Volunteer On Your Next Vacation

July 8, 2012 | By | 9 Replies More

Mixing cement

Along with birthdays and holidays, vacations are one of the most anticipated times of the year. When mired with every-day obligations, endless distractions and unyielding demands from work and home, any occasion that sanctions the shirking of responsibilities is one welcomed with open arms.

However, while we all need a break from time to time, for some a mere week spent lounging on an exotic beach with a cocktail in hand is neither desired nor fulfilling. For these people, a vacation means exploring another country, experiencing a different way of life and learning about a culture that’s foreign to their own, all of which cannot be accomplished while stationed on white sand adjacent to blue waters.

According to the book “Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others” by Bill McMillon, Doug Cutchins, and Anne Geissinger, a great way to satiate this desire for knowledge and exploration while on vacation is through a volunteer vacation. With such a vacation, travelers have the unique opportunity to experience a foreign culture in a different country (a staple of any successful vacation) while also doing something to improve the lives of a few locals, a broader community or the nation as a whole.

The Importance of Volunteering
In the United States, more than a quarter of the population spent time volunteering in the last year, a figure that has remained relatively steady in the past five years. Across all age and race groups, Americans are every day putting aside time to help others, whether it’s for their local community or church group, a politician they’ve endorsed, or a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose cause they support.

The truth is volunteering is a win-win situation for everyone. The organization receiving the no-cost assistance benefits by being able to continue their cause without having to worry about the expense of labor, while the volunteer receives a sense of empowerment, fulfillment and enjoys a strengthened connection to their community and a cause larger than themselves.

The benefits are not just internal, however, and they remain the same whether you choose to volunteer at home or abroad during your next vacation.

Career Advancement
In everything you do there’s an opportunity to improve your career prospects by rendering yourself, via your actions, a more attractive candidate for a future position. Volunteering allows individuals to learn new skills, like a new language, for example, through participation in a program like World Teach where volunteers teach young children math, science or English in countries all over the world.

And for those lucky enough to have found a career they love, whether you’re a lawyer, economist or engineer, choosing a vacation where you can volunteer your skills can be a boon to the development of local communities.

Health Benefits
In the last 20 years, countless studies have shown a strong correlation between volunteering and lower mortality rates, a low occurrence of depression in individuals and higher functionality, particularity among older volunteers.

Networking
A high percentage of volunteers have at least an undergraduate degree and are working professionals. When you participate in a program to volunteer abroad, chances are you’re going to meet inspiring individuals who share the same passions as you and who are great contacts to have whether as friends or professionals. Volunteering broadens your network of friends and professional contacts.

The Abundance of Opportunities
There are countless opportunities and resources for those looking to take a volunteer vacation. One the most well-known opportunities is the Peace Corps, which has a stringent application process and provides volunteers with financial benefits in addition to medical coverage while volunteering.

For those interested in short-term volunteer vacation opportunities, Habitat for Humanity offers a program in Vietnam where volunteers help build homes for financially-vulnerable families. This organization’s efforts work to improve communities through improving infrastructure and investing in the development of skills and training for local residents.

Kiva is yet another unique opportunity. The organization immerses volunteers in the growing micro-finance industry. Kiva Fellows, as volunteers are known, work in the local communities where loans are dispersed to learn more and help improve the efficacy of micro-finance loans for local businesses.

For more opportunities, another great resource is GlobalGiving, an aggregator of organizations in need of finical contributions and volunteer assistance all over the world.

  • Have you used vacation time to volunteer? If so, what did you do?
  • If not, would you consider volunteering on your next vacation? Why?

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Category: Things to do

Comments (9)

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  1. Izy Berry says:

    Volunteering overseas is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done! I highly recommend it to everyone.
    Izy Berry recently posted…I Hated LaosMy Profile

  2. Claire says:

    I’ve just been doing some wildlife/conservation volunteering in Austrailia and it was a really positive experience. I met great people but also got to see parts of this beautiful country that are well off the week-beaten backpacker circuit.
    Claire recently posted…Aussie insects, English WeatherMy Profile

  3. Andy says:

    Volunteering is definitely a fantastic way to go on vacation for more than one reason. I think that it is often overlooked and it can be even more difficult to find a good organization. In the end though, it makes travel much more meaningful.
    Andy recently posted…Mystic DunesMy Profile

    • Mig says:

      It can be challenging to find a good organization. I hope to review more volunteer vacations on my journey and I hope to read about other travel blogger’s experiences as well.

  4. Ascher says:

    It is important that you research the volunteer organisation well to ensure it’s practice is sustainable and really doing good for the community and environment. It’s big business. I learnt a lot from visiting http://www.concertcambodia.org in Siem Reap.o…

  5. Cindy says:

    Giving back to the community that has hosted you as a “visitor/tourist” is a great way to say thanks for the amazing memories !
    We tend to view holidays as a “me-me-me time”, yet it can be very rewarding to do something for others !
    Cindy recently posted…Top 5 reasons to discover scuba diving in Koh TaoMy Profile

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