Voluntourism: Travel the world while giving back

What is Voluntourism?

Voluntourism is a mix of tourism and volunteering. It means volunteering your time, skills, and energy with an organization, issue, or causes to help make a difference in communities around the world.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Gandhi

Volunteer travel is much more sustainable because it deviates from the typical indulgent vacation. You get to be responsible for the growth and change of others which an experience unlike any other. It makes the trip mean so much more than just another vacation.

Types of volunteering

There are many ways to get involved with international volunteering so choosing the right type for you can sometimes be more difficult than choosing the destination. It is important to commit to a program that resonates with you and your passions. Here are some ways to experience volunteer work and travel all at once.

  • Working with kids: One of the most popular volunteer options in both developed and developing countries. Projects often involve daycare and youth development working closely with children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. You must have the heart and passion to work with children to make the most of this experience.
  • Education: Involves children of all ages and backgrounds. Volunteers may work with orphans, out-of-school youth, or even adults to teach them a wide variety of subjects from English to life skills and disease prevention.
  • Community building: Focused more on working with other adults, particularly those programed by grassroots organizations and living in rural villages. The main goal of this sort of volunteerism is to help particular populations establish a stable source of livelihood, enhance their skill set, encourage unity, and contribute to the construction of community spaces.
  • Public health awareness: Primarily takes place in countries with many health problems, including many locations within Africa. Volunteers help teach disease prevention as well ad educate locals on how to overcome the disease and keep it from spreading. You see this type of volunteer work in areas strongly impacted by HIV/AIDS.
  • Wildlife & marine conservation: Arguably one of the best types of volunteering abroad for those adventurous in nature. Volunteers will get to travel to unique places, work with exotic species, and usually live close to the beach.
  • Women’s health, welfare, and rights: Often allows volunteers to work in rural areas or in protective shelters. Most of the women volunteers engage in the program will be interested in learning more life skills, such as setting up their own income-producing activities. Many women may be victims of domestic violence and will need help overcoming the trauma they have experienced.
  • Multi-country volunteering: One of the more exciting forms of placement, mainly because you get to travel to multiple destinations throughout the program. Each location will have a unique project that volunteers will participate in.

Tips for getting involved

  • Follow your passion! Research organizations that are aligned with something you are passionate about. Make sure the organization is reputable.
  • Learn about what the volunteer program offers- what costs are involved? Will food and accommodations be provided?
  • What kind of work will you be doing? Is it something you will be comfortable doing?
  • Length of stay- how long are volunteers required to stay?
  • Travel requirements- Visa process, passport, vaccines required, COVID-related travel regulations, etc.
  • You should be in constant communication with the volunteer organization staff before your trip and upon arrival to the foreign country. There should be clear directions on how to navigate from the airport to the volunteer location (if airport transportation is not provided).
  • Have phone numbers and locations handy for the local American embassy, hospitals, police, etc. in case of an emergency. Also, provide contact information of the organization you will be volunteering with to a friend or family member prior to traveling.
  • When traveling alone, be smart and follow your intuition. Be mindful of the cultural and customs practices of where you are traveling.
  • Have fun and enjoy the experience!

Resources for getting started

International Volunteer HQ: https://www.volunteerhq.org/destinations/

GoAbroad.com: https://www.goabroad.com/volunteer-abroad

Go Overseas: https://www.gooverseas.com/volunteer-abroad

All Hands and Hearts: https://www.allhandsandhearts.org/

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