Many people hope to see the world. But as industrialization, pollution and global warming threaten one-of-a-kind locales, many Americans travel with a new sense of urgency - they want to see the world before it's gone.
People are booking trips to raft China's Yangtze River before the government builds a dam in 2009. Others want to hike the Amazonian rain forest while it still stands.
But people can travel, not only to see the world, but also to preserve its wonders.
Eco-tourism, which protects both environments and cultures, attracts socially and environmentally concerned travelers. In 2006, a National Geographic Traveler study reported that over 55 million Americans were interested in sustainable travel.
Many travellers don't just settle for a trip or two, but devote their lives to helping others travel green. As tour directors, eco-enthusiasts can arrange Earth-friendly trips, work with local communities and teach their travel groups.
One tour director, Lee Burch, said that his career "combines travel, which I have a passion for, with making a difference in people's lives."
Tour directors, unlike local tour guides, become fully responsible for a tour group over an extended amount of time. They help immerse tourists in local communities by setting up stays, arranging activities, and discussing local culture, food, art and history.
The International Tour Management Institute (ITMI), a California-based school that teaches its students to direct tours, emphasizes the career's flexibility. Tour directors can be full-time or part-time. They can lead tours at home or abroad.
Globally, tourism provides one in every 12 jobs. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, international tourism gives 46 of the 49 poorest countries their largest income.
Eco-tourism doesn't have to mean jungles or deserts. Tour directors can take people to America's Ozarks - or on a walking trip around New York or to a farmer's market in San Francisco.
Ted Bravos, the co-founder of the International Tour Management Institute (ITMI), calls travel "a vehicle for world citizenship."
Considering today's political tensions and climate concerns, the world could use more global ambassadors.
For more information on the travel and tour directing industry, visit www.itmisf.com.