The word “vacation” brings to mind beachside lounging, tours through exotic locales, and finally grabbing that perfect Airbnb that’s been on your wishlist. And while there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities, the recent trend of volunteer vacations, or “voluntourism,” offers something more meaningful for your next trip.
International volunteering certainly isn’t new. The British Red Cross first sent Voluntary Aid Detachment efforts in 1909 — volunteers visited battlefields in World War I to treat the wounded regardless of their side — and the Peace Corps have given service-minded individuals a chance to volunteer overseas since the 1960s. But the recent explosion of smaller voluntourism organizations allows you and your family to choose from a limitless number of trips across the globe that can fit into the length of a vacation.
Why would you want to spend your hard-earned vacation time volunteering?
- It’s more meaningful than your average vacation. With “voluntourism,” you’ll still be exploring and experiencing something new, but you’ll be helping others while you do it.
- It’s a chance to travel without being a tourist. Instead of offering familiar tourist traps, volunteer vacations are full of more unique activities — caring for endangered animals, preserving trails or tropical ecosystems, contributing to local communities — that allow you to gain a more authentic cultural understanding than what you get from the guide books.
- You can hone your skills for good — or learn new ones. If you’re a teacher, there are plenty of opportunities to teach English, Math, Science, and many more subjects to children around the world. There’s also a good chance you’ll come away from your trip with new practical skills you wouldn’t have gained on a normal vacation.
- Finally, volunteer vacations will save you money: they are often much less expensive than traditional vacations, and the money you spend can usually be written off on your taxes as a charitable donation. And volunteer organizations are often eager to help organize your trip, taking the hassle out of booking flights and accommodations.
Each trip requires a different set of skills and some require higher levels of physical fitness, so it’s essential to find the right trip for you or your family; and with the boom in voluntourism and the growing number of for-profit organizations entering the field, it’s more important than ever to carefully research your options before booking a trip. You want to be sure that your efforts are actually contributing to the good of the community you want to help!
Here are a few organizations we at everydayhero love:
- For the outdoorsy, The Sierra Club’s volunteer vacations range from assisting researchers at whale calving grounds in Hawaii to helping restore archaeological sites in New Mexico.
- For the teachers out there, WorldTeach offers opportunities to teach English in Ecuador, Nepal, and other destinations around the world.
- GoVoluntouring is a trusted organization that offers all different kinds of global service trips, including the chance to help bring power to schools in Nicaragua by installing solar panels.
If you’re inspired to lend a helping hand but aren’t ready to plan a volunteer vacation just yet, be sure to check out all the fundraising opportunities close to home on everydayhero.