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What is Voluntourism?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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Voluntourism, or volunteer vacations, are a relatively new form of travel where participants spend their vacations helping local community efforts. The trend has gained in popularity since the 2004 tsunami that devastated much of south-east Asia, and has now spread world wide as an interesting variation on typical travel. Voluntourism can be a wonderful way to see the world while doing charity work and a chance to gain in-depth knowledge about local cultures that regular tourists will never see.

Work performed on voluntourism trips varies from location to location, determined by what is needed in the community. Some volunteers perform agricultural or environmental aid for the duration of their stay, working to replant forests and grasslands or helping survey wild animal populations. Others are involved in humanitarian work, building homes and restoring orphanages and hospitals, or working with medical clinics to deliver much needed supplies and care. For those with medical training, construction experience, or prior humanitarian work, special volunteer opportunities may exist to make the most of your skills. Work may be intensive and difficult, but care is often given to ensure that volunteers have rest and leisure time to enjoy their surroundings as well.

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Although you are not paid for your work, organizations that charter volunteer travel vacations often offer heavily discounted rates at local accommodations and restaurants. Some tour packages offer special day trips or chances to attend local events as part of your schedule. While voluntourism trips are taken mostly to offer aid, many people are also excited about the ability to travel for less money and enjoy some leisure time as well.

In addition to the price break for volunteer travelers, several other factors make voluntourism an intriguing opportunity. It can be a tremendous bonding opportunity for families or groups of friends, as many tours encourage bringing several people with you on your trip. This method of travel will also give you a chance to interact with local residents and learn about the culture and lives of residents outside of the typical tourist settings of hotels and fancy restaurants. For many, the biggest draw is the opportunity to donate your time and abilities to a worthy cause.

Voluntourism has experienced a surge in popularity since the Asian Tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The devastating effects of these disasters in areas renowned for tourism gave travelers a new perspective on vacationing, leaving many wanting to help restore these areas as well as visit them as tourists. Since then, this form of travel has flourished worldwide, enticing millions of travelers to enjoy their vacations in a whole new way. Many major travel organizations now offer a wide selection of volunteer travel packages, allowing intrepid adventurers the chance to see the world, learn new things, and leave their vacation spot a little better off for their visit.

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