Recently I took a trip that included beaches and mountains, but not the kind you'd typically find me on. This was a new adventure, one that wasn't your typical vacation.


I’d never been on an impact trip. I had always been curious but was always picky about what kind of trip I would take. I wanted to work next to locals, in cultures, without commercialization.

Guys, I found it.

Recently, I went on an impact travel trip to Puerto Plata, the Dominican Republic with Fathom Travel. The purpose of the trip was to make a difference in the community, while still enjoying a Caribbean vacation. I arrived with fellow blogger Adventure Mom, curious and unsure exactly what to expect. We were soon to discover this trip would surpass all expectations we could have dreamt up.

The Dominican Republic is the second most visited country in both North and South America, trailing only behind Brazil. Punta Cana is situated on the southeastern coast, lined with resort after resort on flat sandy beaches, making it the biggest tourist location in the country. Although millions of travelers get their passport stamped and visit this country, very few leave with hearts full of Dominican love and culture.

That’s what made this trip different.



Day One

We loaded the bus and headed to a local beach in the city. A Dominican work group known as IDDI greeted us upon arrival. This organization is one of the primary companies in the Dominican Republic that works on community development in local areas. Almost all of the workers of IDDI were young adults from Puerto Plata and the surrounding towns, which I was absolutely thrilled about. Not only was the trip helping with impact activities, but it was helping to support local organizations.

The Fathom group along with IDDI spent the day planting 407 sea grape trees, collecting 200 seedlings to be brought and raised in a greenhouse, and collecting 25 bags of garbage off the beach. The area is one of the main beaches for locals in Puerto Plata, and unlike many northerners, they want to stay out of the sun. In time, the trees should grow and provide valuable shade for them along the beach.




Day Two

We ventured to the mountains (YIPPEE) on a long and bumpy bus ride to the small town of Cupey. The mountain town was quaint and beautiful, and my inner hiking soul was begging to climb every peak I could see for miles, which was a lot.

We came to this town to visit the Centro Educativo Isabel Meyreles, which was the local village school. It was the first time they would have a visit from any outside organization, which was absolutely amazing to be a part of. We learned that some of these kids must walk for hours over the surrounding mountains to get to school every day. Makes you think.

Our stay was with the fourth-grade class, where we danced to “Uptown Funk”, drew pictures, and made soccer balls out of balloons and newspapers. My little drawing partner was named Wilson, and although he spoke no English we communicated perfectly. I’m also pretty sure his drawing turned out better than mine. Touche, Wilson.


The school was something I will remember forever. We worked to teach them important skills that they may need in life. The truth is, many of them won’t be able to go out and buy a soccer ball whenever they wish, so teaching them alternatives for their wants was not only important, but heartwarming. We were told that instead of bringing them items (toys, classroom supplies, etc) it’s more beneficial to teach them these important skills. By bringing actual items, it can actually do more harm in the schools than good, even though people who bring things have good intentions.

I had never considered that perspective, but it was undoubtedly true. By simply supplying goods, the kids may learn to expect something to come to them, rather than learning skills to figure out alternatives on their own.


Day Three

Our third and final activity we met up with the IDDI team once again and they took us to an impoverished area of Puerto Plata, where we were going to visit an all-women entrepreneurship initiative called RaPapel. This organization has supplied important jobs for women in the town where they work to make recycled paper.

None of the women spoke English, but we communicated with laughter and smiles. Before we began, each of the women stood up in front and talked to us (with a translator) to describe what RaPapel means to them and how it has impacted their lives.

We learned the entire papermaking process, which was incredibly awesome. We danced, and sang, and shook our hips (or at least I tried), and had an absolute blast. We belted Christmas songs because the women knew the English versions, and I learned that just because you’re at work doesn’t mean it can’t be a party. In my book, each of the women were complete and total badasses.

At the end of the day, we had helped to complete over 3 days of work in the little time were there. Those women taught me some very important lessons that day, and they will be lessons not soon forgot.


This was a new kind of adventure for me. I didn’t climb a mountain and I wasn’t camping, but it was an adventure that I will always cherish. I was able to experience culture in a new way and meet inspirational people along the journey. I was there to help, but it turns out they helped me more.

**This trip was compensated by Fathom Impact Travel. As always, all opinions, thoughts, and stories are my own. The first official Fathom trip includes a cruise to the Dominican and begins in April. DO IT, PEOPLE. **



  1. Matt Beha on March 23, 2016 at 1:14 PM

    What a great experience. I may have to try Fathom.

    • Shalee on April 28, 2016 at 1:50 PM

      You must! It is an experience you won’t ever forget.

  2. Bruce Gezon on March 24, 2016 at 2:41 PM

    Sounds like a very rewarding trip, Shalee. I know the feeling. I have helped build schools and churches in Cambodia and am planning on doing the same in Guatemala next winter. It is a wonderful way to get learn about other cultures and to give back to life. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure this will encourage others to consider doing the same rather than always laying on a beach for a week being waited on hand and foot.

    • Shalee on April 28, 2016 at 1:51 PM

      Guatemala next winter?! That’s amazing Bruce! I must hear some of your stories this year at the festival.

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