What is volun-tourism?

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park volunteers planting
Voluntourists work side-by-side with locals, at once experiencing geography, people and agriculture
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What is voluntourism and why does it change lives

The term voluntourism sounds like what it is, the combination of volunteering while you travel. But the word has only been around for a few years as the ideas behind sustainable travel are relatively new to many eco-conscious travelers and destinations.  If you’ve asked yourself “What is volun-tourism?” read on to see why this type of travel continues to grow in popularity and why you may want to give it a try.

Voluntourism may be more clear if you first understand the main differences between volun-tourism, volunteer travel, and volunteer vacations:

Volunteer Travel

Volunteer travel often requires a time commitment of several weeks or months. These programs cost the traveler several thousand dollars in addition to travel expenses. In exchange, volunteers are immersed in a volunteer experience.

Volunteer Vacation

Volunteer vacations entail dedicating your entire vacation time to volunteering in the community you visit. In some cases, these vacations are partial tax write-offs, but you’d have to check with your tax laws to determine if your vacation qualifies. Volunteer vacations are shorter in length and cost less.

What is Volun-tourism?

Voluntourism is more flexible and thrives on the notion of reciprocity and balance. Travelers experience a reciprocal relationship with the communities they volunteer in. Residents who receive the volunteer service in turn share their community, nature, culture, history and recreation with the volunteer.

Local communities receive the economic benefits of tourism and the social impact of hosting volunteers. Volunteers have a rewarding, hands-on experience with another place and its people. Travelers of all ages have discovered voluntourism as a way to make a positive impact through their travels.

Voluntours are created to improve a small community and small doses of time with the help of many volunteers. People may choose to spend all or a few days of their holiday vacation volunteering. Voluntouring isn’t for everyone. If you can’t think of a better way to really experience a place than by spending time with its people or getting some dirt under your nails, volunteering may offer the type of travel experience you’re looking for.

Where Might Your Voluntour?

Deciding to participate in voluntourism can feel like a challenge at first, like you’re leaving your travel comfort zone. On the contrary, a voluntourism experience can refresh you in a way those hours on an exotic beach cannot. The impact you can have on a community or child may change your world perspective.

Voluntours are designed to offer dynamic experiences to different types of travelers. Consider the type of experience you want to have and look for a voluntour that suits you travel interests. Some voluntours expose you to famous historic sites, while others involve working with wildlife, adventure, architecture or even creature comforts with a hyper-local twist.

Where to Find Voluntourism Opportunities – This directory page lists a number of Voluntour organizations and interviews with the founders.

Travel is an important way to learn about other cultures through experience, but it often leaves a large carbon footprint or can have a negative impact on local communities. Voluntouring is one way to have a positive impact on the world while meeting people, tasting food and seeing sites you’ll never forget without relying on a book.


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