A modern day conundrum: You want to go on holiday, but you feel bad for just lazing around for a week and you are really just harming the environment with your carbon footprint….but you reeeeally want a holiday. What do you do?
Become a Volutourist.
It’s a surprisingly short time ago that volunteering became so wide-spread and easily available. These days you can volunteer from one week to two years, but this is a relatively new phenomenon. The most recent development for volunteering is ‘voluntourism’. This is, as the name suggests, where you combine vacation travel with volunteering at your chosen destination. Typically a two-week holiday will be split between the two ‘themes’ of the holiday. By doing this, it creates a far more personal experience to any holiday as well as giving you a different insight to a country you might not have visited before. Volunteering will inevitably introduce people on vacation to the people and culture’s rather than just the tourist spots and crowds. The idea of it is connected to ‘sustainable travel’, defined as “lessening the toll that travel and tourism takes on the environment and local cultures.”
There are many bonuses to volunteering while on holiday, cost being a huge one. Not only do you feel like you have really earned your holiday by helping out, it also can cut the price quite significantly. Europe and North America are home to the highest amount of voluntourists, with the majority heading to Asia, Africa and South America. While anyone can benefit from voluntourism, people with a vocational skill can be especially beneficial to the people of the country they are visiting. Doctors, carpenters, construction workers, teachers to name but a few can really help to lead a team through experience and maximise the short time spent with a community.
As I mentioned earlier, volunteering will often take you away from the crowds and into the smaller villages and the ‘real’ cultural centres, which is why more people are turning to ‘voluncations’.
While there are the “pro”s to holidaying this way, there are of course some negative factors to consider. The main one is this: What happens after you leave? Is there a constant stream of people to volunteer, or is it only seasonal? You want to make sure the community is actually benefitting from your cumulative weekly volunteer groups, and not damaging their infrastructure. You also need to make sure the organisation you have booked through has an in-country contact and a reasonable orientation programme.
It is also vital to remember that you don’t have to leave your country to help make a difference. In situations of national disasters, as much help as is possible is needed. Think of the cleanup after Hurricane Katrina that required such huge manpower to help clear and feed the thousands left homeless.
There are multiple companies that specialise in voluntourists. Globeaware.org and Global Mamas have specifically women-based volunteer help to help teach skills so these women can make a living for themselves.
Voluntourism is great for people who have not travelled alone abroad much, but who have the desire for adventure and interest in learning, as well as busy people who cant take a long time off to volunteer, but who want to help and also relax!