Giving Back While Travelling

From offsetting carbon to patronizing local businesses, there are many ways to "spread the wealth" while travelling. One of the more obvious options it taking a volunteer trip. In my experience, volunteer trips can make for some of the most unique and memorable travel experiences.
Back in 2011, I spent five weeks in and around Antigua, Guatemala building houses with an organization called De Casas a Hogares (From Houses to Homes). I didn't take the trip with any grand ambitions of changing the world, I just genuinely thought it would be fun; that kind of physical labour was something I wanted to experience. Riding in the back of a truck through roads that twist around volcanoes and lush greenery and working in the warm sun with Spanish radio pulsing in the background: I could have pinched myself. 

I enjoy a physical challenge, but if that's not your thing, you can also spend time relaxing and then take a week of your vacation to volunteer. Antigua, specifically, is great because there are a number of schools that offer Spanish lessons on a casual basis, and the place is home to a number of expats who can recommend the best sights, markets and eats. It is great for sharpening language skills, making real connections with locals and giving back while you travel. 

There are many organizations you can use to help facilitate such an experience. I used Real Gap. Although these companies are notorious for charging a fair amount of overhead, when you're travelling in Africa or Central and South America, the security and peace of mind is well worth it. They find the organizations for you, arrange for airport pickup, billeting and offer side trips with groups of fellow travellers. And a portion of what you pay (however small) does actually go toward the organization you're volunteering for. 
Volunteer travel may not be for everyone, but it was certainly one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my life, and I'd highly recommend it.