GoAbroad Interview

Jonathan Tal - Co-Founder & Co-Director

Jonathan Tal

In addition to being co-founder and co-director, Jonathan is also the GoEco marketing manager and systems manager. Every day he finds creative ways to market GoEco’s projects and solve any technical problems that may arise. Jonathan holds a bachelor’s degree in geography studies and has volunteered on wildlife and conservation projects in many countries. Together with high school pal Jonathan Gilben, he founded GoEco in order to offer other people the chance to be involved in responsible, green tourism.

You had a range of international experiences under your belt before starting GoEco with your pal Jonathan Gilben. What experience abroad put you over the tipping point and inspired you to establish GoEco?

After high school, Jonathan Gilben traveled to London to complete his degree in geography and environmental management, after which he volunteered at a sea turtle and community project in Mexico. When he arrived back home, he managed to convince me to do some conservation work with turtles here, and, soon after, we traveled to Greece to volunteer at a sea turtle conservation and research program.

Two days into the trip, I bought a notebook and filled it with ideas for a company that could provide volunteer opportunities to international travelers. It was at this point that I finally realized what I wanted to do with my time and expertise. When we returned home, we dedicated a lot of time and effort into getting the company up and running, with the initial goal of providing rewarding volunteer experiences to travelers, as well as supporting existing volunteer initiatives worldwide.

A group shot of GoEco's very first volunteers

A group shot of GoEco's very first volunteers. Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Tal

What do you think the most important component of “green tourism” is? How does GoEco ensure each project and program is “green”?

Most volunteer projects we promote are already “green”; this is especially important to us. We like to encourage our volunteers to attend projects for longer periods of time, especially those who are traveling to destinations far away from their homes, in order to reduce the carbon footprint through frequent long flights.

The projects we promote are all ecologically aware, and our volunteers are all informed of the importance of respecting the project’s sites, their environment, and their resources.

As marketing manager for GoEco, what do you think the most attractive thing about GoEco’s programs is?

I believe that, in today’s society, the visual component is incredibly important. We like to make sure we have a host of different materials that help give our prospective volunteers a clearer image of what a volunteering project will be like. Because of the nature of some of our projects, it’s important to present the volunteer work and project sites in a reliable and transparent manner, and that our volunteers are fully aware of the amazing experience and good they will be doing on their respective trips.

Jonathan Tal taking a break with some the of the children in South Africa

Jonathan Tal taking a break with some the of the children at our Cape Town Community Project in South Africa

Your role is quite multifaceted; what does a typical day of work look like for you?

I engage with a host of different things on a daily basis. I work to maintain all elements of the website as well as the technical and creative side of operations. I am responsible for evaluating and maintaining online advertising platforms and ensuring that anyone interested in volunteer travel will be able to access all GoEco has to offer, easily.

If you could choose one GoEco project as your “pride and joy”, which one would you choose?

That really is a tough question. I have visited so many of our projects all over the world, and each and every one of them offers something unique and exciting. On that note though, I really loved my time in Africa, especially working with animals at the African Wildlife Orphanage in Zimbabwe.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring conservationists and environmentally-friendly travelers out there?

Choose a volunteer project that you are passionate about. Travel with an open mind and a willingness to learn new things. Remember the golden rule when visiting a different country: be accepting and respectful of the community and environment you are in, however different it may be. By immersing yourself in a different culture or by coming face to face with diverse wildlife and helping to make a difference while doing so, a volunteer project will be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do!

What makes GoEco different from other international program providers?

At GoEco, we really strive to offer a wide range of projects all over the world, a project for everyone. We offer wildlife conservation projects, teaching in under-resourced schools, and hospitality Internships; projects that are diverse as well as unique. Our staff are well-informed and readily available to make the travel volunteer experience easy and stress-free for our volunteers. It is incredibly important to us that our volunteer’s expectations are met throughout the entire process, from registration to their arrival in the country to checking into the program site and right up to their return. This continued support is what we give every single one of our volunteers.

Where do you see GoEco in five years?

I hope that, in the next five years, we will see continued growth and variety in the projects we offer, new destinations and new opportunities, mostly. We want to continue providing communities with sustainable aid as well as helping out with wildlife conservation in whatever way we can.