Are you looking for a meaningful travel experience that offers the opportunity to make a real difference in the world? Volunteer trips can create lasting impact and greatly enrich the lives of those involved.

To be absolutely honest though, I’m not an across-the-board supporter of voluntourism. In my most cynical moments, I imagine the heartache of orphans repeatedly left behind by well meaning visitors, jobs performed by vacationers that might have been a day’s wages for a local in need, or disreputable organizations profiting from the misfortune of others. 

But I’ve also experienced firsthand the immense joy of human connection and witnessed the magic that occurs when people of different nationalities come together in support of one another.

To help you find a volunteer travel trip that gives back, here are three volunteer experiences by adventure travel providers that I trust and respect.

1.) Haiti Volunteer Experience with Elevate Destinations

Photo courtesy Elevate Destinations

This July, Elevate is partnering with the Edem Foundation – a non-profit supporting the education of children in Haiti and the development of economic activities in Haiti by working with local communities – to provide a Children and Youth Leadership Workshop. Activities and lessons are informed by the skills of the volunteers and can be anything from kids’ yoga to poetry reading and writing. Trip participants will also work alongside local community members to build a new school. July 28  - August 5, 2013;


2.) Machu Picchu Trail and Archeological Restoration with REI Adventures

Photo by Ellen Barone.

Towering 1500’ above the raging Urubamba River in Peru’s Andean highlands, the royal retreat and sacred center of Machu Picchu — now considered one of the Seven New Wonders of the World — is spectacular by any measure. Now you can help protect this amazing site by joining REI Adventures and Conservation Volunteers International Program as we work alongside park rangers on critical conservation projects including trail maintenance and archeological restoration. Nov 4–13, 2013;


3.) Baja Camping and Turtle Research with

photo by Neil Osborne for

Kayak Mexico’s Mangroves And Help Study Green Turtles. Participate in hands-on research of green turtles with members of the Grupo Tortuguero while camping and kayaking in beautiful Magdalena Bay. Oct 29 - Nov 2; Nov 23-27; Dec 5-9, 2013; 


What about you? Have you traveled to volunteer? Share a comment below, on my Facebook page, or tag me on twitter to continue the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Better still, if you go, I hope you’ll come back and share your experiences.   



About Ellen Barone: Consumer travel expert Ellen Barone is the founder and publisher of and She’s currently at work on her first book - I COULD LIVE HERE. Click here to learn more or stay connected on Twitter at,FacebookGoogle+, Pinterest and LinkedIn


Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".