Artist, philosopher, and writer William Hazlitt once said “a gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles.” We should carry those words with us wherever we travel. Most times, the biggest dividends we earn on the road come from our most selfless acts.
With that in mind, we nominate 2017 as the year for you to plan a vacation with purpose. Now we’re not saying that you don’t deserves six-days and seven-nights of pampering poolside. What were saying is that there are other ways to regenerate your soul while traveling, too.
Voluntourism offers an education that you’ll rarely find in a resort. It’s a chance to connect to new people in an authentic way — helping you understand the world through a fresh lens. As Hazlitt put it “travel’s greatest purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”
Below are a few options that you can take this year to help the world be a better place while venturing to far off lands.
MARINE CONSERVATION — COSTA RICA
Volunteer World offers trips to every corner of the planet. One of their more popular destinations is Costa Rica, where you can assist locals in the recovery and protection of turtles on idyllic central American beaches.
The Turtle Conservation program can last anywhere from one to 25 weeks depending on your schedule and vacation time. They offer accommodation with locals, and all meals. You’ll be tasked with helping with recuperating injured turtles, assuring eggs are hatched, and helping locals keep their jobs by saving turtles instead of poaching them.
Prices start at $315 per week, which includes room and board. Programs run March through September. And yes, you’ll still have plenty of time to surf and party.
HELP SYRIAN CHILDREN IN REFUGEE CAMPS — GREECE
The continued civil war in Syria means millions of refugees are seeking shelter from the violence outside of their home country. This has created the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Groups like Support Refugees in the UK and Greece Vol have listings where humanitarian groups post short-term and long-term volunteering positions. Some require you to spend at least ten days at a camp. They’re looking for anyone willing to teach, build, cook, organize, run a yoga class, or just talk to kids who have gone through severe psychological or physical trauma in fleeing Syria.
In most (but not all) cases, room and board are provided on site. Expect to travel at your own expense.
VOLUNTEER WITH RESETTLED REFUGEES — BERLIN
If working in a refugee camp is a bit too harsh but you still want to help refugees, then maybe try spending some time in Berlin.
Give Something Back To Berlin is a volunteer group that sources jobs from delivering soup kitchen meals to the needy to teaching basketball to kids. They’re also offering short term and long term positions to help refugees who have already been resettled in Germany. Programs like their Open Art Shelter uses the arts to heal traumas in kids and adults. Programs are based on you being in Berlin with time to volunteer. Luckily Berlin is one of the cheapest places to visit in the world.
PHOTOGRAPGHY AND FILM VOLUNTEERING — GHANA
Sometimes your skill is something that another community needs. Skills like photography — vital for helping people in developing nations share their stories — require a level of expertise (and some pretty expensive equipment). If you have both, then you might be able to help communities document their lives in a way that is truly impactful.
POD Volunteering is a great resource for volunteering opportunities worldwide. Their Film and Photography in Ghana volunteering project allows you to get involved documenting and creating content to support the locals and volunteers working around the area. Accommodation and food is provided and courses start at $1,075.
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Fina tells us about her time at our Desert Elephant project in Namibia "It was an amazing two weeks. My first close encounter with elephants was my first day at camp we had two bulls visit the camp and they came almost every day I felt very privileged to be in such close proximity to the elephants. My two weeks were a learning curve I learned so much. Even though it was very hot build week it was so pleasing to see elephants coming to dam for water I would do it again. In the National anthem we sing about the "contrasting beautiful Namibia". We for sure have a beautiful country. Camp under the stars, landscape was breathaking. I picked up a few kilos from all the nice food we eat prepared by volunteers. Pity time was up, I was about to the crown the queen of game of monopoly. Truly once in a lifetime experience." #podvolunteer #volunteer #pod #volunteering #travel #africa #elephant #helpinghand #travel #teamwork #desert #onceinalifetime #Namibia
ANIMAL CONSERVATION — ZAMBIA
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Smile for the camera! Volunteer at the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary! http://bit.ly/1gujqHD #KevinRichardson #lions #lionconservation #wildlifeconservation #volunteerabroad #travelabroad #Africa #volunteerinafrica #GoEco #Goecovolunteer #travelgram #instamood #instalike #instagood #cute
Animal conservation is crucial to the survival of many at risk species. Why not spend a little vacation time working with animals around the world, while seeing a brand new country and culture?
GoEco is a great source to find fantastic volunteering gigs — like a position in Chimpanzee Wildlife and Orphan Care in Zambia. You’ll be working directly with chimpanzees at the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world. They offer volunteering terms starting with just two weeks, but you can stay up to 12 weeks if you have the time. If you’re into the two week option, it’ll cost you $1,800 for room and meals during the work week. You’ll have to cover your flights and weekend meals.
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In the setting of Kruger National Park, we offer you the opportunity to photograph the phenomenal wildlife in the area and to help raise awareness in the local community. http://www.goeco.org/area/volunteer-in-africa/south-africa/kruger-park-wildlife-photography-and-conservation #photography #southafrica #krugerpark #goeco #volunteering #instagood #instalike #instamood
BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE AMAZON — ECUADOR
Another option to find a volunteering vacation is to look at your favorite tour company. More often than not, there will be one or two trips where you’re afforded the comfort of professional guides that can make sure you’re solely focused on giving back while being immersed in a new culture.
Contiki has a one such program. Their Me To We and Contiki Cares initiative allows you to spend time in Ecuador at Minga Lodge where you’ll be tasked with helping build local infrastructure. The trips also includes sight-seeing adventures during your downtime, all meals, and transportation costs in country. The trips start at $1,295 per person and last 5 days.