The combination of travel and service work, or voluntourism, is hitting the mainstream—catching the attention of college students, professionals, and, get ready for it…Travelocity. The online travel agency has recently launched Travel for Good, partnering with several nonprofit organizations to make it easier for travelers to access volunteer opportunities around the world.
Travelocity is a newby, though, in a field already populated by established nonprofits like Globe Aware, which offers volunteer vacations in Peru, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cuba, Nepal, Brazil, and other locations. The one-week trips have been called a "mini Peace Corps" and cost around $1,000. Closer to home, Take Pride in America
is a clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities throughout the U.S. The site doesn’t explicitly link volunteering to travel, but you can easily plan a trip around one or more of their service activities.
Writer Joshua Berman’s blog The Tranquilo Traveler offers a personal perspective on this burgeoning travel trend as he details his 16-month-long honeymoon volunteering in Northern India, Sri Lanka, and Africa, with the American Jewish World Service Volunteer Corp.
Berman, who volunteered with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua from 1998 to 2000 and has authored several travel guides, describes voluntouring as "the best way to get beneath the skin of a culture that a tourist normally sees. When you have a role within the community it opens up all kinds of doors. It gives you a deeper experience than traveling for recreation. And you learn and make lifelong friends."
For more detailed information on how to take a volunteer vacation, check out National Geographic Traveler‘s article on family service trips, VolunTourism International‘s website, and the volunteer travel listings provided by Transitions Abroad. World Volunteers lists humanitarian, conservation, and archaeology volunteer opportunities in their books (and online for book owners).