Reshaping the “Bucket List” to Include Animal Welfare

Last updated on June 12th, 2021

Living our Wildest Dreams with Intention

By Carolyn Ray, Publisher, JourneyWoman

If there’s nothing else we’ve learned this past year, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted. When we return to travel, we want to do so by embracing our wildest dreams fully and intentionally. Travel isn’t about counting countries and checking places off a list. It’s about living our lives – our full lives – with intention and purpose.

As travel’s most important influencers, we as women can set the tone for others to follow. One area that we can affect is how we engage with wildlife.  As Dr. Carol Kline noted in our Animal Ethics webinar last year, “As we begin to understand more about animals and their individual lives, we learn more about their cognitive abilities, the types of emotions they experience, and the importance of their social lives. And as the news about the devastating impacts of climate change seems to be accelerating, we also know that we can’t travel the way we have in the past.”

Give yourself permission to dream big. Bigger than you ever have before because you are travelling like you never have before. But let’s travel with intention and support animal welfare.

I want to know: What are your travel dreams and how has the past year reshaped them?

How we Experience Wildlife: The Old Way and the New Way 

One area that deserves more discussion and attention is the role of wildlife in our travel experiences. Growing up in Florida, I was surrounded by animals – in the sky, in the ocean, the rivers, on land – and grew to have a healthy respect for nature. I was fortunate to learn that the joy of observing wild animals –birds, stingrays, snakes, sharks, turtles, dolphins, manatees, whales, bobcats – far outweighs the benefits of wanting to restrict their movements by putting them in cages and tanks. At age 15, I was fortunate to become a PADI-certified diver, and then my world really opened up – our oceans are breathtaking places for discovery.

When we travel, we are often invited into local wildlife experiences that sometimes feel ‘wrong’. Those of us who have travelled for a long time have – whether we want to admit it or not – done things that we may not be so proud of now. Maybe we rode on an elephant, swam with dolphins or had a photo taken with a wild bird. That’s all in the past. But now we know better, so we need to do better.

It is for these reasons that I invited Nora Livingstone to join our Women’s Advisory Council last August. Nora and I did a webinar on Ethical Animal Tourism and I knew she would give us the expert perspective we needed on animal tourism. Nora has volunteered with animals in such places as Nepal, Oman, Sierra Leone and Costa Rica. She loves the idea of empowering people to live their dreams and travel while helping animals

Nora Livingston - JourneyWoman AdvisoryC

Nora Livingstone, CEO, Animal Experiences International, is on the JourneyWoman Women’s Advisory Council. Nora’s bio is here.

Nora’s Tips: The Old and the New

One way you can experience wildlife authentically is to take part in citizen science by tagging sea turtles with local conservation officers. While you help populations of critically endangered species you will be putting more than just your toes in the water! These tags stay on sea turtles forever so they can be tracked and understood by scientists around the world. For the rest of their life and yours, you will have a living and breathing individual turtle who stays in the ocean- you don’t just go to the ocean and come home, part of you stays there forever helping future generations!

After sheltering in place and shielding for a year, we all know how painful it is to be separated from our families and forced to live in isolation. Yet, this is the everyday experience for dolphins who live in dolphinariums, tanks and blocked-off coves for tourists. Marine biologists around the world offer many experiences to help them help dolphins. With no experience needed, you can visit dolphins in places like Croatia and Scotland and help be the eyes of science. Watching wild and free dolphins under the supervision and mentorship of marine biologists helps them get more data to understand these animals better. You may not be swimming with them but you are ensuring their freedom and ability to swim with their families for their entire lives.

While there are many places to jump on a horse and see some of the same travels thousands of other people have, what if you could walk in the mountains and see horses who have lived there for thousands of years. In Mongolia the Takhi are the last genetically wild horses on earth, these prehistoric animals roam the same steps their ancestors did perhaps thousands of years ago. Stay in a gher (yurt) and be immersed in the nomadic life of the Mongolian people and understand your intrinsic need for wide-open spaces and freedom to roam.

When we talk about Africa, we are talking about an entire continent. Region to region is incredibly diverse, let alone country to country and city to city. This continent is not one to be easily crossed off a list, with a landmass of 30 million km squared and a population of more than 1 billion people we know there is not just one adventure to be had, there is more than 1 story to be told.

