Photo courtesy: Journeys4good
Photo courtesy: Journeys4good

Travelers who are looking for a way to exercise their social consciousness can now join the growing trend of Voluntourism. If you’ve ever considered making use of your vacation time to contribute to the greater good – whether it is helping in clean-up efforts after a natural disaster or building homes in third world countries – you would join more than 3.7 million Americans (according to Volunteering in America) who donate their time to such causes every year.

Before you decide if Voluntourism is right for you, it is important to understand what it is and why people choose to do it.

What it is:
-Voluntourism is an opportunity for you to use your skills and interests to benefit others providing you an alternative and purposeful vacation.
-It is a win-win for the non-profit and tourism industries in an age of restricted budgets and overflowing humanitarian needs.
-Enjoying a meaningful experience with your vacation time that will leave a lasting impact on the community you help.
-Experiencing a destination in a way you never would on a touristy vacation by being a part of the community and getting to know the locals.
-Creating connections to places and people that last a lifetime.
-Hard work that uses your skills to make a difference.

What it isn’t:
-A regular vacation with endless free time and umbrella drinks by the beach.

Voluntourism isn’t for everyone, but it IS a great option for those who are just looking for something different to do with their free time. Voluntourism is alive and well at all times of the year, in the U.S. and abroad and suitable for people of almost any age. Giving back–and donating your vacation time to help others is not always an easy decision, but the altruistic return on your investment cannot be matched.

Resources: 

General information: Voluntourism.org

U.S. Voluntourism opportunities: Jaunted.com

Charity Vacations: Charity Guide’s Volunteer Vacations

International voluntourism opportunities: Global Volunteers

Environmental / Educatiional / Disaster Relief: Smartertravel.com

Philanthropic Journeys: Journeys4good