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Solo Travel 2020: volunteer travel and beyond

New year, new solo travel opportunities. Volunteer travel and volunteer vacations are but one unique solo-travel opportunities you can take to experience new countries, cultures and communities. Here are some other destinations to help you map out travel in the new year.


50 Awesome Solo Travel Destinations To Visit In 2020

From Slovenia to Ecuador, these spots offer a variety of activities for solo travelers.

10/01/2020

By Caroline Bologna

HuffPost US

Many people take the month of January to look at the year ahead and set travel goals. One of the most powerful ways to explore a new place is to take a solo trip. From the freedom and flexibility to the stress relief and boost in self-reliance, there are endless benefits to solo travel. And there are many exciting places to make it happen.

Of course, it’s always important to research current conditions in your desired destination to stay safe when traveling, especially for solo trips. But fortunately, there are precautions you can take, and tons of backup options if needed.

We asked travel bloggers and other experts to share the solo travel destinations they recommend for 2020. Keep scrolling to read about 50 places that will surely inspire your wanderlust.

Vancouver, Canada

“If you enjoy spending time in nature, Vancouver is a great place to add to your solo destination list for 2020. Canada as a whole is a very safe country to visit, and Vancouver has so much to offer. The city itself offers beautiful views of mountains and has a lot of fun places to visit, such as Granville Market and Stanley Park. You can also do a day or weekend trip from Vancouver to escape into the mountains any time of year!” ― Amber Primdahl, travel blogger at She’s Catching Flights

Santiago, Chile

“I recommend Santiago, Chile. South America is a friendly destination for travelers, even if you don’t speak Spanish. Santiago is not a difficult city to get around alone, as you can take the subway or Uber. The local food scene is fantastic and casual, so it’s a great place to enjoy a meal and cocktail by yourself. For example, at De Patio restaurant, you can sit at the counter and chat with the chef while he prepares dishes with ingredients straight out of his garden.” ― La Carmina, travel blogger and TV host

Malaysia

“Within Southeast Asia, I think Malaysia is a great destination for solo travel for any age. You’ve got some incredible rainforests and stunning canopy walks, buzzing cities with a great culinary scene, and since most Malaysians speak perfect English, it’s a lot easier to connect with locals than in many other countries. Malaysia doesn’t have the travel party scene you find so much Thailand, so it’s a perfect choice in Asia for more culture-focused or mature travelers.” ― Marek Bron, travel blogger at Indie Traveller

Slovenia

“Delve into one of the greenest and most beautiful countries in Europe by buying a ticket to Slovenia! Not only does it have fairytale castles built into mountain walls (check out Predjama Castle!) but underground cave trains resembling Indiana Jones’ own adventures. The capital city is by far the prettiest I’ve ever seen, too. Transport links are convenient. The country is small enough to explore confidently. And the safety, as well as a high level of English among the younger generation, make this the perfect European destination for a solo traveler this year.” ― Alice Teacake, travel blogger at Teacake Travels

St. John’s, Canada

“It’s not a place many people have heard of, but St. John’s, Newfoundland, is pretty magnificent and a great option for solo travel. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful with massive cliffs overlooking the ocean. You can stroll to the top of Signal Hill to overlook the harbor and out to the sea. You can also drive out to Cape Spear to stand at North America’s most eastern point. But the truly special part of St. John’s is the people. They are some of the warmest and friendliest you will meet. You can grab a pint in one of the many Irish pubs and strike up a conversation easily. And for such a small town, the downtown area is packed with restaurants, pubs and shops. Plus, they have puffins and icebergs (even in May). You really can’t go wrong here. Don’t forget to get ‘screeched in’ while you are in town, too.” ― Mark Ostermann, senior editor of Miles to Memories

South Korea

“Seoul is on the top of my list for great places to travel solo this year. It’s safe for solo travelers, fairly easy to get around, and the people are always kind and willing to help tourists. The city is full of modern conveniences that take everyday luxury to another level. There’s WiFi everywhere, you can Uber around the city, and the customer service is impeccable. It’s great for solo travelers on a budget since there are a ton of low-cost options for hotel stays and food. The street food in Seoul is a must!” ― Jee Choe, digital designer and blogger at Oh, How Civilized

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

“Skip the crowds of Amsterdam and head to Rotterdam. This city is easy to navigate by public transportation, walkable, and of course, very bike-friendly. Take a water taxi and enjoy the views of the modern architecture of the city. Head to the food halls such as Markthal and Fenix Food Factory to check out what’s new with Dutch cuisine.” ― Jessica van Dop, travel media specialist and blogger at The Dining Traveler

Accra, Ghana

“Ghana is one of the best countries to travel solo in Africa. Ghanaians are known to be very kind and are typically willing to help travelers with directions or the like. Accra has a beach close by, along with many cute boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Solo travelers might appreciate that Uber is available and affordable in Accra, which makes navigating the city quite easy.” ― Briona Lamback, travel blogger and founder of Buoyant travel agency

Malta

“This incredibly charming and gorgeous European island is just off the coast of Italy and makes for an enchanting solo travel adventure! You can rent a car and explore both islands in just a couple of days, and see things like quaint cobblestone streets and the stunning Blue Lagoon.” ― Alyssa Ramos, blogger at My Life’s A Travel Movie

