What is Voluntourism and Why is it Gaining Popularity?

What is Voluntourism and Why is it Gaining Popularity?

July 6, 2020 | By Marie Cyprien

What’s better than having a great vacation? Having a great vacation and giving back to a local community! This is exactly what you get with voluntourism, a travel trend that has gained popularity. We’ll walk you through exactly what it is, how to do it, and who’s making it possible for travelers around the world.

What exactly is voluntourism

Voluntourism is mixing in elements of volunteering while on vacation. There are trips where the main focus is volunteering, and leisure activities are baked into an itinerary and trips where it’s a full-on vacation with volunteer activities added in. Travelers are able to enjoy a destination while contributing to great causes such as educating children, preserving wildlife, improving public health, and more. 

Why is it appealing?

Opportunity to authentically interact with locals:

With voluntourism you’re working to help improve a community and you’re often working with people of the community. You can get a one on one experience with a local and get a deeper understanding of a place’s people, culture, and traditions.  One of the best things about traveling is being able to learn about new places and people, and voluntourism gives you the opportunity to not just see the country or city and observe its culture, but to be immersed in a culture and experience it in ways that you probably won’t get with a regular vacation.

Once you’re onto the leisure past of your voluntourism trip you have a baked-in local expert that will be able to enhance your experience with recommendations of where to go, what to eat, and what to do. You’ll get to explore places off the beaten path. Chances are you might even have a travel buddy with some of your fellow volunteers. 

Enhance your job skills:

Whether you’re straight out of college or well into your career, the teamwork involved with volunteering will only enhance your job skills. You’ll probably be completing tasks differently from your current job, figuring out how to work best with an international group, and navigating a new culture. Travel stretches you to grow as a person and volunteering while traveling will do more of that for your personal and professional life. You might even get tasked with something that sparks a new interest and career path! 

Makes you feel better:

As with most altruistic acts, giving back to others while traveling can improve your mental health.  Studies show that people who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals. Couple that with the studies showing that volunteering results in better physical & mental health, an increase in life satisfaction, and a decreases in depression, and you’re well on your way to being a Zen-like Mother Teresa!

How do I get involved?

Go with a Group:

You can get involved with voluntourism through companies that host trips. For example, Destination Impact gives you the ability to travel with a purpose through Kenya, Haiti, Ethiopia, and parts of Central America. Cross-Cultural Solutions is another company that gives you the opportunity to volunteer abroad to help aid childhood education, public health, and refugee support. If you’re interested in environmental science, Earth Watch Institute gives you the opportunity to connect with scientists from around the world to help with their research. 

Plan a Volunteer Effort on Your Own:

If you would like to volunteer abroad on your own, you can do so through organizations such as Plan My Gap Year and Fronteering.  There’s also the option to reach out to local organizations and see when and where they need extra assistance. 

How ever you decide to travel, know that it’ll be a great experience when you get so much from a place/experience and can give back just as much.

 

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