Volunteer and Philanthropic Travel

back-packing-volunteer-tripThe world is our playground. At least that's one way of looking at it. Yes, the world is full of craziness, but we can't let that stop us from having fun!

Finding an unbeatable travel destination is a very personal choice. With so much to choose from where do you begin? What do you like to do? Are you a pool chair, pina colada sipping, book reading kinda' person, or are you constantly on the move looking for a mountain to scale or a reef to dive? Do you want to hire a limo or tour bus so you have the peace of mind that even if something goes wrong emergency roadside assistance is just a phone call away? If you're like a lot of us, you're probably a combination of each leaning one way or the other depending on your budget and your mood.

Then there are those wayfarers who want to do something a bit different than what is normally thought of as "vacation". When stepping on the plane for a far off destination, their thoughts may go to how many pounds of freeze dried nutritional packets could they transport, or how many suitcases of shoes were they able to pack?

A unique group of travelers is coming onto the scene more and more. Volunteer and philanthropic excursionists in record numbers are making their way into the developing countries all over the world. Pioneered by organizations like The Peace Corp back in the sixties and Doctors Without Borders, numerous other establishments have joined this network of different ways to engage with people through travel. The Red Cross has always had its hand in these efforts, and they need to be applauded, but I'm referring to destination travel, not disaster relief.

There are travel excursion companies that specialize in volunteer tourism. One can sign up to visit remote areas where a donation of hands-on labor is the primary objective. This might include building a school, bringing in food and medical supplies, putting in a water system where draught is an on-going concern. Tutoring or helping a family set up a micro loan or teaching hygiene that saves lives, are some of the ways these intrepid tourist enjoy spending time away from the office.

Those with particular skill sets relish in helping a small village mend fences or teach agricultural advancements. Socially conscious adventurers contribute to food programs and special curriculums that extend school hours for the young, who are eager to learn. The types of tasks are pretty much unlimited and so are the types of willing volunteers.

For all of these generous folks it's hard work and yet a very fulfilling way to spend vacation time. The volunteer tourist is rewarded and refreshed when they feel they've made a difference. They would rather spend their 2 weeks of vacation time delivering assistance than sitting on a beach or skiing a mountain. It's what floats their boat, rings their bell, soothes their soul.

You can get your hands dirty or simply contribute financially. Some travel associations offer more of a philanthropic trip that combines luxury with little to no labor. Spend a few days after your arrival in a lush hotel with all the amenities, then motor out into the bush to bring books and clothing to a remote village. While there, take a tour, visit the locals and donate to the school lunch program. There are tours to a local's farm where you can visit a family, learn more about their way of life and purchase a buffalo to pull a plow to till the earth. At the end of the day, finish up back in the comfort of a 4 or 5 star hotel.

The greatest thing about our world is that most of it is ours to enjoy, and enjoyment is defined by the individual. If it's a deck chair or building a drainage system, a Tangarie martini or tutoring a child - or maybe all of the above - go for what makes you happy. Go for what fills you up.