Oman

“Many people can’t even point to Oman on a map, but it is one of the best destinations for solo travelers in 2020! Locals are friendly but rarely pushy, and you can walk down the street without getting stared at. Renting a car is easy and the roads are in pristine condition. The highlight of traveling Oman is the fabulous nature and scenery, from sparkling blue wadis and sand dunes for hundreds of miles to sea cliffs and the ‘Grand Canyon Of The Middle East.’ If you want a break from traveling solo, consider hiring a local Omani guide to show you around for a day or two!” ― Victoria Yore, travel blogger at Follow Me Away

London, England

“London is a great place to visit on a solo trip, especially if you’re new to it and a bit nervous. They have a vast public transportation network to help you get where you need to go, and since the main language is English, you won’t have to deal with a language barrier, which can help anxious or beginner solo travelers. There are also many free and affordable things to see and do in London, like visiting their museums.” ― Primdahl

Taipei, Taiwan

“Taipei is still under the radar compared to many large Asian cities such as Bangkok and Tokyo, but it’s a great destination for solo travelers. The lively night markets, the modern architecture and the art scene give a solo traveler plenty to see and do. From ultra-luxury shopping at Taipei 101 to donning plastic gloves to eat chili crab at the Raohe Night Market, there’s a wide spectrum of experiences to be had. The city is modern and safe, and locals are friendly and helpful, which makes it perfect for a solo traveler.” ― van Dop

Medellín, Colombia

“When I first told people I was planning a solo trip to Medellín in Colombia, so many peopled warned me not to go. Luckily for me, I didn’t listen to them, as I would have seriously missed out! What makes Medellín such a great destination to travel solo too is salsa! Up until visiting Colombia, I’d never ventured out much in the evenings alone as I was either concerned for my safety or I just didn’t feel comfortable sitting alone in a bar drinking. The salsa dancing culture in Medellín meant that as a solo female traveler, I could go out to a dance class then head to the salsa clubs alone and have a fun-filled night of dancing and meeting new people without ever feeling awkward or lonely.” ― Claire Summers, travel blogger at Claire’s Itchy Feet

Napa, California

“A great destination for solo travel in 2020 is Napa, California, even if you aren’t much of a wine drinker like myself. Stay at the Meritage Resort & Spa. Sit on the balcony to relax and look at the view of the vineyard or even take a walk through it. On a hot day, a nice dip in the pool is refreshing, or head to their spa to unwind. Napa is also a place for foodies. There are many Michelin Star restaurants. Also, a food tour is a great place to try many different delectable cuisines.” ― Holly McGuinn, travel blogger at HollyDayz

Georgia

“The country of Georgia is arguably the most underrated travel destination in the world. It packs a lot into a small area. Tbilisi has cobbled streets, centuries-old churches and wine cellars, and breathtaking views around every corner. It has a distinctive blend of post-Soviet dilapidation and emerging modernization, and is only a short drive away from snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and fun-packed beaches. Solo travelers can experience a lot without having to undertake long transportation hauls on their own.” ― Konrad Waliszewski, travel blogger and co-founder of the app TripScout

Mexico City, Mexico

“I had fun spending a few days alone in Mexico City. There are plenty of museums, architectural and historic sites to explore, and it’s nice to be able to go at your own pace and take your time. The anthropology museum, for example, is gigantic, and I liked how I could focus on the exhibits that interested me the most. I found locals to be welcoming and friendly, especially at specialty bars such as the gothic El Scary Witches. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with the people around you.” ― La Carmina

Tajikistan

“Tajikistan is a tiny Central Asian country on few traveler’s maps, which is all the more reason to visit! Though small, its mountains are massive; more than 90% of the country is covered by towering mountain ranges. If epic mountain vistas (and virtually empty trekking trails) aren’t enough, Tajik people are also worth the trip ― they’re some of the sweetest and most hospitable in Central Asia. It’s difficult to go a day without an invitation for tea or a friendly chat, which is a blessing, as any solo traveler knows. In this age of mass tourism and frustrated locals, Tajikistan is a treat you don’t want to miss.” ― Alex Reynolds, travel blogger at Lost With Purpose

Australia

“Known for its laid-back culture, and some of the world’s friendliest, most welcoming locals, Australia is a great place to travel solo. While you’ll definitely have to brush up on Aussie slang, there’s no language barrier for English speakers, the Aussie dollar right now is very low, and there’s a huge amount of incredible country to explore, whether you’re interested in climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a city escape or camping under the stars in the outback. Walk into a pub alone and you’ll end up sharing a beer with the locals; walk up to the beach by yourself, and you’ll likely get invited over to join a summer barbie. Plus, if you’re wanting to support Australia after the devastating bushfire season this year, a great way to do so is by visiting!” ― Meg Jerrard, travel blogger at Mapping Megan

