Sunday, 29 August 2010

Guest Post: Volunteer Vacations

This is a guest post from the wonderful and talented team at My Dog Ate My Blog.  I’ve been wanting to volunteer for ages but didn’t even know where to start so thank you to Estela for writing and Emily for arranging this post!

Rwandan landscape
Rwandan landscape by Gareth Codd

If you are yearning for a vacation and would like to do something helpful while you're away, look into volunteer vacations. Not only will you be serving the world, but you will get the opportunity to experience something different and likely eye-opening. Save rhinos from being extinct in Borneo, build homes in third world countries with Habitat for Humanity, preserve American national parks for the posterity, alleviate the AIDS and HIV problems in Africa, or transform the agricultural system in Asia. Whatever your passion or interests may be, there is an opportunity for you to make a difference. All you need to do is browse through informative volunteer vacation sites and find a cause that gets you excited to do service.

The first thing you need to know about volunteer vacations is that you are not getting paid to go on them but are rather paying to get involved. Cost for going on these service trips range from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand (for example, from $100 to $4,000). Again, this all depends on where you are planning to go and how long you are planning to stay. But know that there is always a way to lessen the challenges of funding. There are nonprofit organizations looking to sponsor interested volunteers, or at least pay for some of the expenses, so tap into these resources and see how they can help you go on these trips.

New Mexico
New Mexico by Wolfgang Staudt

A volunteer vacation that will costs you as low as $200 and bring you into the heart of nature can be sought with Wilderness Volunteers, a nonprofit organization that seeks to maintain the the U.S. national parks and forests. From the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Kenai in Arkansas or Yosemite in California to Cibola in New Mexico, parks all over the nation are within reach. You can help with revegetation projects, creating new trials, maintaining camping sites, and so much more. This will not only get you into the great outdoors but help you see the beauty of living and being in nature. You will breathe fresh air, you will marvel, and simply enjoy a more simpler life even if only for a moment.

While working is a key aspect of volunteer vacations, service work is more enriching and enjoyable than the normal work you do in your day job. You will even have some time off in the evenings and weekends to explore the land, seek out new activities, and be the kind of traveler that gets in tune with the locals and the culture of the area. You can learn to do something you have never done before, like make a hand-woven basket, or you can photograph fascinating local tourist spots. All this and more is offered to you during volunteer vacations and the more aspect is all up to you and what you make with your time.

El Capitan Spring - Yosemite National Park, California
El Capitan Spring - Yosemite National Park, California by PatrickSmithPhotography

So take that plunge and go on a volunteer vacation. These service trips will leave you with photographs, memories, and, most importantly, an experience filled with helping others and learning about yourself. You will make friends while doing work and even on your day off that may be part of your life for a long time. You may even get so hooked on service that you decide to take more volunteer vacations to different places and sometimes to the same ones.

It is adventures like these that leave you feeling rejuvenated with life. With all the hustle and bustle of twenty-first century living, vacations filled with service are the means to de-stress and give back to humanity.

Here are some pictures of volunteers being one with nature. Check out some more pictures of volunteers helping orphans in Thailand.

Estela Go is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog.



  1. Agreed 100%. When I did my gap year about 100 years ago, my parents did not want their teenage daughter wandering around the world being useless.

    So I went to a kibbutz in Israel and, along with other volunteers from abroad, we replaced all the kibbutz children who had to go into the army for 3 years. The accommodation was primitive and the salary zero, but the kibbutz's food was willingly shared. I worked from 4.30 AM to 12.30 PM six days a week, picking fruit. Other volunteers worked in the chicken runs or in the cow sheds.

    It was great for the kibbutzim, but it was even better for those Australian, New Zealand and South African princes and princesses who needed a challenge.

  2. wow.... inspiring. we dont hv it here back in malaysia. you guys are so lucky.

  3. First of all, "My dog ate my blog" is an awesome name. I had a good chuckle before I started to read this wonderful post.

    I had no idea there were so many opps. for volunteers. I'm an Archaeology major and I'm seeking work for next summer. I might be co-oping for my university, but your resources gave me even more ideas. Thanks so much.

  4. I love this post. I've done some volunteering abroad before and this is definitely inspiration to get out there again.

  5. I just read an article in Budget Travel about volunteer vacation. I just might have to look into it and see what is available. Lovely photos to go with the post.

  6. In the US, the American Hiking Society also offers these.

  7. I wish I had the guts to put my hand up for one of these things. Intellectually I know I'd be much the better person for doing it, but these days I don't think I could physically cope without hot running water and a comfortable bed for more than 24 hours at a time... :\

  8. I've heard of this before but recently forgotten about them, thanks for the reminder. Perhaps I could broaden my own horizons.

  9. I was on a Kibbutz in my younger days and it was all about doing as little work as possible, drinking vast amounts of beer and trying to get my hands on the foreign girls. It was good fun...

  10. Emm,

    Thanks for sharing this guest post. It is a wonderful look at a very creative way to help one of any number of causes.

    There is very often a significant emphasis on fundraising for good causes. Not to underestimate the value of a dollar (or pound!) - it is the funding that helps organizations do the good work they do.

    However, a Volunteer Vacation adds an important element frequently lost in our busy worlds: rolling up our sleeves and actually lending a hand. In spite of my personal efforts being fundraising-based, I would be the first to argue that direct involvement is equally important!

    Thanks again and best regards.


  11. @ Hels: I did not know you went on kibbutz! How fascinating. We caled those princes and princesses bagels and kugels respectively. Do you use that term in Australia?

    @ Lily: Actually, Lily, there are loads of opportunities to volunteer to work with orangutans in Malaysia!

    @ Lauren: My cousin studied archaeology and spent a year in Peru building an orphanage and touring archaeology sites in the area. There are lots of opps to do that sort of thing if you are willing to work like crazy.

    @ Claire: Yes, I actually thought about you at times when I was planning this post.

    @ AVCr8teur: I love that there are varied options depending on your views: environment, social welfare etc.

    @ Sharkbytes: Oh! Thank you for the heads up!

    @ The Londoneer: I think the important thing is certainly to find the best fit for you. Perhaps I shoudl do some research on what us city people can do in London!

    @ Jason: You should actually enquire through your college too whether they don't have community outreach programmes. Most do in the UK and you could start there.

    @ William: Were you also on a kibbutz (like Hels)? That is interesting!! I can't quite imagine it - what did you think of Israel?

    @ Dave: you are so right and idrect involvement is often rewarding for all concerned.


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