The term "volunteer tourism" has become very popular lately, but many people still have some fundamental questions about volunteer vacations, and whether this new trend is right for them.
What is a volunteer vacation?
Put simply, a volunteer vacation is a trip that involves you doing volunteer work on your own time, during your vacation. This can be a mostly vacation with some work thrown in or mostly volunteering with a little vacation on the side.
If you have ever gone on a mission trip with a church, or done a volunteer trip through your company, you have probably already had a taste of volunteer tourism.
Why would you want to do volunteer work on your vacation?
Volunteer vacations not only given you a chance to do good, but they also give you a chance to be involved and learn more about the area you are visiting. Unlike going on an African safari and staying in your Hummer the entire time, going on a volunteer tour lets you really get your hands dirty, so to speak, and help the people where you are.
What can you do on a volunteer vacation?
Volunteers can choose to do just about anything from helping with AIDS awareness and prevention to building houses. Choosing a volunteer vacation can be very difficult because of the many opportunities available and it can be hard to narrow them down to just one trip.
Where can you go to do volunteer tourism?
There are almost as many locations available for volunteer vacations as for regular vacations. The most popular areas tend to be in Africa, South America, and other undeveloped regions.
How much does volunteer tourism cost?
You may be surprised to find out that volunteer tourism can cost more than your last vacation, but at the same time, spending a little money to enrich the lives of others may be more rewarding to you. Prices vary for vacation tours but keep in mind that you will require health exams, travel insurance, and any training you may need which is not included in the tour.
How do I make the arrangements?
Many tour operators offer vacation volunteer tours. When choosing a provider, check out their financing to make sure the money is really going to where it is supposed to. Make sure that they speak the local language and that they are helping to empower the people you are helping and not just giving them a temporary boost that will dissipate once everyone is gone. In the end, go with the trip that feels right to you and supports your strengths and values.
Finally, is it right for you?
The main thing to realize in deciding whether to go on a volunteer vacation is that this is not something you have to do. You can choose to do it or not. As these "volunteerism" vacations become more popular, some people may feel they need to do this because it seems like the right thing to do.
If volunteer tourism is something that interests you, it can be a very rewarding vacation. However, if you are only considering volunteer vacations because of the cachet and looking good, chances are that you would be happier with a regular vacation.
In the end, it is a very personal choice that can be very fulfilling, but only if it is right for you.