Voluntourism

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When in the 90s life in the global North became more stressful and traveling abroad became ever cheaper, the idea of just leaving the rat race, at least for a while, to “live your dreams” became very appealing. How to fill in this time?

Of course, you can just partee and bungee your way around the globe, sipping tequilas on hot beaches waiting until “society” gets back to you with a vengeance. But more and more travelers found that there is an experience that is more satisfying and rewarding: volunteering. But would they give up all the elephant rides, sky dives, and volcano hikes for that?

The point is that it’s not an either-or. I know travelers who stopped by at a local community center to bring (used) clothes, or did a theater workshop with the children in the morning, only to sip their latte – and help the local economy – in a nearby café in the afternoon. It is all a matter of perception, and the neologism “voluntourism” made this combination of doing good and tourism not only palatable, but cool.

Where to voluntour

Some countries are definitely more suitable for voluntourism. To get an idea, look at the existing tourist infrastructure and how much the destination country is dependent on its tourism industry and in which countries the tourism and travel industry is the biggest employer. You’ll find travel destinations like the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Aruba, Seychelles, Macao, Cape Verde, Anguilla, Maldives, Antigua and Barbuda, Vanuatu – not bad.
But also in countries that aren’t tropical islands, there are some that boast both a successful tourism industry and plenty of volunteering opportunities, while being very affordable places to live.

  1. In Latin America: Bolivia, Paraguay, Nicaragua
  2. In Africa: Botswana, Kenya, Senegal
  3. In Asia: Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Sri Lanka

Life After Voluntourism

When you return home after a year (or five years) of voluntourism, you can rest asured that you have a backpack full of wonderful interesting stories – stories that will give you a good reputation and even land you a job. Even if you don’t see your efforts pay off directly when you’re on the ground “sacrificing” a day of snorkeling for a day of relocating turtle nests – it will pay off in the long run. And even if you don’t get a monetary reward, you will always have the invaluable memories that will make you to who you will be;-

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