Voluntourism — a portmanteau of “volunteering” and “tourism” — vacationing for a good cause is becoming a popular trend for those who want to see the world and do some good at the same time. As more and more travelers are becoming interested in experiencing other cultures authentically, we are also learning that most tourist traps are anything but authentic — instead, exposing travelers to a pleasant facade that has little to no relation to the underlying culture of a region.
Voluntourism is a great way to get in touch with the authentic culture and do good at the same time. By volunteering your time while on vacation, you can make your trip move meaningful and create more lasting memories than you would by just sitting near the pool day in and day out during your vacation. You will also be able to meet locals in a more intimate environment and form lasting bonds. If you’re interested in doing good while you travel, here are some ways to get into voluntourism.
Voluntourism – Vacationing for A Good Cause
Cleanup After a Natural Disaster
Many of the world’s great travel destinations are located on oceanfront property. This lends them a great deal of beauty and make them popular for travelers and locals alike. But this proximity to the ocean can also leave many of these places open to powerful natural disasters like hurricanes, typhoons, and even tsunamis. Recovering from a natural disaster takes a lot of work. And the helping hands of volunteers can make a big difference during a challenging time.
Be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice if you’re interested in volunteering for cleanup after a natural disaster. However, remember that these efforts can sometimes last for months. So your help may still be appreciated even if you arrive a month after the event. It’s also important to remind yourself that you are not a trained rescuer; if you are not trained in professional rescue techniques, you can just end up getting in the way of the experts as they try to save lives. There are ways for amateur volunteers to help by cleaning out debris from a natural disaster; and helping to start new construction that will replace the buildings lost.
Getting Out of the City
Even in developed countries, many rural communities don’t have the same access to services, like education or healthcare, that city dwellers do. If you have unique skills, you may not have to travel far to find a place where they’re in need. Even opportunities that you may have taken for granted in the city — such as piano lessons, for example — may be rare in the countryside.
Volunteering your time in rural communities can be really helpful; if you have some unique knowledge or training that you can pass on. There are also more specialized opportunities for things like healthcare or social work in rural communities if you have training in these fields.
This kind of voluntourism doesn’t generate the same kinds of headlines as disaster relief. However, it will have a lasting impact on a community close to you. Traveling to rural areas may also be more reasonable if you don’t want to take a lot of time off; or you’re not in a position to buy an expensive plane ticket at a moment’s notice. Volunteering in rural communities is a great way to visit the countryside for a breath of fresh air; and vacationing for a good cause. You can also meet people who live very near to you but whose lifestyles you may not understand as well as you’d like to.
Traveling to Help Family
Not all voluntourism has to involve helping strangers. Sometimes our own families live far away and need our help. This is especially true if you have aging parents or grandparents who don’t live near to you. For example, mature parents can sometimes move a lot, whether they’re leaving your childhood house behind, moving into a senior living community, or upgrading to an assisted care facility. Helping your parents move is a great way to see your childhood community once again while performing a valuable service for your family. If you ask nicely, your parents may also be willing to help foot the bill for your travel, giving you something of a free vacation.
Many people are finding more meaning in their travels by engaging in voluntourism. Vacationing for a good cause is a great way to meet people authentically; and improve the reputation of your home country abroad.