Everyone loves going on vacation, no matter where the destination or the company you're keeping, but we all have different ideas of what exactly makes up that perfect travel destination. Some love a relaxing weekend at the beach doing nothing, while others are happier exploring the more cultural aspects of a visiting city. Some engage in activities or sports, while others might fill their vacation days with shopping or sight seeing.
However, there is one type of vacation that seems to be rising in popularity: the volunteer vacation. As someone who has been on one (living in Cusco, Peru and working in an orphanage, 7 years ago), all I can express is that no matter how well-traveled you are, you will never have another experience like it. Whether you fancy a international jaunt or a program that is in the United States, there is a volunteer travel opportunity out there for you. A blending of travel, mixed with a new culture, add some altruism, generous proponents and some time to explore, and you have the formula for a truly rewarding travel experience. And if you are not sold quite yet, here are a few, simple reasons why you should definitely make your next travel plan a volunteer vacation.
Travel in a different place. Yes, Mexico is amazing, and there are so many exciting European cities and countries to explore, but what about stepping outside of your comfort zone a bit? Perhaps working with children in Guatemala, or teaching in a school in Cambodia? From African continents to the rain forests of Brazil, there are endless options that will take you to a new place you might never go, both literally and mentally.
Propel your passion. No matter what you are passionate about, there is a kind of volunteer trip out there for you. Do you want to help a community build a house? Perhaps you feel strongly about education and want to help teach at a school, or have a desire to work with animals? Whatever piques your interest and inspires you to make a difference, there is a cause out there waiting to be traveled to and worked on. You just have to look for it. This is also not limited to just travel out of town. If you are taking a stay-cation, and still want to do something that gives back, there are dozens of local volunteer opportunities no matter where you live.
Vacation and return on investment all at the same time. Some people think of a volunteer trip as work, and think, “Why would I want to work during my vacation?” However, it's really not work, but more of a return on investment. Travel can be quite expensive, and depending on where you go and what kind of trip you take, you can spend a small fortune on hotels, restaurants and activities. However, many volunteer vacations offer housing in a hostel or typically, with a family. Additionally, fundraising is a popular and successful way to not only help pay for your trip, but also to get family and friends involved in your cause and vacation. Depending on how much you fundraise, you can make the entire cost of your flight or vacation back simply by urging others to donate. If you think of a volunteer vacation as an investment, then this is the return on that, but more importantly, a return in the form of a happy, kind, rewarding, and well-traveled life.
Family Time with a Message. Even if you're not single or part of a couple, a family volunteer trip could still be right for you. Not only are you sending an amazing message to your children, but it is a fun and pretty simple way to create some bonding between you and your family. Taking your entire family somewhere to help a cause can be a fun way to not just work together, but teach them the value of giving back and donating time to something that matters. This will be noticeable down the road and will also serve as the backdrop to some truly amazing memories.
It Makes you feel good. There have been dozens and dozens of studies that tell us doing things for others makes us feel good. Take that donation to charity one step further by donating your time rather then just your money. Getting the opportunity to explore a new place while helping out a community you might not otherwise not only makes you feel good, but more importantly, it makes others feel good. And that feeling is priceless.
Stay tuned for some terrific ideas on where to take your next volunteer vacation.