The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are hot! They’re our guide to a more sustainable future. But some of them are complex and abstract. This is my humble attempt to explain them and share tips how we can apply them in our daily (travel) life. Let’s start with number one: SDG #1: No poverty.

You can find an overview of all 17 SDGs here.

SDG #1 explained

“End poverty in all its forms everywhere.” Period. There is not much to explain about this goal, but a little bit of context might be helpful.

One of the aspects of the first SDG is to end extreme poverty by 2030. Extreme poverty – that means someone has less than $1.90 each day to spend. This is not enough to access food, clean water, sanitation, housing, and most certainly not education or health care. Although extreme poverty has been decreasing over the last decades, it’s not going quick enough. Pre-Corona we were aiming at reducing the global extreme poverty rate to 6% in 2030. Due to the pandemic poverty has risen for the first time in decades. Damn.

Ending poverty at home

The last thing I want is to make you panic or feel helpless. I want to approach the SDGs from a positive perspective. Not what you need to do, but what we can do. These things are very easy, but they can make a world difference:

Buy street newspapers or magazines

Street newspapers or magazines are sold by homeless or poor people on the streets. They receive a percentage of the sales, usually between 50 and 75%. This work gives them the opportunity to provide for themselves in dignity. I sometimes buy Hinz&Kunzt, our local street magazine from Hamburg. If you want to find out if your city has a street paper, you can check it on the website of the International Network of Street Papers.

Street magazine Hinz&Kunzt from Hamburg
Street magazine Hinz&Kunzt from Hamburg

Bonus tip: Hinz&Kunzt organizes guided tours to places in Hamburg you usually don’t visit to show how homeless people live and create awareness for their problems. I’m not sure if the tours are available in English, but you can always ask!

Donate old clothes to people in need

Donate old clothes to local organizations which give it to refugees, homeless people or other people in need. What’s important here is the word local. Secondhand clothes are a big business. We don’t realize it but what we consider garbage is pure gold to some. The majority of donated clothing is exported, for example to Sub-Saharan African countries. For resale, not as donations. (And this might actually harm the local economy.)

It requires some research to find an organization that doesn’t ship your donated clothes around the world. In my hometown, our church runs a clothing bank (comparable to a food bank). People in need can buy clothes there at a very small price. It feels good to know where my clothes go and take action to support SDG #1.

Become financially literate

Money runs the world. It’s important that you learn how to manage your finances, how to stay out of debt and how to save money for the future. It’s important that you are able to provide for yourself. Even in good times, there is the chance that you lose your job. If you are in control of your financial situation, you’re less likely to get stuck in debts and poverty.

Being financially literate (and independent) is especially important if you’re a biological female. My generation of millennial girls still lack behind in financial literacy compared to our male counterparts. Financial literacy equals independence equals empowerment. By becoming financially literate and teaching other girls a financial understanding we empower ourselves, our mothers and our daughters.

Supporting SDG #1 while traveling

When you’re traveling, you don’t have the same possibilities and means like at home. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t fight poverty on the road:

Avoid all-inclusive hotels

All-inclusive is a holiday dream come true. Everything is taken care of, food and drinks as much as we like, and all has been paid for in advance. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there is a big downside to all-inclusive hotels:

Many all-inclusive resorts are owned by big multinationals. Our money doesn’t stay in the country we visit. and sometimes doesn’t even get there at all. That’s called leakage. Above that, when we stay all-in, there is no incentive for us to leave the hotel to eat in a local restaurant or maybe visit a museum.

Recommended reading: All inclusive holidays – SINNER OR SAINT? by ResponsibleTravel.com

Long story short: To support the local economy stay in a locally-owned accommodation and/or eat outside the hotel.

Use a local tour guide

Same reasoning as above. Unfortunately, tourists are often too scared to book a tour locally, and the multinationals play a big role in this. The highwayman and I had this experience in the Gambia, our only holiday in Africa (until now). On our first day we got an “introduction to the country and local culture”. The representative of the Dutch tour operator we booked the holidays with scared the sh*t out of us. She kept repeating that we should only book a tour with them; that most local guides didn’t have an insurance and would abandon you in case of an emergency.

In the Gambia, basically anything is offered on the street, so she probably had a valid point that we shouldn’t blindly trust anyone who tries to sell us a goat. But her panic-making prevented us from checking out what legit local companies had to offer. We were young and unexperienced. So we didn’t look any further and indeed booked a tour directly in the hotel.

I still regret this because the tour was horrible. Nowadays, I’d do my research beforehand when I’m still at home. Anne of Fair Sayari wrote this helpful blog how to select a sustainable tour operator.

Impressions from the tour in the Gambia

Don’t give money to begging children

I know it sounds heartless, but it’s doing more harm than good. Because it maintains a vicious circle these kids cannot escape from. As long as begging is lucrative, parents will keep their children out of school. And without education, there will be no way out of poverty.

But it’s not only parents who send their children on the streets. Human traffickers kidnap children, drug, starve and physically harm them to make them look pitiful, and force them to beg. Yes, this really happens. I feel sick just by writing this.

So what can we do instead? Donate the money we’d usually give to these children to a local NGO fighting child poverty & trafficking and/or providing education for street kids. Like this we make a more sustainable contribution to breaking their vicious cycle.

Tip: In the article Giving money to child beggars is the least generous thing a tourist can do by Jillian Keenan you can find some suggestions for reliable NGOs. And if you’re wondering about the trustworthiness of an organization, you can check the Charity Navigator.

About the photo

The photo I have chosen for SDG #1 No poverty shows an old lady selling floating candles in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Old lady selling floating candles in Hoi An

For every Sustainable Development Goal I have chosen one of my travel photos for the header. I took this photo of an old lady selling floating candles in the city of Hoi An in Vietnam. There is so much beauty, yet so much sadness in this photo. Whenever I look at her, so many questions come to my mind:

Why do you spend your nights sighting on the hard floor waiting for couples in love? Why can’t you enjoy your pension? Do you get pension at all? Is it maybe not enough to live? Your wrinkles make me wonder how old yo are. Are you maybe older than you look, worn out from a life of heavy work? What have your eyes seen that I can’t even imagine? So many questions I will never know an answer to.

Quick wrap-up of SDG #1

So what can we do to fight poverty?

  • At home
    • Buy street newspapers or magazines
    • Donate old clothes to people in need
    • Become financially literate
  • And on the road:
    • Avoid all-inclusive hotels
    • Use a local tour guide
    • Don’t give money to begging children

Thank you for making it all the way to the end. For us these are just little changes, but together they can make a big difference. The next part about the second Sustainable Development Goal will come soon. And you can find an overview of all SDGs here.

A highwaygirl signature

PS: Got more ideas what we can do to end poverty? Leave a comment with your tips for SDG #1.