Ecuador

“I recommend Ecuador for your next solo destination, thanks to its breadth of outdoor activities and cultural experiences. While Quilotoa Lake is at the top of my list, there’s plenty to do and see for every travel style. Whether you want to channel your inner mountaineer, surf the coast, traverse the jungle, or channel your love for wildlife ― Ecuador has it. There are so many amazing things to do in Ecuador.” ― Olivia Christine, travel blogger at O. Christine

Iceland

“As someone who has traveled solo to over 15 countries, I believe one of the best places to travel solo to is Iceland. Statistically, it is one of the safest places in the world, but it also has so many great things to do by yourself. From soaking in the Blue Lagoon to driving the Golden Circle, you will not run out of things to see and do in this beautiful country. And it doesn’t matter what time of year! You will love it winter or summer.” ― Danielle Nelson, travel blogger and creator of Pack This Journal

Ethiopia

“Ethiopia remains one of my favorite solo travel experiences. The capital, Addis Ababa, serves as the gateway to Ethiopia’s mythical and ancient world and continues to earn its reputation for friendly people, delicious food and the world’s best coffee. Spend a few days basking in the city’s restaurant and market culture, then take off to explore the ancient stone churches of Lalibela, which I believe are even more impressive wonder than Petra (so visit before every other traveler catches on!). Nature-lovers can then find a number of ways to get off the grid throughout the country, such as the Simien Mountains.” ― Waliszewski

Edinburgh, Scotland

“For ghosts and grand tales, magical Harry Potter moments, stunning Scottish architecture and a multitude of exhilarating festivals to enjoy throughout the year, there’s no better city than Edinburgh. As a solo traveler, you’ll be warmly welcomed by friendly locals. Walking through the streets at night need not be a worry. You’re in good hands here!” ― Teacake

Grand Canyon, Arizona

“Solo hiking and backpacking trips are an amazing way to escape into nature and experience true inner peace. The Grand Canyon is my favorite destination for solo hiking and getting into the solitude of nature. The stunning perspective shift that traveling down into the canyon provides is unparalleled in all my other hiking experiences. Plus, the popular trails are usually busy enough that you’ll run into plenty of other hikers if you want to chat and make friends.” ― Carrie Hoffman, digital nomad and co-founder of the Bigger Life Adventures yoga and adventure retreat

El Nido, the Philippines

“The Philippines is a great place to travel solo in 2020. El Nido is full of beautiful beaches with endless water sports, boutique hotels, and design-led hostels — perfect for meeting other solo travelers. The island’s famous boat tours are a great place for solo travelers to experience the culture with the comfort of a group.” ― Lamback

Montenegro

“Montenegro delivers the benefits of Croatia, but without the overtourism. This tiny country has one of Europe’s best beaches, countless charming old towns adorning the Bay of Kotor, and incredible natural parks and wineries throughout the country. It’s easy to rent a car and explore the entire country on your own in a relatively short amount of time.” ― Waliszewski

Alberta, Canada

“If you’re in North America, I recommend traveling to Alberta, Canada. Between Calgary’s bites and the national parks, you can indulge in ‘me time.’” ― Stephanie Be, travel blogger at TravelBreak and founder of lifestyle app BUENA

Istanbul, Turkey

“In recent years, Turkey has taken a hit in the tourism sector. While things are starting to recover, it’s still an excellent place to visit in terms of affordability. Istanbul has long been a culturally vibrant city. Offering some of the region’s most unique experiences. It’s a perfect destination for solo travelers interested in digging into one of the world’s oldest civilizations.” ― Erick Prince-Heaggans, travel blogger at Minority Nomad

South Island, New Zealand

“Although I might be biased because I am a Kiwi myself, I still have the South Island of New Zealand up at the top of my list as a great solo travel location for 2020. OK, it is on the edge of the world, which means a long flight, jet lag and an expensive plane ticket. But road-tripping around the beautiful South Island, where you can easily find a spot to watch the sunset and have a glass of wine in the wilderness alone, is sure to provide you with whatever it was you set off to achieve by solo traveling in the first place. You can surf on the East Coast, then drive an hour and a half and be in the Southern Alps that run right through the middle of the South Island to go snowboarding or hiking. If that hasn’t sold it for you, then maybe the fact there are no snakes or deadly animals will make the thought of a hike into the wilderness a pleasant one.” ― Eamon Wood, travel blogger at Wayward Wheeler

Savannah, Georgia

“A great destination is Savannah, Georgia. The delicious food alone would bring me back! The Pirate’s House’s award-winning pecan fried chicken is mouthwatering, and visit the nostalgic Leopold’s for ice cream. Savannah also has a lot of history, parks and tours to keep you busy. Not too far away is Tybee Island, where you can relax on the beach and listen to the sound of the ocean.” ― McGuinn

Argentina

“If you want a destination to both indulge you and inspire you at the same time, Argentina is your place. There are few better cities in the world to wander as a solo traveler than Buenos Aires. You will experience the best of Latin American and European culture all in one place. Delicious food and wine, sexy tango dancing, vibrant music, beautiful architecture, world-class art, highly caffeinated yerba mate, and vivacious people — do you need any more reasons? A short flight from there can also get you to breathtaking Patagonia and the world-class wine region of Mendoza.” ― Waliszewski

