But for people looking for a more unusual and rewarding getaway experience, a volunteer vacation might be just the ticket.
Volunteer vacations basically allow travelers to see and experience things they wouldn’t get to by sticking to the beaten path.
Often set in developing countries, these do-good vacays match individuals or families with specific opportunities where they can make a difference while getting to experience the culture and flavor of a country or region. By spending a week or more in Africa or Asia or South America doing things like building schools, working at an orphanage, supporting HIV education, or providing elder care, you’ll not only get great experience, but you’ll get some serious and life-changing perspective by opening up the window to your world.
While volunteers are frequently adults, there are a number of volunteer vacation opportunities specifically for teens, including the following:
Cross Cultural Solutions: Their Teen Volunteer Abroad program is specially designed for teenage volunteers (ages 15-17) who wish to travel independently on a Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteer program. This summer, teen volunteers had opportunities inChina, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, and South Africa.
Global Citizens Network: This organization accepts volunteers from 8-80 and sends teams to communities in indigenous cultures throughout the world. Participants immerse themselves in the culture and daily life of the community. Each volunteer team partners with a local grassroots organization active in meeting local needs.
One important caveat regarding volunteer vacations – unlike most volunteer work where you are simply donating your time, volunteer abroad programs actually cost the volunteer. How much depends on where you go and what you’re doing. Some programs provide room and board while you cover the airfare, while others charge several thousand dollars to help cover lodging, food, and administrative costs. (If you don’t have the funds to volunteer, though, don’t give up hope. Some programs offer scholarship assistance, or you could get creative and raise funds to cover your fees.)
Interested? It’s never too early to start planning for winter break, spring break, or even next summer. Here are some websites and books designed at matching vacationing volunteers with ideal opportunities:
- Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others (book) by Bill McMillon, Doug Cutchins, Anne Geissinger and Ed Asner
- 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference (book) by Andrew Mersmann
- Volunteer Vacations Across America: Immersion Travel USA (book) by Sheryl Kayne
- Volunteer Guide (website): This site provides info on different opportunities by area of interest
- The Family Travel Network (website): Site includes a section on family volunteer vacation opportunities
Oh, and if you’ve ever done a volunteer vacation, we wanna hear all about it! OR, if you’re planning a volunteer trip, get in touch…we’re always looking for first-person posts from girls who are doing amazing things.
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