Building a movement – Solidarity, activism and travel from North America to Nicaragua
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Many new forms of tourism have emerged over the past two decades claiming to provide an alternative, responsible approach to international travel. Unlike ecotourism and volunteer tourism, travel centered on solidarity activism has not been thoroughly explored in the academic literature. Through narrative interviews conducted with organizational staff, former travelers, and members of a rural host community, this study profiles three organizations that organize solidarity travel experiences in Nicaragua. Qualitative analysis of the interviews and secondary materials including blog posts and videos reveals that staff, travelers and community members feel that they benefit from the exchanges that take place during solidarity travel. However, the study participants also articulated a number of concerns and issues with the practice of solidarity travel, including the limited nature of ongoing contact between travelers, coordinating organizations, and the communities that are visited while in Nicaragua. The experience of solidarity travel provided participants with a greater understanding of the connections between Nicaragua and North America, and a critical self-awareness for young travelers in particular, as many were experiencing the Global South for the first time. The successful translation of that exposure and awareness into activism is less certain and is identified as an area for future improvement of the overall solidarity travel experience. Overall, this study contributes to the emerging literature on solidarity travel by comparing three organizations with different missions and methods, and showing how solidarity can be enacted in a variety of ways through travel. Through the inclusion of three distinct groups of participants, this study also highlights similarities and differences related to the way solidarity travel is experienced by members of these groups.