South Tyrol, Italy

“For a European solo trip, I recommend rock climbing in the Dolomites of South Tyrol. Start the day with mountains, and finish it with a smile. ― Be

Thailand

“For younger or inexperienced solo travelers, I always like to recommend Thailand. I think of it as just the perfect training ground for solo travel. Thailand has a way of feeling quite adventurous, especially if you haven’t traveled much in Asia yet. At the same time, since it’s such an established tourist destination, you also never have to worry about travel logistics too much. There are social backpacker hostels and cozy hotels virtually everywhere in Thailand, so you can always find the atmosphere you’re looking for.” ― Bron

South Of France

“The South of France makes the perfect road trip for a solo traveler. Drive through lavender and sunflower fields in full bloom, kayak through turquoise blue waters in the Gorge du Verdon and chase Van Gogh in Arles, finding the real-life places he painted and lived. Go in the summer, end of June/early July, to see Provence at its best.” — Jen Ruiz, travel blogger at Jen on a Jet Plane

Lisbon, Portugual

“Lisbon is one of my favorite cities, and with good reason. The people are friendly, the architecture is gorgeous, the food is phenomenal and it’s one of the most affordable destinations to visit in Europe.” ― Tausha Cowan, travel blogger at The Globe Getter

La Paz, Mexico

“If you’re looking to relax and get off-the-grid, look no further than to the beautiful, uninhabited beaches of La Paz. Located in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, this city is the perfect place to jet off to pristine remote beaches and surrounding pueblos. If adventure is what you crave, be sure to visit during whale shark season when you can snorkel with these gentle giants.” — Asia Dawn Simonelli, relationship coach and travel blogger

Budapest, Hungary

“Budapest has long been on intrepid travelers’ bucket lists. Its stunning architecture, delicious food scene, and refreshing thermal baths make for an exceptional experience. What many don’t know is that Budapest is home to one of Europe’s best music scenes, with world-class musicians performing everything from classical to rock. It gives solo travelers more than enough to fill up their itinerary.” ― Prince

San Juan, Puerto Rico

“If you like beaches, good food, and a good party, San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a great idea for a solo traveler. San Juan is vibrant with a strong local culture. There are events pretty much every day for locals and tourists alike. Whether it’s mingling with locals at the Bomba, [traditional Puerto Rican music] performances at El Patio de Bonanza on a Monday night, or wandering the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, there’s plenty that will keep you entertained.” ― van Dop

Rwanda

“The capitol city of Kigali is one of the cleanest cities in the world. The people are hospitable, and their tourism infrastructure is reliable. The major draw to visit Rwanda is to see the endangered mountain gorillas. The permit costs around $2000, but it’s worth it to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.” — Nathan Fluellen, host and travel blogger at World Wide Nate

Barcelona, Spain

“Barcelona, Spain, is an amazing destination when traveling solo. There are plenty of activities you can do alone, such as touring historic churches and parks designed by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, or visiting the Picasso Museum. Get lost in the gorgeous maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter and stop for a glass of sangria and some people-watching. At night, head to see flamenco dancing before ending the day in a tiny restaurant to have some authentic paella. The city is safe, transportation is abundant, and the locals are always welcoming.” ― Christine Johnson, travel blogger at My Traveling Kids

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

“With the Expo 2020 Dubai revving up for its October start time, Dubai is the place to visit in 2020. Dubai has always been one of those places where it’s easy to make fast friends and you could meet ‘anyone,’ and going in 2020 only triples its magical effects. I’d go as early as possible to avoid the inevitable Expo 2020 price inflation, but if you can make it before May, you’re guaranteed tours, accommodations, sights and overall trip quality unique to this year.” ― Gabby Beckford, travel blogger at Packs Light

Albuquerque, New Mexico

“If you’re looking to knock a bucket list item off your solo travel list this year, save up your money for a sunrise hot air balloon ride during mass ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It won’t matter if friends don’t make the splurge — flying in the air with hundreds of other balloons at the same time is a singular experience. Bonus? The balloons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from Yoda to pink elephants!” — Ruiz

San Pedro, Belize

“San Pedro, Belize, is the ideal destination for beach bums. They have fresh lobsters the size of your arm for less than $20, the second-largest coral reef in the world and the impressive Great Blue Hole, best appreciated by air. You can book a tourist flight in a small propeller plane that lasts an hour. The official language is English and the chosen mode of transportation is golf cart.” — Ruiz

Cinque Terre, Italy

“While this beautiful cluster of Italian villages is often considered a romantic escape for couples or a destination to add to your bucket list for a someday visit, I think the time to go is now. Thanks to accommodation platforms like Airbnb, you can rent a fairly affordable apartment or homestay for a week and take the time to really explore. I went on a solo trip in 2019 and had an incredible time. Cinque Terre consists of five villages connected by footpath and by train. The train is really easy to navigate and there are English-speaking tourism ambassadors at each station ready to help you if you get lost. The towns are small and easy to maneuver, and you can’t go wrong with ordering pizza or pasta at restaurants that don’t have translated menus. Summer tends to be the busiest season, but also the best time to go solo because you’ll never stand out in the crowd. Keep your clothing low-key, travel light and pack smart, and you’ll be good to go! Just don’t forget to bring enough memory cards to hold all the incredible pictures you’ll take!” — Francesca Murray, travel blogger at One Girl : One World

