What are volunteer vacations?
Everybody loves a good vacation, right?! All work and no play makes for a boring life — vacations are a chance to escape from the dull daily grind for a little while, but how do you decide where to spend this precious time? Do you opt for a chic city escape in Europe or a beach holiday in the Caribbean? Maybe you’re looking for more of an adventure, so do you’re choosing between a safari in Africa or a trek in New Zealand? But we’re here to challenge you to take it a step further. If you’re looking to do a little good in the world with your free time, then consider looking into volunteer vacations abroad.
Increasingly, more and more people are deciding to spend vacation time doing something meaningful by giving back. Countries all over the world are in a high demand for someone like you to help them out. Now “working” while you’re on a holiday may seem like an odd thing to choose, but volunteer vacations abro`ad have several benefits, and options.
1. Discover Endless Types of Volunteer Vacations
You can choose from a variety of meaningful activities for your volunteer vacation — you could be teaching in the townships of South Africa, assisting with conservation of African lions in Zimbabwe, working in hospitals or clinics in Kenya, or helping to research sea turtles in the Seychelles! There really is a volunteer vacation for everyone, if you take the time to look. Volunteering isn’t a one-way street either; not only are you helping underprivileged communities or contributing to important conservation efforts, but the experience will be of real benefit to you too.
2. Complement Your Career with New Skills
In addition to the lovely feeling you get from helping others, you can learn valuable skills that could help you in your chosen career, and it’s a real plus for your resume or CV. You could also use volunteer vacations as opportunities to develop your existing skills. For example, doctors and nurses can use their knowledge to assist on medical projects and teachers are able to make a positive impact by teaching English in underprivileged schools.
3. Experience an Authentic Cultural Exchange
If you choose to sign up for volunteer vacations abroad, working with the local people will offer you an insight into the country and culture that you’d be hard-pressed to experience as a more-generic tourist. You get to see the “real” way of life in the community you’re visiting – eat where the locals eat, shop where the locals shop, and so on, rather than moving between tourist traps that are often overcrowded and overpriced. You can still visit these places on the evenings or weekends, or on the side, during most volunteer programs, if you’d like.
There is no doubt about it, a volunteer vacation will leave you with a much more well-rounded view of the country you’re visiting, providing you with a truly authentic experience.
4. Get More Bang For Your Culturally-Curious Buck
Volunteer vacations are often more inexpensive than your usual tourist package. Sharing accommodation with other volunteers (often fully catered) is much cheaper than spending your time in hotels in popular tourist areas and eating out at restaurants every night. However, bear in mind that accommodations can differ, so be realistic; you can’t always expect 5-star luxury when working in a rural location!
Another advantage of volunteering is that people you know may be willing to sponsor your trip, as it will be for a good cause. With crowdfunding platforms, like FundMyTravel, you could fundraise up to 100 percent of your travel costs and volunteering fees, while raising awareness of the projects and causes you’re supporting in the process!
5. Build Long-lasting Meaningful Friendships
A volunteer vacation is a great way to meet people, especially if you’re traveling solo, as you will usually be a part of a larger group during activities on the projects. The uniqueness of the experiences can help you foster lasting and meaningful friendships with fellow volunteers from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds, and it’s an opportunity to learn about different cultures from all over the world. However, volunteer vacations are not just for the singletons – couples and families are welcome too (and most voluntourism organizations will offer options for group bookings for corporations, schools, and clubs too). Volunteering abroad together is a great way to strengthen relationships and spend quality time working together with those close to you.
Find Volunteer Vacations that Work for You!
Overwhelmed with all of the options? Need a little help finding a program that works for you or your family? Whether you’re an animal whisperer, childcare maven, or a conservation enthusiast, there’s an opportunity out there that can meet your needs and align with your interests. Here are a few volunteer vacation suggestions to get you started:
Volunteer Vacations with Animals
If you just can’t get enough of Animal Planet and want to make a difference for our nonhuman neighbors, then look into any one of these volunteer vacations:
- Ananda Elephant Sanctuary: Immerse yourself in the Sri Lankan culture and help these towering four-legged pachyderms. Many elephants that tourists ride do not receive good care, and you can help stop this practice. You’ll be giving these elephants a new life — and who knows? They might remember you for it.
- IOI Galapagos Turtle Center: Come out of your shell and soar to the far-off Galapagos National Park to take care of the turtles from two weeks to three months. A basic ability to speak Spanish will help you here, as you’ll live with a family while you’re there.
- Vervet Monkey Project – Khaya Volunteer Projects: Help rehabilitate these 65-million-year-old monkeys in the Rainbow Nation of South Africa by assisting vets with repair, construction, feeding, and more.
Volunteer Vacations for Families
Why go by yourself when you can bring the whole crew? After all, a family that volunteers together stays together. Here are our top picks for volunteer vacations for families:
- Unearthing Ancient History in Italy with Earthwatch Institute: Help researchers piece together the past of Populonia as you excavate for artefacts of ancient sites. On the side, take your family to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and have pizza afterwards!
- Big Cat & Wildlife Research in Kenya with African Impact: One of the top priorities of this program is safety, so you can be sure that you’ll have a good experience. Your family will be assisting with conservation efforts to protect these endangered predators.
- Assist with Social Services in Thailand with Cross-Cultural Solutions: The stunning beaches and mountains will make you and your family awe in delight as you assist with caring for children and adults with disabilities.
Volunteer Vacations for Singles
The great thing about a volunteering by yourself? You can eat, pray, and love to your heart’s desire. The world is your oyster with these awesome volunteer vacations for singles:
- Work at a Youth Center in Brazil with ELI: Develop and organize programs and activities for at-risk youth in Rio. Help promote better nutrition while teaching anything from sports to music and sewing on the side.
- Help Conserve the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with GoEco: Dive on into the depths of the Great Barrier Reef for a couple of weeks! You’ll be exploring the likes of the coral disease and contributing to a good conservation cause.
- Teach English in South Africa with Love Volunteers: Get a leg up in your career and provide more education opportunities for locals while exploring the natural wonders and cultural diversity of South Africa.
Volunteer Vacations for Seniors
From conservation to community projects, finding volunteer vacations for seniors is easier than bending over and standing up quickly:
- Care Work with Children in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad: Provide emotional and social support for the children while experiencing La Pura Vida in Costa Rica. This program is for volunteers of all ages, as care centers are severely understaffed.
- Guiding People with Special Needs in Israel with GoEco: Fly on over to the land of the Dead Sea, for a slice of its beauty, where you’ll help individuals with special needs by overseeing children, social activities for adults, and more.
- Volunteer Teach in Ecuador with WorldTeach: Share some drops of English wisdom to the children in the geographically and culturally diverse country of Ecuador. You can learn some Spanish along the way as you live with a host family.
Create a Positive Ripple Effect
So the next time you’re planning a vacation, consider incorporating volunteering to make it more memorable and impactful. Whether you choose to volunteer for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, you will be making a BIG difference by helping those in need abroad, no matter how small your part may seem. We can’t promise your decision will be any easier with the multitude of different volunteer vacations available, but we can promise you’ll be spoiled for choice.