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.
Take your nomadic yearnings to the next level with Projects Abroad’s volunteer Nomad Projects in Morocco and Mongolia.
Whether you’re an adventurous student, career breaker, retiree, or traveler seeking more meaningful experiences, these two cultural projects take you well beyond the ordinary.
Sign up for Project Abroad’s Nomadic Life placement and you’ll join a group of Mongolian Steppe or Moroccan Sahara nomads and experience an ancient way of life virtually inaccessible to outsiders.
Tired of conjugating verbs in the classroom? Now there’s a new way for adventurous travelers to improve their language skills. Llama Expeditions, a company dedicated to adventure/philanthropic/educational tours of Peru, has teamed up with Enjoy Spanish, the 5-star-rated Spanish school in San Francisco, to offer an exciting Spanish immersion adventure tour in Peru on August 28, 2011.
Enjoy Spanish founder Carlos Bazan, a Peruvian native, along with bilingual professional guides, will lead adventurer-learners on a cultural and linguistic experience. “Carlos is amazing at facilitating conversations. Speaking is often the most intimidating part of learning a second language. But, Carlos creates a safe environment that gets people talking,” says Diane Valenti, founder of Llama Expeditions.
The tour varies from many other trips in that participants not only learn about the local culture, but will also be providing assistance to local communities with the donation of food and support to remote businesses.
“Bringing food and supporting these underdeveloped communities helps to support and grow businesses in Peru,” says Valenti. “Besides education and the adventure to visit these remote locales, the local business people are extremely grateful for what our groups bring and do for these struggling economies.”
The 9-day, $3500 tour is limited to 10 participants to ensure adequate speaking opportunities for everyone and will include stops at popular destinations such as Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu.
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YES YOU CAN leave the guilt, kids, spouse, BFF, or significant other behind and set off solo for your next vacation. Increasing numbers of savvy travelers are doing just that and returning home the better for it.
Single or not, male or female, on a budget or ready to splurge, looking to learn or seeking solitude, traveling on your own is so much easier when you take out the guesswork.
To help get you started, here’s a selection of best bets for solo-friendly travel.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE NEW YEAR WITH PROJECTS ABROAD
Projects Abroad makes it easy for a new year’s resolution to become a reality. With volunteer projects in 25 destinations, including new programs launching in 2011, Projects Abroad offers many ways to enrich the lives of others around the world, while providing a sense of personal fulfillment.
“The new year is a time when many pledge to better themselves or the lives of others, and Projects Abroad offers opportunities to achieve both,” said Thomas Pastorius, vice president of Projects Abroad. “Whether making it possible for villages to have clean drinking water, caring for children in orphanages or making strides in environmental conservation, volunteers will find a project that suits their interests.”
What a GREAT idea for fans of man’s best friend and other orphaned animals…
Green Earth Travel has announced “trips that make a difference” vacations that enable animal lovers to care for orphaned animals, then kick back camping at the Grand Canyon August 9-14, or at a spa in Zion National Park October 5-10.
“We are proud to once again offer these unusual trips for animal lovers around the country,” comments Donna Zeigfinger, Green Earth Travel President. “Guests will enjoy high quality time at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary caring for their residents and learning about Best Friends’ tradition of service. Following a couple of days of dedicated to the animals, they will have an opportunity to enjoy the dramatic beauty of our desert southwest.” In June and August, Grand Canyon trip guests will venture to the North Rim of the canyon itself to camp out after witnessing the spectacular view, hiking and enjoying an evening around a toasty campfire.
The October 5- 10, 2010 trip will offer a well-deserved indulgence after the caretaking at Best Friends, when travelers head to Zion National Park and Flanigan’s Inn. There they will have a chance to hike the dramatic canyon landscape, participate in a yoga refresher, or find a uniquely silent space to meditate at this desert hideaway.