When most people think of vacations and travel, they think first about relaxing and getting away from the stresses of their everyday life. However, there is a recent trend that has more and more people putting in work during their vacations, helping people in underserved areas or those recovering from disaster. Volunteer travel offers a great opportunity for people who have a heart for helping others to give back while seeing the world.
Where Can Volunteer Travel Take You?
There are thousands upon thousands of different locations that have opportunities for those who are interested in travel as volunteers. From domestic destinations that are within driving distance to third world countries on the other side of the planet, nearly anywhere you’d like to visit has opportunities to give back and help humanity. There are opportunities to go into areas devastated by natural disasters, trips that allow you to work with endangered animals, and even those that allow you to use professional skills to assist organizations, such as medical, business development, and more.
What Are the Costs of Volunteer Travel?
The costs associated with volunteer travel depend directly on the program you choose. In some cases, the organization you work with will exchange room and board for your service. Other trips will be completely self-funded and you’ll need to manage your own accommodations and meals. In most every case, you will be responsible for traveling to and from your destination. You may be able to take a tax deduction for some of your expenses during volunteer travel. Consult with your accountant to find out this is something that you can take advantage of.
What Will Your Experience Entail?
During most “voluntourism” experiences, the main focus of your trip will be on volunteer activities. You may have days off and downtime that will allow you to enjoy a bit of local culture or attractions, but that will likely be a minimum of your time. You will want to look for experiences that allow you to use your personal strengths and gifts to help make the world a better place by doing things that you enjoy and are good at. You may experience accommodations and resources that are less luxurious than what you typically would choose during a vacation.
Deciding if Volunteer Travel is Right for You
There are a lot of questions you should ask yourself before making a decision about volunteer travel. Here are just a few that will help you determine if this is something you should seriously consider:
- Why do I want to experience voluntourism? This is the most important question. Be sure that your reasons for participating are selfless and that you’re not expecting accolades or any form of compensation for your time and efforts.
- What skills do I have to offer? Everyone has skills that will be useful to organizations in need. Use your gifts and strengths to help you decide if a volunteer opportunity is right for you.
- Am I physically capable of the tasks? Consider your health and physical fitness before signing up. Days may be physically taxing, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re up to the challenge.
- Am I prepared to handle the risks and living conditions? Look at the risks of the location and position you’re considering, as well as the conditions you’ll be living in while there. Decide if these are things that you are prepared to experience.
- Am I comfortable with the idea of not controlling my itinerary? In most cases, your time will not be your own. If doing or seeing certain things are a must, you might want to consider a traditional trip to the area to ensure that you’ll be able to experience the things that you want.
- Can I afford the costs associated with the volunteer position? Make sure that you have the right budget in place to afford your trip. Nothing is more stressful than taking a vacation that you can’t afford, especially when you’re putting in physical or mental work while you’re there.
Volunteer tourism is a wonderful way to see locations that you’re interested while satisfying your need to give back. Just like any vacation, you should carefully consider the destination and requirements of travel before making a decision.