A few years ago my husband and I traveled to Greece. We rented a small car and spent about a month touring the cities and small towns. Greece is a beautiful country, however, my heart was saddened by all of the stray animals I encountered. I was feeding stray cats and dogs everywhere I went. Many followed me around. I felt helpless. When I asked local police about humane organizations, they laughed.
One cop wanted to know why I cared so much about animals when children in some areas went to bed hungry. I don’t pit children against animals. Every living creature should be treated humanely.
That’s why I am so glad I discovered Inside/Out, a humanitarian organization that combines travel with animal welfare projects. Inside/Out was launched in early 2008. “Our goal is to provide assistance on under recognized and underserved projects of all kinds, and we found a particular situation in animal welfare in Greece that fit,” says Zoe Katsulos, founder of the travel organization.
“In Greece, where there is a largely unknown crisis for dogs and cats struggling to survive in an environment of overwhelming overpopulation, neglect, abuse, cruelty, abandonment, poisoning, starvation and apathy, participants will assist in education about sterilization and abandonment and will work on care and feeding programs for the homeless dog population,” says Katsulos.
Inside/Out also travels to India where efforts are focused in Dharamsala in the Himalayas. “We help build kennels at the only shelter in the entire region,” says Katsulos.
Following their volunteer work with dogs and cats, travelers gain further insight into the culture by partaking in various adventure activities in the local regions they visit. “Adventure activities are specific to the region and facilitate a more intimate exploration of the area’s culture and history,” says Katsulos. “These trips give people the opportunity to truly connect with the culture while making a difference in the lives of hundreds of stray animals.”
Inside/Out’s animal welfare efforts have been endorsed by Best Friends Animal Society, World Society for the Protection of Animals, Greek Animal Welfare Fund, and the Achaia Animal Welfare Society of Greece.
Discovering Local Spots
Inside/Out participants travel in small groups so there are plenty of opportunities for one-on-one interactions with locals. We work on projects together with the community,” says Katsulos. “We stay in local accommodations, often family owned, maybe with families in homestays sometimes, but primarily in places that are part of the local culture, not some chain hotel. We encourage our guests to learn a few words of the local language, out of respect and to facilitate basic communication. We create adventures that are local to the area we are serving to provide another basis for taking in the culture and infusing money into the local economy. We hire local guides to give additional insight into the culture. We also create opportunities for people to continue to be involved with the project and people.”
Most trips are around two weeks long, and are evenly split between project work and adventure. The itineraries vary, but they are usually structured during the day, and are free in the evenings so that people can explore the local food and culture on their own if they choose. Cost varies upon location.
In addition to Greece and India, Inside/Out is planning trips to Patagonia, Africa, Central and South America and Bhutan.
Traveling to poor areas where animals are neglected can be difficult. When asked about helping animals when people are suffering, Katsulos quickly responds by saying, “We serve a variety of projects for people and animals. One thing to consider is that these animals are dependent upon human beings for their survival, and also that simple humane treatment has no cost.”