New York City, New York

“If you want to be surrounded by people on your solo travels, then what better place than the Big Apple? You can blend in with the masses and pretend you are living that Manhattan life! Take a stroll through Central Park or along the High Line. Shop at Chelsea Market or on 5th Avenue. Hit up a museum and a gallery or two. But if you really want to try something different and totally unique, take the tramway to Roosevelt Island. You will get some amazing views of the city on your ride over and back. Also, be sure to stand at the tip of the island at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park and soak in all Manhattan has to offer from the middle of the East River. It is like taking a step back in time when you are on the island and it is totally unique to anywhere else in the five boroughs.” ― Ostermann

Guatemala

“Guatemala was the first country that I ever traveled to solo, and it is, in my opinion, one of the best places to have a magical solo trip in 2020. It’s hard to really describe what makes Guatemala so special, perhaps it’s the magical Lake Atitlán or the rumbling volcanos that overlook Antigua. Whatever it is, Guatemala has a way of capturing your heart, and the only hard thing about traveling there is leaving! Transportation is improving there and it is now much safer and easier to travel from town to town. You will find many other solo travelers in Guatemala, so you will never be alone for long.” ― Summers

Easter Island

“This small but fascinating island is full of wonders, from ancient Moai statues that you can easily road-trip around the island to see to the jovial locals who are more than happy to tell you the tales of their past and present cultures. Stay at an Airbnb and get to know your local host or head down to the main Moai statues at sunset, where you’re sure to meet locals and other solo travelers!” — Ramos

Dublin, Ireland

“Dublin, Ireland, is a fantastic city to explore as a solo traveler. Matter of fact, it was the first city I traveled to as a solo female traveler. Dublin has an interesting and captivating history while being as cosmopolitan as any European capital city! I stayed at an Airbnb inside the city walls and was able to walk to everything easily. For those not in love with a lot of walking, or should the weather be inclement, Dublin’s transportation is first-rate, from buses to trams to trains. The city is safe and I never felt uncomfortable exploring or dining alone. Dublin’s historical attractions, such as Dublin Castle or The Book of Kells, give one a peek into Dublin’s ancient roots. The Temple District is a lively and trendy reminder that Dublin produces great beer and has great pubs to enjoy it in, serving traditional Irish cuisine. It’s a great way to meet new people and make new friends, as the Irish are some of the friendliest people on earth! Dublin is a great city for solo travel: safe, clean, walkable, great transportation and friendly, helpful people.” ― Linda Malys Yore, travel blogger at Linda On The Run

Bhutan

“I highly recommend Bhutan. Since Bhutan mandates a fixed tourism fee per person, it doesn’t matter how many people you go with, and I’d say it’s the best place for some quiet reflection. Rich in natural beauty, plants and animals, many come here to be enlightened and achieve happiness. Most Bhutan visitors are drawn to either its culture, way of life, happiness index or religion. Seeing people lead their lives with simple contentment is enough to make you reevaluate yourself and your life. With so many lessons to learn, you’ll definitely emerge a lighter, more wholesome person from your visit to Bhutan.” ― Isabel Leong, travel blogger at Bel Around The World

Aspen, Colorado

“To my surprise, Aspen has been one of my favorite solo travel destinations to date. I think solo travel can really lead to self-development and growth, so I decided to try a new outdoor activity during this trip. I took one-on-one snowboarding lessons and I had an absolute blast. It was the perfect way to get out of my comfort zone and stay active while traveling alone.” — Ciara Johnson, travel blogger at Hey Ciara

Berlin, Germany

“Because of Berlin’s incredible techno and nightlife scene, it’s a great destination for solo travelers — especially those interested in electronic music, DJs and nightlife. The scene in Berlin is very welcoming, and with clubs like Berghain, Sisyphos and Tresor still operating after decades of transforming the techno music scene, it’s a worthwhile destination. The nightlife scene in Berlin might not be for everyone, but for those interested in music, the clubs are great places to make new friends and easily meet new people with shared interests. Tourism in Berlin is booming, and it’s best to visit while these clubs still run regularly, as other big Berlin nightclubs are continuing to shut down due to government pressure and social changes in the city.” ― Adam Groffman, travel blogger at Travels of Adam

Quotes have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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Meet Kimberly Haley-Coleman of Globe Aware in Lakewood

Voyage Dallas October 4, 2017

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kimberly Haley-Coleman.

Kimberly, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

I was raised with a deep love for different cultures. Before I got an MBA in international business, I got my masters in Art History (here at SMU). After working for a few nonprofits, I ended up in the for profit world doing business for multinational corporations. I found myself often traveling to developing countries where I sought to volunteer. I found that organizations just didn’t want short term volunteers, as the time and energy to train someone wasn’t worth it if the volunteer couldn’t commit a significant chunk of time, usually a minimum of a few weeks.

