Travel with a Purpose

Have you ever wanted to travel to some place exotic, and want to help others, too? Walkertown resident Wesley Gant, who travels around the world on volunteer vacations, will give a presentation at the Walkertown Library on Tuesday, March 12 to help others learn how to Travel with a Purpose.
Gant, who works part-time as a park ranger, stumbled upon volunteer vacationing while looking for a cheaper way to travel.
“I worked for the parks service for a number of years and didn’t have the time to go back to school for a master’s degree, but I wanted to diversify my resume. I wanted to be involved in a large social outreach and do environmental work,” he said. “Also, I had travelled internationally a few years before and it was expensive, so I wanted to see if there were ways to do it cheaper. I Googled ‘volunteering with cheetahs’ and that’s how I got involved.”
Since he started doing eco-tourism, Gant has been on five trips through various organizations. He noted that during his presentation, he will give information about the organizations he has used and how to effectively find one that best suits a person for what they want to do and where they want to go.
So far, Gant said he has been to Paraguay, Nepal, Namibia, Morocco, and Zimbabwe. On most of the trips, Gant goes for two weeks and does side trips on the way to or from his destination.
“They are usually structured like a five-day work week and weekend and offer side tourism trips,” he said. “Some of the trips are like teaching English, conservation efforts, animal monitoring, education outreach or something else, and you usually don’t have to have any training for these trips.”
Gant’s first trip was to Namibia’s N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary.
While there, he worked on a wildlife refuge working with a menagerie of animals from meerkats, giraffes, porcupines, baboons, cobras, kudu, and wild dogs, but the sanctuary was mostly for big cats like cheetahs, leopards, and lions.
“We got to feed the animals, do habitat building and do anti-poaching from a watchtower, and I had the chance to work with the Bushmen (San people) in a school. They come in and the parent sell handcrafts and the children learn English,” he shared. “I also had the chance to go hunting with the San people and sit around a campfire to hear their night sky stories.”
Gant noted that on this trip, he mostly stayed on the refuge, except for when he went to help a local rancher build a fence to help keep leopards away from his cattle.
Gant said his favorite part of the trip were the animals.
The second location Gant visited was Ghandruk in Nepal with the Annapurna Conservation Area. He noted that it is located on the 10th tallest mountain in the world, standing at 26,545 feet.
“They have tea houses everywhere, so I drank a lot of tea,” he said.
During this trip, Gant did a lot of plant and animal surveying, including butterfly surveys, as well as community outreach.
On his side trips, he said he visited Dubai and Kathmandu.
“My favorite thing about this trip was visiting Kathmandu and seeing that type of community,” he said. “It’s like being in a different time.”
The third location Gant travelled to was Pilar in southern Paraguay.
“It’s not really a tourist country. More than half of the country speaks a native language,” he said. “I went to work with deforestation and did animal surveying because it’s underdeveloped and they don’t know what animals they have there, so they don’t know what animals they are affecting with habitat loss.”
Gant said he tracked animals, set traps, took scientific data, and caught birds, fish and insects.
When he wasn’t volunteering, Gant took side trips to Asunción, the capital city, and to Miami on the way to Paraguay.
“My favorite part about this trip was working with the kids’ programs, which we did through the US Peace Corps,” he said.
Gant’s fourth trip was to Zimbabwe in November and December 2017 at a conservation area for wild rhinos, which was during the coup, though he said he never felt afraid and was always kept up to date by the organization he was working with.
“There were 19 rhinos that were tracked. I got to go there and do game counts and help with habitat restoration,” he said.
Gant said what he enjoyed most about this trip was the people, as well as the side trips he took. He noted that when he was doing volunteer work, he visited Devil’s Pool of Victoria Falls in Zambia, as well as Botswana.
“I also went to Ethiopia and hung out with a local guide and saw the national monument,” he said.
The fifth location Gant has visited was Morocco from November to December 2018. During his trip, he taught English in the Atlas Mountains to both kids and adults.
“I lived with a host family and assisted with agriculture,” he said. “I also worked in schools in Marrakech.”
From all the trips he has been on abroad, Gant said he mostly enjoys the people and experiencing the different cultures.
“You get to see how the rest of the world lives,” he said.
During his presentation at the Walkertown Library, Gant will be giving insight into where he has been, as well as answer questions about volunteer vacations and go into more detail as to what each trip costs. He will also have a slideshow of his adventures playing behind him and talk about the different issues each group he volunteered with was working on and the challenges that they face with those issues.
“Airfare is the biggest cost,” he noted.
The free program will be held on Tuesday, March 12 from 6 – 7 p.m. at the Walkertown Library, located at 2969 Main St. in Walkertown. For more information, call 336-703-2990.

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