Volunteer travel abroad and in the United States appeals to many vacationers. "We travel a fair amount, but it's valuable to us to really feel connected with other communities above and beyond seeing tourist sites. It's understanding what we all have in common and getting beyond our own individual day-to-day aspirations and seeing the bigger picture," says Warren, a Hawaiian physician. He, his wife and two children, ages 11 and 16, spent two weeks over Christmas at a refuge for troubled boys near Guatemala City.
"It was very rewarding and actually one of the most enjoyable vacations we've ever had."
Last year, one-quarter of the travelers queried in the Voice of the Traveler survey by the National Tour Industry said they were currently interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation. Baby Boomers formed the group expressing the strongest interest, and the largest share (47 percent) of those interested in taking a volunteer vacation fell into the 35-54-year-old range.
If you decide you'd rather be an armchair traveler instead, most of these organizations also have a link that allows visitors to their website to donate money to support volunteer projects or to help fund other travelers who want to donate time but may not have sufficient funds for a volunteer trip. This gives those of us who can't volunteer a chance to choose a project that we feel passionate about and still help contribute to the cause.
If you are trying to decide if a volunteer vacation is right for you to read visit How To Decide if Voluntourism -- Volunteer Travel -- Is for You.
i-to-i is a company that sends more than 5,000 people a year to volunteer at local projects around the world and immerse themselves in local cultures.
These travelers choose voluntourism -- combining traditional travel with volunteer work -- to help make a difference in their lives and others.
Voluntourism.org is an excellent online resource filled with lots of information about taking volunteer vacations, where to find interesting projects, how to connect with other like-minded travelers, and how to combine a passion for travel with a desire to give back while on the road.
CheapTickets.com has teamed up with United Way to offer travelers a route to setting up volunteer vacations or adding a day or more of volunteering during a planned trip. This is a great way for more traditional travelers to add a voluntourism element to their vacations even if it isn't the natural and normal focus of their trip.
Sierra Club Outings runs volunteer travel trips around the United States and to a wide variety of places across the globe. These adventure escapes combine cultural immersion with active itineraries with a focus on protecting the environment.
International Volunteer Programs Association is a consortium of international volunteer programs that have joined together to help promote the opportunities they have to offer.
Most of these organizations have programs that run anywhere from just one or two weeks all the way up to six months. The variety of options available is quite impressive, with some very interesting opportunities for just about any type of traveler.
Looking to find good projects to volunteer to take part in? Look no further than the International Volunteer HQ. The website provides information on more than 150 projects in 30 countries across the globe, giving travelers an opportunity to give back while getting fully immersed in a foreign culture.
7) United Nation's World Volunteer Programme
If you've ever wondered how you can volunteer to help The United Nations in its various projects taking place around the globe, this website will provide you with all of the information you need.
It offers insights into what opportunities are available, how to go about volunteering, and how these projects have a direct impact on the people in the countries they are taking part in. There are volunteer options on five continents available at all times, with some really interesting programs to attach to.
On a volunteer vacation or trip with the nonprofit Earthwatch Institute, you get the opportunity to visit some truly unique locations and ecosystems around the world and take steps to help protect those places from climate change, deforestation, and a wide variety of other threats. This is one of the best programs for those who want to focus on conversation, particularly in developing parts of the world.
For more than 15 years, Responsible Travel has been helping to combine adventurous travel and social-responsible activism in a wide variety of places around the world. Their tours take travelers to remote places, but also offer them opportunities to have a meaningful impact on the destinations they visit. The website connects us with tour operators who have a like-minded approach to travel, and are socially responsible to the environment, the wildlife, and the indigenous people that live in the places they visit.
The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) offers individual and group service programs for Jews interested in traveling to foreign countries to volunteer for grassroots social change projects. The organization's goals are to stamp out poverty and promote human lives, which may sound lofty but are certainly worthy causes.
Are You A VolunTourist?
Combining a vacation or trip abroad with volunteering on local projects is one way you can immerse yourself in local cultures and make a difference. First, however, you need to ask yourself some serious questions to help decide where and what type of volunteer travel you'd enjoy. What's your passion? Animal conservation? Teaching kids or helping them? Rebuilding homes destroyed by hurricanes or a tsunami? Are you willing to live and work with people whose culture and the outlook is very different than your own? Can you handle living in a tent or shack with an outhouse or do you want to be in a hotel? Visit How To Decide if Voluntourism -- Volunteer Travel -- Is for You.