Since 1990 Ms. Haley-Coleman has been establishing long-term strategic partnerships and projects in non-profit and for-profit international arenas. Prior to founding Globe Aware, she was Vice President of Business Development for an aerospace company, Space Services International. Previously she led Business Development for Infotriever, which facilitated global contacts. As the Director of International Business Development at Investools, she created strategic international relationships and developed a globalization strategy to give free financial education tools to millions. During launch of CNBC.com, was Product Manager, managed and supervised product development efforts and trained on-air staff in using online stock evaluation tools. She developed and patented Dcipher, an artificial intelligence engine for free, real-time analysis of stocks and portfolios which helped provide investment analysis for those who could not afford financial advisors. At FCA, she created international joint ventures for small companies to develop sustainability of West African markets. Certified with Series 7, 65 and 63 licenses, she spent 2 years as Associate Portfolio Manager of the closed-end Capstone Japan Fund, she researched international stocks, made investment picks and placed trades. At Documentary Arts and Contemporary Culture, two Dallas-based non-profit organizations, she served as Associate Director of Programs, where she organized programs, wrote grants; prior nonprofit work includes internships at Dallas Museum of Art and High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. She squeezed in volunteering while traveling internationally on business and consulted with various international NGOs on achieving their goals.

Frustrated by the difficulty to give time effectively in needy communities within confines of busy life, she began Globe Aware to give Westerners a forum to serve in a meaningful and fun way for both the recipient communities and the volunteer. She wants Globe Aware to serve as a lamp to light that flame of inspiration in people who might otherwise have very little time to give abroad. She has an MBA in International Business from UD, grad with Highest Honors, received Texas Business Hall of Fame Scholarship Award, has an MA from Southern Methodist University and a BA from Emory University.

She is currently serving as Chair on the Executive Board of IVPA (International Volunteer Programs Association), on Dallas Opera Board of Trustees, on Board of Groundwork Dallas, is President of Dallas’ Shore Acres Beautification and is Leadership Member for Service Nation.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

The problem is that most Americans with jobs simply don’t have that kind of time (weeks or months) to give. And yet they are frequently in a position where not only can they give more financially, but their souls actually need that meaningful interaction, perhaps even more than those who have flexible schedules. It can be such a grey, dog-eat-dog world. To get out of it, to stand side by side as equals helping people one projects that are important to them, that’s something that can bring new meaning and color and even appreciation to life.

Also 2008 was a bumpy year for sure. Expenditures on travel and donations are often the first areas cut so we, like most nonprofits, took a huge hit 2008 to 2009.

“I think it’s critical that in order to be a really involved, successful person, I feel it almost requires that one be a globally aware citizen. It helps find resolutions, on a global scale, to conflicts that are important, whether it’s political peace or bringing groups and different nationalities together to find a solution to problems that we all face,” Haley-Coleman said, “But it’s also a huge source of joy for someone for their whole life, to have those wonderful moments of cultural understanding.”

Please tell us about Globe Aware.

Short term, one week volunteer vacations in 20 countries around the world. Volunteers typically work about 35 hours a week, but they also have cultural activities scheduled and free time. The cost of the program and the airfare is 100% tax deductible against the participant’s income.

Specializing in well organized, short-term abroad volunteer opportunities. We usually focus on concrete projects. As examples, we assemble wheelchairs for landmine victims in Cambodia, install concrete floors in the homes of single moms in Guatemala, build adobe stoves in Peru, etc.

What sets us apart? That our volunteers typically feel they have received much more than they have given, because this generally inspires them to do even more and to stay engaged. When we know we are making a difference, it not only helps others but clearly improves our own sense of well-being. What better win-win is there than that?

How are we different? People calling us will not confront a voice mail tree or unanswered emails. We are committed to human interaction. We let locals decide which projects they need. We allow families of all ages to participate. Also, this isn’t just fulfilling. It is outright fun. If it isn’t fun, we aren’t doing our job. Our motto is, “Have Fun, Help People”

Also, most of our peers don’t believe in contributing financially to project work, seeing that as a way to increase reliance on outsiders. We take a different approach. If you spend money on wheelchairs and give them to people who need them, this increases their self-independence. We engage in projects that the locals have asked for, do them in a way they decide upon, we don’t choose projects involving heavy equipment or machinery or high on ladders, don’t handle bodily fluids or require certain skills.

Doctors Without Borders is a great organization, for example, if you’re wanting to do surgery. That’s not our forte!

Every organization is different. Ours are specifically geared toward those without specific work or language skills who have *very little free time*. Our most often call is someone who knows they want to volunteer but have no idea where. We spend a fair amount of time assessing how much travel they’ve done before. For example, if they’ve never left the country, we generally think its huge amount of culture shock to go straight to India or Cambodia, for example, and we might recommend Costa Rica, as its culture isn’t quite as drastically different from North America. If they have traveled and they speak another language, such as Spanish, we might steer them to a country like Peru. See its very much based on the specific volunteers past service, travel, and languages. Oddly not many people decide where to go based on what TYPE of service is offered. For example, we assemble wheelchairs for landmine victims in Cambodia. I really don’t think that the service itself is ever a deciding factor, and really that’s ok. There is REAL NEED everywhere. Start with your interest, inclination, and perhaps any culture you have personal connection to.

