While there’s nothing wrong with a vacation that’s all about rest and relaxation, you can also do some real good on your getaway through a voluntourism experience. These trips let you give back to a community or cause while experiencing a destination on a deeper level.
Before you commit to a voluntourism trip, though, you’ll need to do your homework to ensure a memorable and impactful experience. If you’re considering volunteering on your next getaway, check out this guide to picking the perfect voluntourism trip.
Find a cause that’s near and dear to your heart
Are you passionate about conserving the environment? Do you have a soft spot for bringing smiles to the faces of underprivileged children? Are you a foodie who appreciates everything about the farm-to-table movement? Or are you an animal lover who wouldn’t mind working with elephants in Thailand or saving sea turtle eggs in Costa Rica? There’s a voluntourism experience to fit all of these passions and more, so tap into what would really bring you joy and let it lead you to an unforgettable experience.
Research the organization
Unfortunately, not all voluntourism experiences – or organizations – are created equally. While it would be expected that every organization would put philanthropy first, wise voluntourists realize that some organizations make big impacts – while others are in it for big profits. Before booking anything, look into the organization you’re considering traveling through or volunteering with. Don’t be afraid to call the organization directly for specifics regarding their program.
Consider the specifics
Program cost, length and expectations need to be laid out clearly before you commit to a voluntourism trip. Programs often range in costs; some organizations only require you to pay for your own airfare, while others charge a flat fee for airfare, accommodations and food during your stay. Length is another factor that depends on the program; some programs allow you to volunteer for as short or long a time as is convenient for you, while others have strict schedules that you’ll have to work around. Another important detail is the program’s expectations of volunteers. Find out exactly what your responsibilities will be, from job duties to volunteer hours per day or week.
Check the schedule
Speaking of the schedule, you’ll want to find out what kind of free time you’ll have during the program. Some offer free time every day, while others give volunteers days off throughout the program or an option to add days before or after the volunteer experience. While you’ll primarily be there to volunteer, you’ll also want to make sure you have enough time to explore the destination.
Have you ever been on a voluntourism trip? Let us know in the comments!
(Main image: AFS-USA Intercultural Programs used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)