When you’re traveling a lot, it’s tough to volunteer and give back to the world. You can’t necessarily take a daily or weekly position in one city and commit to being there. You can’t mentor a kid for a year without skipping town and letting them down or organize a major fundraiser when your next trip is right around the corner — which is why voluntourism, either going somewhere specifically to volunteer or finding organizations to volunteer for quick stints wherever you happen to be, is such an appealing concept.
Many of us search for those moments where we can offset our carbon footprint, create a routine of giving back, or take part in any small act of kindness, however brief. By volunteering for a few days or weeks, we can put some of that positivity into the universe. And while voluntourism can bring up thoughts of teaching or building abroad, you don’t have to leave the country to do good while you’re on the road. There’s plenty you can do while traveling in the U.S.
Combine hiking and camping with protecting America’s public lands.
One thing that makes America unique and special is just how much land we have. And how much of it is for the people. It’s a gift. And truly, if you’ve ever enjoyed a national park, monument, or BLM land, you should do something for it — whether that’s donating money or volunteering time to take care of it. One great way to combine volunteering with an amazing road trip or camping excursion is to help with park conservation.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy relies heavily on volunteers to help with trail preservation and park maintenance. Consider doing a small amount of volunteering in exchange for spending extra time at one of the beautiful parks along the route. If you want something with a little more structure, The American Hiking Society offers specific week-long trips to volunteer in various parks around the county. You’re placed with a small group of other volunteers and spend the day working with and supporting park staff. The trip usually involves free camping or lodging and access to cooking areas. This spring, they still have spots available to work on Cumberland Trail in Tennessee and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in New York. And while these trips do allow some time to explore the area, consider extending your trip to relax a bit after.
You know what they say, work hard, play hard.