Over recent years there have been a lot of travelers who want to get a little bit more out of a holiday and return home not just refreshed and relaxed, but with a sense of having done something good for either the planet of for other people. This new found need to put something back has lead to a whole new kind of holiday – Voluntourism.
Travelling to places where there are no mod cons, that other tourists rarely go to and that are unspoiled corners of the world began to grow in popularity towards the end of the last century, but as the new places off the beaten track became harder to find travelers started to look for a little bit more. There are now over 2000 companies who offer this kind of holiday, with a range of opportunities that include teaching, research, working on conservation projects and helping out those in need.
This kind of travel began with students on gap years being sponsored to take part in conservation projects, or people looking for a way into an environmental career, and the cost to take part tended to be pretty steep. However as airfares have become cheaper and opportunities more varied and greater, the volunteering holiday has become accessible to most of the population. The internet has helped spread information more easily as well as awareness of the problems the planet is facing which awakens the need to do something about it in more of us. The variety has grown so that short tasters of just a few days, two week stints and longer more intense sessions of a few months are all available, and there is something in pretty much every country and every type of work you could think of.
Lending a helping hand
The internet and global news reporting have brought recent natural calamities such as the tsunami in Indonesia, the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina much closer to all of us, and seeing the obvious suffering of other humans makes those that are not affected want to help however they can. Some volunteers sign up to learn new skills, others offer existing expertise possibly as a way of showing appreciation for their advantages, others want to do something to help the planet that goes a little further than recycling their rubbish or buying organic food. And according to tour operators most of those that go on a volunteering holiday say it was ‘life changing’ and many are coming back for more.
So, is Voluntourism for you?
Before you book a volunteering holiday, be honest with yourself; are you really willing to give up the chance to lie on a beach or relax sightseeing during your hard earned vacation time to do some real work instead? The idea might appeal in theory, and you enjoy telling others of your plans but be honest with yourself; this isn’t a luxury holiday, you are likely to have to work hard and forego creature comforts on many volunteering trips. Do your research online, check all the small print carefully; you want at least some downtime and fun activities thrown in amongst the work.
This kind of break is a really good way to give back to the planet, or to other people, and some trips include training or lessons in scuba diving or other outdoor skills so you could learn something new. Just be realistic and do your research and you may well have the time of your life
Some links to help you out if you want to know more: