Volunteering while on vacation — also known as voluntourism — is one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry.
Each year, according to NPR, more than 1.6 million travelers choose to use their vacation time to help out others or to make the world a better place.
Instead of hitting the beach, for instance, these travelers are hitting nails in order to rebuild a home that had been destroyed by a hurricane. Other volunteers are choosing to spend their time with children in orphanages or to help endangered creatures, such as baby turtles or abandoned baby sloths.
Why the Rise in Voluntourism?
For many travelers, volunteering is a way to immerse themselves into a destination and to connect with its people in a more meaningful way. And unlike traditional vacations where travelers spend a good part of their time passively observing, volunteer vacations are all about actively participating with a culture or a place.
Voluntourism trips can also create lasting bonds between volunteers and with locals. In addition, this type of vacation can also leave a person with the feeling that they’ve been able to make a difference in the world. And for families, a voluntourism trip can be an excellent way to give children a living lesson on the importance of volunteering.
What You Need to Know
Ready to head out on your first voluntourism trip? Excellent. There are many wonderful opportunities out there in need of your help. And, today, there are numerous organizations offering voluntourism trips. But how do you know which one is right for you? To help you find the trip and organization that is right for you, make sure to:
- Check on a voluntourism organization’s reputation and reviews before booking your trip. Unfortunately, there are some companies offering trips that are not well-organized or are poorly run. Ask for references and also do a quick Google search of the organization’s name. You might turn up some interesting information about how the company runs its trips.
- Ask about your living quarters. Depending on your trip and the organization, you could end up sharing a room, a dormitory or a tent with another volunteer, or you could be staying in a comfortable hotel room by yourself. Also ask about your bathroom accommodations. In some countries, you may or may not have access to American-style toilets or hot water.
- Inquire about additional costs. For instance, you may need immunizations if you are traveling to developing country. Or you might need to purchase malaria preventatives if you will be volunteering in countries where this disease is common. Travel meds and immunizations can be costly because they aren’t typically covered by health insurance plans, so make sure to factor these into your trip budget.
Volunteer While on a Cruise
If you only have a week or less of vacation time per year, your options for a volunteer trip may be limited. Many organizations require that their volunteers stay at least a week or two because of the time it takes to train new participants. If that is time you do not have, don’t despair. You could always take a cruise with Crystal Cruises, which is offering voluntourism excursions on almost all of its voyages.
Called “You Care, We Care,” this program gives passengers a way to participate in humanitarian and conservation activities during their cruises. In Victoria, British Columbia, for instance, cruisers can choose to help prepare meals at a food bank, and in Barcelona, Spain, they can visit a marine rehabilitation center. And in Peru, volunteers can visit with young burn victims at the ANIQUEM Burn Rehabilitation Center. Plus, all of the “You Care, We Care” excursions are complimentary.
The Crystal Cruises program is perfect for travelers who have limited time but still want to volunteer while on vacation. It is also an excellent alternative for travelers who aren’t comfortable staying in the Spartan and sometimes shared housing situations of more traditional volunteer programs. With this program, you’ll get the best of both worlds — you’ll help make the planet a better place but still get to enjoy all of the excellent accommodations and amenities of a cruise ship.Voluntourism is a very rewarding way to travel. For many, once their trip is done, there is a deep sense of satisfaction that they have accomplished something important. And many travelers also feel that it is the best way to really get to know another culture or destination.
Ready to have more than just a vacation…a real immersive experience?
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