward to working with her again.” But as a one-woman show, inside/out can only do so much.
Katsulos describes the benefits and drawbacks of inside/out’s boutique-esque business model: “Right now it is just me leading the trips, so people know that it is not just some kid on gap year, they know who I am and know who they are getting.”
While this limits the amount trips that can be organized and carried out each year, plans are in the making to expand the operation—but not along the traditional lines of most businesses. Inside/out’s commitment to the local communities is inextricable from the company itself. It is only fitting that plans to expand reflect this.
Katsulos’ mission in expanding inside/out looks towards “training local indigenous people into the guide service role so that—not only can they become the leader of the trip at some point — they become leaders in their community by creating an addition to the local economy and hiring others within their community.
That also facilitates our ability to do many more trips and help more people in the world by freeing my time to find and plan more projects and adventures.” She adds, “Once the indigenous guides are trained, I’ll be free to work to plan more trips and help more people.
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