October 12 I Tourism in Latin America

Have you ever been a tourist in Latin America? Have you ever done volunteer work or been involved in a or service-learning program in a country other than the United States? Reflect on your experiences as a tourist and tourist locations that you have witnessed or have been a part of in locations outside the United States and Canada.

I have been a tourist in Latin America. Since I was young, I would travel to Dominican Republic to be with my family, and often took small excursions outside of our hometown and went to the pool, beaches and resorts in the southern coast. I’ve gone on a cruise vacation, where we would stop in tourist destinations in the Caribbean. We generally would have stops in places that were highly developed or resort-type. My tourist experiences were fun and memorable, but I was never really able to engage with the culture of the places I visited for only a day or two (outside of DR). The tourist trips were just that for me- a trip to a nice beach in the warm sun. I don’t feel that they were transformative, but rather a way to decompress, away from the United States and my obligations back home.

I have also done volunteer work outside of the United States. In high school, I volunteered in Costa Rica at an orphanage. Though I expected to work from sunset to sunrise helping with the day-to-day functioning of the orphanage, I was only asked to be there for 3-4 hours a day on weekdays. It was eye opening to see how international volunteer programs have built-in tourism opportunities, something I didn’t expect or was financially prepared for while I was there. I left without a real sense of accomplishment, though I learned a lot about Costa Rica through my host family and interactions in the capital city, San Jose. In contrast, I participated as a medical translator in El Rosario, Honduras with Americans Caring, Teaching, Sharing (ACTS) through Dartmouth Alumni. I felt I had a purpose on this trip, since I was translating for a doctor that was seeing patients daily and traveling with the mobile clinic to reach communities outside of El Rosario. During this trip, we stayed in one community and worked hard to bring necessary care to the people there. I really enjoyed the trip, and will never forget my experience there. I also hope that I contributed to improving the quality of the care provided by translating for the doctor and the patients. I appreciated the sustainable community development model ACTS had in place, and I’m excited to visit Nicaragua and experience the great work that is being done with Bridges to Community.

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