Social Enterprise Apps to Change Your Life- and the World!

People are always asking us about our favourite travel hacks, tips and products. We love talking about our favourite things and today we wanted to let you know about 2 apps that have changed our life and we think will change yours!

First is Random Acts of Green! A Canadian social enterprise also owned by a woman! How badass is that? Random Acts of Green is an incredible community that not only celebrates those green heros and sheros out there, but they also launched an app! The app is downloaded for free and is the #1 green behaviour promoter you can use today! After setting up a profile, you log in your green acts! Anything from buying carbon credits to hanging your laundry up to dry. Everything has a score that goes towards your daily green points. Once you have enough points you can redeem them to get discounts on great green products like steel straws and bamboo toothbrushes. Things you need anyway and are GREAT to have in your carry on. It never hurts to just keep a tooth brush and a straw in your carry on at all times, then you never forget one at home. Our founder Nora downloaded the app and she loves it, not only to track all her green acts but to read articles about how to make even more green choices! Upcycled Christmas decorations? You are on…

Check out Random Acts of Green and download the app today! Here are some screenshots!

If you watched our insta story last Wednesday you would have seen that we love Cupanion and their brand new #FillItForward Campaign. We originally heard of the Canadian company Cupanion when we saw their hilarious kickstarter video. We became backers and have been OBSESSED with our bottle and the Fill It Forward campaign every since. Here’s how it works: you download the free app and order some #FillItForward stickers. Every time you fill up a bottle or mug you scan the bar code sticker. It registers that you are keeping yourself hydrated, keeping single use plastic out of the landfill AND (here is the kicker) it raises money for clean water projects around the world. Easy! All you have to do is keep hydrated. We are terrible at keeping ourselves well hydrated while travelling and this has made it SO easy. We just look at the app and know it’s time for more water and it’s time to donate again. Staving off jetlag through proper hydration and helping raise more for clean water programs has never been so easy.

Check out Cupanion and download the Fill It Forward app today! Here are some screenshots!

What are your favourite travel and green lifestyle apps? Let us know so we can use those, too!

Adventures are in the speed bumps

Imagine you are going on the adventure of a lifetime to volunteer with a sea turtle conservation group in Australia. Everything is in place. Your pick up from the airport is all arranged - you know exactly where and when to meet the shuttle. You have accommodation at a local hostel and they have all your arrival information and are expecting you. The organization where you will volunteer is all set up, and you know exactly where to meet the group on your first day of volunteering and at what time. How exciting! And then at the last minute disaster strikes. One of your many flights has a gate change and you miss your connecting flight! Your new flight has you arriving in Australia a full day after you planned to get there. Your flight is boarding, you're hurrying to get on the plane and you have no time to make any changes to your many arrangements.

What do you do?!

If you have booked your travel adventure through Animal Experience International, you simply relax. A quick email to the AEI Coordinator, and you will know everything will be taken care of for you. Your shuttle will be re-booked. Your hostel will be notified that you will be delayed. The people meeting you from the sea turtle organization will be informed and a new arrangement will be made for you. You can get on your flight and relax, knowing everything has been taken care of for you. Animal Experience International is a registered travel agency. Not only are we animal lovers, we are also travel counselors and travel managers and active members of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario. Booking through AEI gives you peace of mind - knowing that you can sit back and enjoy your trip.

Including all the bumps in the road that make travel an adventure - not an inconvenience!

"Why is that monkey in a cage?"

monkey in a cage

I was recently talking to someone about our work at Animal Experience International, when she stopped me to ask why the photo I was showing her was of a spider monkey in a cage.

Did AEI support caging wild animals?

This was an important question, and a topic I am also passionate about as a wildlife veterinarian. I do not want to see wildlife kept in captivity if they can be living their lives free in the wild. The spider monkey in the photo was actually being housed at a wildlife rescue centre in Guatemala. This is an amazing organization that works tirelessly to rescue wild animals that have been captured as part of the illegal wildlife trade. When animals are confiscated from smugglers or from people using them to entertain tourists, they need somewhere to recover from their terrible ordeal. Some require medical attention. Others need supportive care. And orphaned babies need to be raised until they are old enough to care for themselves. While at the rescue centre, the animals are housed in enclosures that keep them safe, while protecting the humans that care for them.