Globe Aware has just launched a 3-part initiative in an effort to aid the post-earthquake Mexico reconstruction effort in the villages of Hueyapan, Zaucalpan, Tetela del Norte, Jojutla and Yautepec, as well as their main program location, Tepoztlan.

The organization has a deep connection with Mexico, and recognizes that these smaller communities are not receiving the help they need. The organization immediately connected with program coordinators and began relief aid by coordinating the delivery of supplies for assistance in these areas.Globe Aware has now begun work directly with families in those locations in rebuilding their homes, prioritizing building homes for those with single mothers and young children, as well as the elderly. Volunteers who register for the Globe Aware Mexico volunteer vacation program will have the opportunity to be a part of these critical reconstruction efforts. Haley-Coleman, stated that “In a world where many of us may feel helpless in the face of seemingly constant manmade and natural disasters, this kind of effort means not only getting much needed supplies and housing directly to those who most need it, but also allows our hearts to heal as we participate in the mending.”

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?

Yes, luck played a part. We were fortunate to come up at a time when there is a generally growing sense of social consciousness that has allowed us to succeed. Also, our volunteer demographic happens to coincide with an attractive ad demographic for a lot of mainstream media, so we have been the fortunate beneficiary of being the subject of their stories and segments. If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?

It certainly would have been easier if I started earlier before having children, but I think things work out the way they do for a reason.

Janet Robinson, a recently returned mother who volunteered in Cuba says “I think my children learned what you really need to be happy. I think we learned about material possessions and what people, in general, need to be happy, because we saw people who didn’t have anything who were having happy and wonderful lives.”

Pricing:

Programs cost about $1000 to $1500 a week and include food, accommodations, bottled water, project materials, medical insurance, bilingual coorindator, in-country transportation, etc and are fully tax deductible against your income.

Contact Info:

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What do you know about volunteer vacations?

Volunteer vacations or ‘voluntourism’ are exactly what they sound like; individuals spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of months working on social and environmental projects.

Oct 18, 2016, 04.26 PM
Source: Moneycontrol.com

Would you rather spend your annual two weeks of vacation sipping sangrias on a tropical beach or building greenhouses in the mountains? Would you opt to spend your time on a luxurious Caribbean cruise or teaching school kids in a remote area? Today more and more people are signing up for the latter options, in line with a rapidly burgeoning tourism trend known as volunteer vacations.

Volunteer vacations or ‘voluntourism’ are exactly what they sound like; individuals spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of months working on social and environmental projects.

What do you know about volunteer vacations

What do you know about volunteer vacations?

These can include building houses, bathrooms, and other amenities, teaching children as well as the underprivileged important skills, studying the environment or animals and even typing up data; an exercise which may seem dangerously close to your regular job.

Why are more and more people choosing to spend their vacations working, rather than indulging in some well-deserved relaxation? Perhaps society is developing a stronger social conscience; in a world where celebrities are quick to pledge themselves to causes, and educational boards demand their students get involved with social work, several individuals prefer spending their free time improving the lives of others to make a difference.

Aside from the feel good factor, volunteer vacations are the perfect way to experience a particular place in an entirely unique way. Travelling in the 21st century is no longer about following a structured itinerary that takes you through all the regular tourist traps in a city. Today, travelling is more about authentic experiences – volunteering vacations allow travelers to interact with locals in an organic way teaching them more about their culture than any regular resort stay would. While travelling is always an opportunity to broaden your horizons, volunteer vacations will introduce you to entirely new approaches to life and ways of living.

When it comes to ways of living, be prepared to rough it out should you decide to take a volunteer vacation. As most organisations which take volunteers for short amounts of times are non-profit groups, they’ll offer humble digs which one may have to share with other volunteers. Food is typically simple, and while most volunteers do get leisure time, the work can be tough and challenging. Additionally, most volunteers are required to pay the organisation for the chance to volunteer; the payments are used for boarding, supplies and sometimes partially as a donation to the cause.

Despite these considerations, people across the world – especially the youth – are getting on board with the concept. There are various organisations to look to if you’d like to explore the idea of volunteer vacations yourself; WWWOOF India, for instance, aims to improve the practice of organic farming in India while Dakshinayan in Jharkhand asks volunteers to teach health education as well as basic Maths and English skills to the local population.

If you’re looking to volunteer overseas, Projects Abroad is a platform for a variety of organizations which require volunteers in countries like Italy, Romania, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Morocco and Fiji. Global Aware is another international organization which offers international programs as well information about volunteer vacations.

These organisations are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to commit to their cause; if it seems up your street, there’s no nobler way to spend your days off.
Tags  Caribbean cruise vacation

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That one-of-a-kind special volunteer vacation

August 23, 2016

Wisconsin State Journal
By LISA M. DIETLIN For Lee Enterprises

Are you always in search of that one-of-a-kind special vacation? Are you constantly trying to find time to do good?

There’s a tremendous opportunity to have a very special vacation, meet amazing people, visit places you’ve never been all while making a difference by taking part in voluntouring or in a do-good vacation.

