fathom-dominican-republic-featureAfter months of working with Fathom and learning all about the incredible work they’re doing, I couldn’t wait to experience a Fathom cruise for myself. But it turns out, the timing just wasn’t right for me. When I found out the wonderful news in January that I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I’d have to miss the cruise, not wanting to take any chances where Zika was concerned.

But thanks to social media, I was able to follow along with the trip and get a strong sense of what the experience was like for the many travelers who participated in this first social impact cruise. As many travel bloggers arrived on the shores of the Dominican Republic, they knew they were about to embark on a life-changing journey. I checked in with some of them, to get their thoughts on the on-board ship experience, the on-the-ground experience and the importance of social impact travel. Here’s what they had to say:

Rachel Rudwall, TV Host + Travel Expert
The idea of volunteer travel is contentious at times, as it can be tough to tell whether travelers are actually contributing to a cause, or instead, serving their own egos with an “I helped!” sticker and a pat on the back. With that in mind, the Fathom travel experience proves a welcome surprise. I loved my Dominican Republic “impact activities,” not only because they were enjoyable experiences for me as the traveler, but also because I saw first-hand the structures that Fathom has established with local organizations to guarantee long-term benefits for the community. During one morning of volunteering with a Reforestation activity, for example, my group planted over 350 trees in an endangered coastal habitat, assisted by local park staff. The next morning, I taught elementary-aged students basic phrases in English, a lesson that would be revisited the following week with new Fathom travelers. Another afternoon, I was welcomed into a home, teaching the ABCs to a family of 15 people, from children to grandparents, all of whom expressed immense gratitude to learn the English language. Due to each of those activities, the Dominican community is stronger, and I am stronger for the experience.

Scott Eddy, Social Media Influencer
When I first heard about Fathom (last year when I met Tara Russell, the president of Fathom on Twitter), I knew it was going to be something special. Tara is more than the driving force of the brand, she inhales the brand 24 hours a day, putting herself in the faces of customers as much as she can, to ensure real-time feedback. As for the cruise, it wasn’t a normal cruise; the demographic was much younger than you’d expect, and there was a constant energy onboard that was associated with ‘giving back.’ Everything was very well organized, but obviously with any inaugural voyage, there were some hiccups, but they moved very quickly to fix what they could right away. My social impact activity was teaching English at a school. It was so much fun, and the kids were so excited, which made it even more special. Overall, I think Fathom is a perfect fit for people who want to give back, but don’t really know how to do it, because the Fathom staff holds your hand every step of the way.

Justin Walter, Travel Host, Producer + Writer
I had such an incredible on-board experience with Fathom! From the moment I stepped foot on the ship I met so many incredible, intellectual, giving and fun people. I didn’t anticipate at all that I would walk away from my experience with a new set of best friends. The overall design of the Fathom experience definitely helped create these bonds among passengers. From on-board activities that involved learning about the Dominican Republic to getting to know people beyond surface level issues and entertainment, I loved connecting with so many people from all over the US. The on-the-ground experiences were meant to do one thing: make an impact. I honestly believe they do. What I was really happy to learn during my trip was how Fathom partnered up with two local organizations (IDDI and Entrena) to create and facilitate the impact activities. I participated in creating water filtration systems, pouring concrete floors, teaching community English and planting trees. All of them were unique, allowed me to learn about different issues in the Dominican Republic and best of all, to interact with locals. I was a little worried going into the experience that the impact activities might be intrusive and not designed to make a lasting impact, but quickly learned that Fathom did an incredible job making sure this wasn’t the case.

When I’m commonly asked the question, “Why do you love to travel?” I’m guilty of usually rattling off a list of selfish reasons. For a majority of my life, my love for travel has been centered on personal growth — experiencing the world through adventures that offer me a deeper understanding of humanity in hopes of becoming a more well-rounded and educated global citizen. When it comes down to it, most people travel for selfish reasons and that’s ok. Fathom Travel challenged me to go beyond my selfish love for travel by giving me the opportunity to be selfless through travel. It’s a company that is truly changing the travel narrative by making impact travel accessible and mainstream, while at the same time still tapping into the core of why we love travel. Through a cruise, let me say that again, a cruise, I have reignited my passion to live a life of importance by having a positive impact on the world. My service in the Dominican Republic may have been finite, but its impact on my life (and the Dominican Republic) will be infinite.

Viv Chapleo + Jill Hoelting, Editors/Co-Founders of WAVEJourney.com
The Fathom team was a collection of high-energy, dedicated Impact Guides and mentors. A cornucopia of workshops were scheduled throughout our sailing to prepare us for our upcoming activities in the Dominican Republic. These were complemented with follow-up wrap sessions, which allowed us to share and digest our on-the-ground experiences.

The Dominican Republic, both visually stunning and culturally rich, is a glorious place to travel. The Fathom ship Adonia docked at Amber Cove (Carnival Corporation’s private resort), which is a great spot in and of itself. With shopping, restaurants and an awesome pool among other amenities, Amber Cove is a sweet place to be docked for a few days.

We participated in several activities (Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative, Community English Conversation and Learning, Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship) under the guidance of Fathom’s in-country local partners Entrena and IDDI. We so appreciate that Fathom has collaborated with local folks who have a keen sense of exactly what is needed so the volunteer effort is focused, well received and of value.

We travel frequently. We love it because we think of ourselves as global citizens and want to meet and mingle with others from all over this planet. To be able to spend time with new friends in their home or school or factory and actually help them better their lives is a true gift.  And through this exchange, we are better people because we come away with a new understanding and appreciation of others.

To learn more about Fathom and their social impact activities, visit fathom.org.

This is a sponsored post.


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