What is voluntourism? It is the act of going on a holiday for pleasure while simultaneously volunteering your time and/or resources to a local advocacy or charity. Why would you take the time to help others when you’re supposed to just be relaxing? That’s a question that comes with plenty of different answers.
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Why would you want to get involved in voluntourism?
For starters, voluntourism can give you a significantly more authentic and immersive experience than any planned tourist holiday. It entails finding out what ails the local community, which issues they consider to be important, how these issues came to be, and ultimately, what can be done to help.
The Huffington Post points to a GoVoluntouring program in picturesque, but in need places like Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. There, you can assist other volunteers in building houses for families who are stuck living in poor and crowded Brazilian favelas. Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, the same organization installs solar panels on school rooftops and teaches locals how to use and maintain them.
By volunteering your time to such non-profit organizations, you’re not just helping the locals – you’re also educating yourself about the social realities in a different part of the world. That’s one enlightening experience that you won’t get by just doing yoga at the beach of a top-rated Brazilian resort. In the process of voluntouring, you might even find the causes that are nearest and dearest to your heart.
You can feel good about yourself
Personal growth is perhaps the most relevant factor that you can take away from genuine voluntourism. Apart from immersing yourself in a realistic and educational experience, another reason to volunteer is to hone your own useful skills. Advocacy or charity trips to different places in the world are great opportunities to use skills that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to exercise.
The New York Times advises picking places and situations that challenge your particular skill set. If you’ve been curious about what it would be like to teach children, Ecuador has a need for English teachers willing to brave its remote countryside schools. Meanwhile, if you’re serious about enriching your knowledge for environmental advocacy, get in touch with the forestry specialists working at preserving Bali’s pristine forests.
There are countless destinations you can go to
Another notable factor of voluntourism is that you’ll likely never run out of options. Whichever holiday destination you’re looking at, there are bound to be people and organizations in need of help. Save the Children describes volunteers as people who “give their time, their passion, and energy to achieve change.” A lot of travelers embody these qualities, which is why voluntourism is increasing in popularity around the globe.
It can be a very low cost way to travel
Last but not least, of course, is the fact that choosing to volunteer at a certain destination can also help you lower the often hefty costs of seeing the world. In this regard, Lifehacker has an extensive list of organizations that can help you decide where and how your next voluntourism trip should be.
Habitat for Humanity is all about constructing homes for the less fortunate, particularly in cramped cities or rural areas with little infrastructure. Meanwhile, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms can allow you to experience how it’s like to work on organic farms in exchange for food and lodging.
If you’d rather stay within the USA, there are also plenty of opportunities depending on your area of interest — from helping the homeless and poverty-stricken children in the beautiful island paradise of Hawaii, to lending a hand to ecological restoration in California’s national parks and nature reserves.
To wrap things up
All in all, when it comes to voluntourism, there’s certainly no shortage of available opportunities. There’s nothing like going on a vacation while simultaneously helping the world.
Have you ever taken a voluntourism trip? If so, what was is like?
If not, would you like to?
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