Volunteer vacations

Volunteer vacations offer countless benefits and opportunities

Voluntouring is a chance to  participate in programs around the world that make a difference within a short time frame – anywhere from one week to about three months, while vacationing!

Because you’re donating your time and effort to a nonprofit organization, a significant portion of your vacation costs may even be tax deductible.

Here’s how voluntouring works:

You will be working side by side with a community and its residents.

Voluntouring vacations are available around the world in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia.

The projects cover many important areas, such as children, the environment, health care, education, historic restoration, animal conservation, senior care, construction and others.

Voluntour participants often speak about building tremendous new friendships that last for many years.

While some trips are for adults only, there are many that are appropriate for families and young people.

Voluntourism has become both a big and global business primarily supported by the increasing desire of travelers to take worthwhile and meaningful trips while trying to do some good.

Examples of voluntouring vacations

Through Projects Abroad, a two week program offers voluntourists the opportunity to work in archaeological ruins of ancient pre-Inca structures in Peru. Anyone 16 years or older can participate. The work would include preliminary investigations, excavations, analysis and registration of cultural materials, site visits, office registry work, working at museums, archaeology presentations, classification of ceramics and community activities including working at an elementary school. The group also organizes social events for volunteers.

Another example of a trip takes place with Greenforce (www.greenforce.org); for approximately $3,900 you can work to save the endangered orangutans in one of the oldest and most beautiful rain forests in Borneo.

Other types of trips include voluntourists working on restoring temples by spending half the day cleaning paintings or building walls with the monks. The rest of the afternoon they spend their time sightseeing.

Or a penguin rescue and rehabilitation program in South Africa with accommodations and a meal allowance during six weeks of catching, feeding and cleaning up after penguins and other seabirds. But you also have two days off per week to sightsee.

The possibilities and opportunities are truly endless.

Alternatively, you might also want to consider a do-good vacation, which includes travel to more common holiday destinations in places like Ireland, Italy and Spain. These vacations are different from voluntouring in that you will be working with a nonprofit to raise money for a cause and not be working in a local community.

Often travelers create their own trip by raising money or awareness on behalf of a cause or organization that is near and dear to their hearts. Work with your favorite nonprofit organization to create a plan of action that includes doing good on your next vacation.

Tips for voluntouring

  •     Find an organization that matches your passion and has a proven track record.
  •     Select a trip that suits your abilities and interests and be prepared to work!
  •     Speak with people who have been on the excursion before or worked with the company you choose.
  •     Learn about local customs – even a bit of the language – before you go, but be prepared for a trip that may be tremendously different from what you might expect.
  •     Expect none of the comforts of home, in other words, you will be “roughing it.”
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Global Wing’s volunteer vacation recipient takes flight

ag2Volunteer vacation recipient takes flight

Adan Gonzales was one of Globe Aware’s first recipients of the Global Wings initiative. Gonzalez grew up in Oak Cliff, a predominately Mexican-American community in Dallas that is mostly known for crime and socioeconomic strife. As a child, he sensed a disconnect between his surroundings and the American dream his parents had believed in when they immigrated to the United States in the 1980s.  Street violence was an everyday concern for the family as well as what seemed to be a series of never-ending financial blows. Adan was inspired by his parents’ work ethic and perseverance and at the age of eight, began to sell movies and snacks at the local flee market to help afford school uniforms for him and his brother.

As his parents worked multiple jobs to provide basic needs for the family, traveling was an unattainable luxury. Adan and his parents rarely traveled outside of their city or state, unless it meant the rare tag4rip to Mexico to visit relatives. Even exploring his own city was out of reach for much of his childhood.

In high school, Gonzalez realized that through academic success and community involvement he could make life better for himself and his relatives.

“That’s when I started doing well in school. I saw how proud my dad would be when the teachers told him I was smart or that my grades were really good,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to show my parents that their sacrifice and hard work was worth it.”

Adan also became involved in local community service and began to seek ways in which he was able to give back on a Global scale. Through the Global Wings initiative, individuals such as Adan, who have the desire to serve, but may not have the resources or know how to do so are empowered with the tools, knowledge and means to make it happen. Through events, raffles, and donations, Globe Aware was able to send three graduating seniors to Costa Rica to work on turtle conservation efforts. They also had the opportunity to work with a local school by teaching English and working on projects to improve the infrastructure of the school.

His fellow volunteers were so impressed with Adan’s desire to learn and serve, that they were inspired to fund a second trip for him to volunteer in Cambodia.

ag5

Adan Gonzales with Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN.

Cambodia was an experience in my life that I still have a hard time putting into words. It made me a better person,” Gonzales said. “The things I saw, and people I met helped me understand more the concept of being alive, to understand that as people, even if we do not have wealth, more than anything in this world we can give to someone…is our ‘time’.”

agFor Adan, his volunteer trips to Costa Rica and Guatemala helped prepare him for new experiences and has further driven his desire to give back.  Adan went on to attend Georgetown University and founded the Si Se Puede Network. The network promotes his simple philosophy for success to ambitious but disadvantaged students: Great students keep up their grades, perform community service, and develop leadership skills.

We are so proud of Adan and look forward to seeing all of the amazing things he has set out to accomplish.

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