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
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.
Bridget Besaw is one of those enviable women who are blessed with immense talent, a contagious passion, and the entrepreneurial acumen to transform that into a livelihood that sustains her and the planet she cares so deeply for. Now she’s putting those abilities to good use by pioneering a relatively young genre of photography that brings visual storytelling to environmental organizations and mentoring a new generation of image-makers in the art and profession of creating high-impact conservation media.
Her abilities were never more evident than when I traveled to the remote wilds of southern Chile last year to learn and record the story of Patagonia conservation as a participant in one of her Leica Akademie photography workshops.
As an avid adventurer and outdoor photographer, I joined the workshop for the sheer visual promise of the Patagonia landscape, people and culture, but returned with far more than memorable images. The experience not only expanded my knowledge and how I perceive the world, but also how I perceive myself and my abilities.
I managed to catch up with her recently and asked her to share a bit about her work and upcoming photography workshops.
Win The Trip Of A Lifetime And Make A Difference
I have a soft spot in my heart for Peru and its people. My husband and I recently spent nearly five months in the vibrant city of Cuzco (often spelled Cusco) and fell in love with the country and the friends we made during our extended stay there.
So, it is with pleasure that I share this Pass on the Gift® in Peru Sweepstakes sponsored by catalog merchandiser, Garnet Hill, and Heifer International, a nonprofit organization seeking to end hunger by partnering with and empowering small-holder farmers around the world.
One grand prize winner will be awarded an all-inclusive trip for two to the ancient Incan Empire capital of Cuzco where they will experience the vibrant local culture and have an opportunity to participate in Heifer’s local alpaca project in the Andean region near Cuzco, an initiative designed to end poverty in the region and foster sustainable development.
The winner will engage with a Heifer family and see first-hand the breadth and depth of Heifer’s impact in combating poverty and will also receive a $1,000 Garnet Hill gift card. The sweepstakes ends March 12, 2013. To learn more or to enter the Pass on the Gift® in Peru Sweepstakes, visit garnethill.com
The newest trip from experiential travel company Myths and Mountains gives active, adventurous clients a chance to explore parts of Bhutan rarely seen by visitors. Through a partnership with non-profit READ Global, the company has gained access to some the country’s most remote villages.
After a short time in the capital city of Thimbu, travelers fly to a recently converted military airstrip near the village of Trashigang to start the 12-day trek.
From there, the trip climbs mountain passes and treks through the habitat of the Himalaya’s “lost” tigers, which are often spotted by travelers. For the most part, travelers spend the nights camping in tents or staying the homes of local villagers.
The land is populated by the semi-nomadic Merak people, who hold deep animist beliefs and make their living herding sheep. In the villages, travelers will have the opportunity to help locals with the chores of day-to-day life, and those who are handy in the kitchen will have a chance to learn recipes for some local dishes.
Bookings for the trip, set for October 2012, are available now. The October will be the first tour of its kind from Myths and Mountains, and one of the first tours in the region itself.
For itineraries, bookings and more information visit www.MythsandMountains.com
As a wildlife enthusiast I want to go to the Galapagos to revel in nature, not ruin it.
So, no matter how eager I may be to go gawk at giant land tortoises, blue-footed boobies, penguins, lava lizards, manta rays and sea lions, if I go, it’s important to go responsibly.
Which is why my husband and I have chosen to head off guilt-free with Ecoventura, a leader in responsible tourism to the Galapagos Islands since 1990.
Their environmentally friendly fleet of 20-passenger expedition vessels, culturally and naturally respectful itineraries, and stellar eco-credentials, will get us up-close-and-personal with the extraordinary wildlife without leaving a harmful footprint in our wake.
This guest blog is by Irene Lane, founder & president of Greenloons.com.
Have you noticed how companies of all sizes are touting their local credentials these days? Whether you are shopping at your local supermarket or deciding on your next vacation destination, advertisements are replete with images of locally sourced fresh food or locally guided unique vacation services.
And why not? “Buy local” and “local first” campaigns are speaking to our fundamental values to help our local communities before purchasing goods and services provided by large conglomerates. However, in an effort to align with our ideals, some corporate localwashing has also surfaced within the ecotourism industry since the eco-traveler is one that seeks an authentic connection with people and nature. Examples of localwashing by ecotourism businesses include ones that:
- emphasize local guides and services only to be foreign owned and managed
- do not purchase any local items such as produce, raw building materials, crafts or furniture but advertise as authentically local cultural experiences
Rather than agonizing over online reviews, guide books and definitions of local-sourced and sustainable tourism; instead use these five planning tips that will help quickly evaluate the local merits of your vacation:
- Look for legitimate eco-certification labels
- Choose travel suppliers that support local communities in multiple ways
- Support tourism providers that specifically offer locally produced items:
- Choose activities that emphasize environmental awareness
- Search for opportunities to immerse yourself in local cultural traditions