So yes, they are in cages - but only temporarily. The goal is always to release them back to the wild. Staff and volunteers work hard to make the animals’ experience at the rescue centre as comfortable as possible. The wildlife are provided with environmental enrichment, places to hide and an enclosure set up that allows them to carry out their natural behaviours. The animals are moved to larger and larger enclosures as they begin to heal, and contact with people becomes less and less. For this spider monkey, he will eventually be housed with other spider monkeys in a large enclosure deep in the forest of the rescue centre and will see people as little as possible to minimize his exposure to humans. One day these spider monkeys will all be released to live their lives free in the jungle.

 Gibbon Island in Thailand

Gibbon Island in Thailand


AEI also supports several wildlife sanctuaries that provide a safe home for animals that cannot survive in the wild, and therefore cannot be released. Our elephant and wildlife sanctuary in Thailand is an excellent example of an organization working to provide a dignified and comfortable home for rescued, non-releasable animals. Their enclosures help to protect the animals, and are as large and natural as possible to ensure the animals are comfortable. Take for example their gibbons that cannot be released for one reason or another. These amazing primates are given an island to live on, separate from the main centre and are even fed remotely using a pulley system so that they are very rarely in contact with people. They are allowed to live as naturally as possible without human interference.


It is a sad reality that wild animals need to be kept in captivity at times in order to help or protect them. AEI supports organizations that house wildlife on a temporary basis, as part of a rescue and rehabilitation program. If providing long-term sanctuary we ensure that the best possible care is being offered the animals and that their lives are enriched and natural behaviours are encouraged. This is something that is very important to us - because wild animals deserve to be kept wild.

Want to volunteer with us in Guatemala or Thailand? Check out our program pages to volunteer anytime during the year (animals need help all year round and so we send volunteers all year round). Want to volunteer in Guatemala WITH us? Why not sign up for Expedition Guatemala? Take part in the rehabilitation of wildlife with your own two hands and understand the amazing work that is being done, first hand. 10 days volunteering with wildlife in February, sign up today!

Introducing bite sized animal volunteer experiences!

We now have 1 week programs available!

You spoke, we listened! While we would love to all have months and months every year to go volunteer with animals, sometimes that just isn't feasible. Our jobs, families and lives are jam packed already. So what can we do to help even more people help animals: Introducing 1 Week Experiences! 

Over the next few days we will be rolling out new prices for our partners that can take volunteers for 1 week experiences. It won't be all of our programs, some have so much training that 7 days is just not enough to get the full experience, but there will be quite a few that welcome shorter term volunteers. 

This not only means a smaller investment of time, it means a smaller investment in fees. We won't be cutting any corners, the programs still receive donations, you still get travel insurance, your in-country travel is still carbon balanced and you still get to have one of the most amazing trips of a lifetime! Hopefully these amazing experiences will fit into your life just a little better. 

What programs will you be able to take part in for one week? Sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, flying fox rehabilitation in Australia, dog rescue in Mexico, elephant recuperation in Thailand, baboon care in Southern Africa and many more! Check out the website and take a look!

Remember, we also run short expeditions once a year for those who want to volunteer on a program in a group! In 2019 we are going to Guatemala to volunteer at a wildlife centre. Our volunteer coordinator will be taking people to northern Guatemala so they can safely and humanely volunteer with toucans, wild boars, monkeys and more! No experience is required- all the training is on the ground. 10 days in Guatemala, what a way to live your dreams!

A Photo 10 Years In The Making...

AEIs co-founders are two animal lovers named Nora and Heather. A lot of people ask how they met. Back in 2008 Nora got at job at a wildlife centre in Toronto and Heather was (and still is) the head wildlife veterinarian there. Nora was the volunteer coordinator. Fresh back from a volunteering and backpacking adventure in central, south and east Asia Nora felt like she knew what made exceptional volunteer programs and what didn’t. She didn’t have much experience coordinating volunteers but she thought if she stuck with the golden rule and treated the volunteers as she wanted to be treated, everything would be great!