 When you are thinking of your trip, what so you want to experience? Mint tea in Morocco, Gorilla conservation in Rwanda, a guided visit to a Masai camp in Kenya, the sunset by sailboat in Malawi? Africa is not merely a line to be crossed off, there are countless untold adventures for those looking to experience the uniqueness of the 54 countries on the continent. 

Join us for a Q&A on Animal Tourism
on Thursday, May 13 at 8 pm EDT / 10 am AEST Friday, May 14 

Join us on May 13 for a TravelReady Q&A session on the Ethics of Animal Tourism.  We’ll share some basic guidelines for us on what to do – or not do – so that we’re more informed when we start traveling again. And, we’ll  have an open Q&A with you about wildlife experiences and we can do to help the animals that mean so much to us with some general guidelines.

In anticipation of the session, here are some questions for you to consider:

1. Have you ever had an animal experience in your travelling past that you now regret and why? 

2. If you could work or volunteer with any animal, what would it be and why?

3. What is the best impromptu, authentic experience you’ve ever had with an animal in the wild?

4. Is there a trip or an animal experience that you are evaluating right now?

Resources to Learn More 

Nora’s suggested pre-reading material:

More About Engaging Authentically with Wildlife 

These are just a sampling of the wildlife and ethical animal resources you’ll find on

Young woman walking through an airport pulling a carry-on bag

Ethical Animal Travel (Webinar)

JourneyWoman Publisher Carolyn Ray interviews Animal tourism experts Dr. Carol Kline and Nora Livingstone give us tips and guidelines to engage ethically with wildlife when we travel. (June 2020 Webinar)

Three young women observe a herd of rhinos

Practicing Responsible Animal Tourism: Guidelines for Ethical Travel by Dr. Carol Kline

Guest writer Dr. Carol Kline shares guidelines and tips to help travellers engage in responsible animal-based tourism.

A large grey elephant stands, trunk down, in front of a wall of green trees, with another elephant emerging from the trees in the background

Solo Travellers and Authentic Animal Encounters: Six Places to Experience Wildlife

For those who have a kinship with animals, there’s little more awe-inspiring than getting up close and personal with nature’s creatures in their natural habitat.

Moose in the lake, Arowhon Pines

Close to Nature in Canada's Algonquin Park

It was at Arowhon Pines that I had my most memorable wildlife experience of the summer – watching a baby moose enjoy lilypads only metres away.

Stuffed turtle on operating table in Florida Turtle Hospital with equipment in background

Falling in Love at Florida's Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital is the first veterinary hospital for turtles in the world, with 2,000 rescued turtles since it was founded. The hospital helps five kinds of turtles: Loggerhead, Green Sea Turtles, Leatherbacks, Kemp’s Ridley (or Ghost Turtle) and Hawksbill.

A gentle partnership - animal and protector. An elephant standing in a wildlife sanctuary

Walking With the Elephants in Cambodia: An Experience Not Soon Forgotten

Guest Writer Carol Moore-Ede shares her visit to the Elephant Valley Project, Cambodia’s original elephant sanctuary.

Carolyn is the Publisher + Editor-in-Chief of JourneyWoman and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC). A Canadian raised in South Florida, Carolyn loves all things Spanish, historic destinations and always has her backpack ready to go.




  1. Debra Payne

    Interesting article. Never gave it much thought, though I could feel a shift now and then. Read an article much like this, ages ago. Shift happen. I do have one regret, it was an elephant encounter in India to ride to a fort. A very long line to get up on the elephants, 2 people per. Part of the tour package. I told myself I will not do that again.
    I think I would like to volunteer at an elephant refuge in Vietnam. Kind of balance it out.
    I’ve seen coyotes a plenty. One followed us parallel to our trail for a bout a mile. Glad there was 2 of us hiking that day. San Jacinto wilderness area, Southern California.

  2. Thia

    Beyond Words: What Animals Think & Feel by Carl Safina is a must read for anyone interested in the emotional lives of animals.

    Beautifully written, moving & at times heartbreaking , this book is a major milestone in our ever changing narrative and understanding of the intelligence and emotional lives of animals .


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