One day Nora was looking for resources and found a book: Something in a Cardboard Box. It was written by Les Stocker, the founder of a wildlife teaching hospital in England. The wildlife centre’s name? Tiggywinkles, named after the hedgehog in the Beatrix Potter series! Nora thought it sounded like an incredible place. Not only was it a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre (Nora’s fav.) but it also was called Tigglewinkles. What a name! Icing on the cake was they helped rescue hedgehogs, badgers, red kites and all matter of wonderfully English and European animals. At that time it seemed like it was so far away maybe Nora could only dream of visiting. Nora showed the book to Heather and they talked about how Tiggywinkles had a great name, wonderful ethos and some of the most photogenic animals they have ever seen!

Fast forward to 2017. Nora and Heather now run Animal Experience International and have travelled all over North America, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa visiting wildlife centres along the way. They signed up for the 2018 British Veterinary Nurse Association Conference in Telford England and got ready for another trip together.

2018 came and they had a wildly fun and successful conference and then realised Tiggywinkles was right around the corner- in Canadian terms! It was just an hour and a half drive from where they were staying.

On Tuesday they visited the centre and were able to be absolutely delighted by the professionalism, the warmness and the commitment to animal welfare at Tiggywinkles. For Nora it was a dream fulfilled to go to THE Tiggywinkles and she couldn’t have been more delighted than to share it with Heather. The trip to Tiggywinkles wasn’t just a great outing to see red kites, ravens, polecats and hedgehogs in sanctuary, it was also a marker for them- to see how far they had come. Something In A Cardboard Box was there when they met each other and now this centre was there to celebrate a work friendship that blossomed into a social enterprise with hundreds of volunteers and alumni around the world. And how did they celebrate? With their very own hedgehog selfie, a photo truly a decade in the making.

tiggywinkles sign.jpg

Oceanology for me and you.

Do you have to be an expert to help oceans?

Nope anyone can volunteer! But learning more before you volunteer can make your experience so much better. That is why we tell people to read their manual before they go and give them some suggested reading and listening. New to that list? The Ologies Podcast with Alie Ward! She has an incredible episode about Oceanology that we know those who have ocean devotion, will love.

Let us know if you learned anything when you apply to volunteer on our ocean programs! Remember we have sea turtle and dolphin programs for you ocean lovers!

We Are Arc Benders!

Combining Adventure with Animal ConservationNora Livingstone, Founder & CEO of Animal Experience International

Nora Livingstone is the founder and CEO  of Animal Experience International, a certified B Corp on a mission to help animals around the globe by matching clients with animal related volunteer opportunities at sanctuaries, hospitals, wildlife rehabilitation centres, research projects and government programs. Her mission is to empower students, professionals and animal lovers to travel by providing exceptional volunteer adventures!

She shares how AEI got started, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and her advice for people that want to find their purpose.

What initially inspired you to make a difference and what career path did you follow?

I sort of fell into it, not realizing what my dream was or what my purpose was. When I graduated from university I decided to travel and volunteer. I thought that I would love for other people to do this and I wanted to help my friends have the same experience.

It was a low stakes idea – I could tell other people how they could volunteer. I was a volunteer coordinator at a wildlife center in Canada, which is where I met my current business partner. She’s a veterinarian there. After I left that center, I floated around for a while.

I loved coordinating volunteers and getting people involved and investing in people. I especially appreciated the amount of help and benefit that can go into one project, if you have a team. My (now) business partner, Heather, came up to me at a BBQ and basically pitched the idea for Animal Experience International

Bold Moves Podcast, episode 199

What is a bold move? Is it starting a social enterprise without any business background? Is it trying to make a difference? Or.. is it believing you CAN make a difference.

Nora sits down with Mandie from the Bold Moves Podcast to talk about big moves and how you can live messy and sparkly and authentically while helping animals.

Same trip, different perspectives...

We love hearing from our alumni. Reading their blogs, seeing their pictures, chatting over the shared experiences… it’s all wonderful. It’s so special to see adventures through the eyes of different people, we get to know these places, these people, these experiences even more. But what happens when everyone writes about the same thing? When we lead a group of women to The Great Rift Valley for giraffe conservation and everyone writes about cape buffalo?

Well… it must take a very special event, right? You be the judge!

Nora’s account of Expedition Kenya: https://pinkpangea.com/…/mother-daughter-bonding-rampaging…/

Lauren’s account of Expedition Kenya: https://justinpluslauren.com/my-near-death-experience-in-k…/

Marilyn’s account of account of Expedition Kenya: https://50plusworld.com/meeting-the-beast-even-lions-wont-…/

Happy reading!