Volunteer Vacations Can Change Your Life

Volunteer Vacations Can Change Your Life

. . . and Maybe a Little Part of the World as Well

By Dianne Brause

When we think of an ideal vacation trip many of us imagine white, sandy beaches with exotic drinks and delicious meals and fine entertainment. The place should be filled with beautiful and smiling women (or deeply tanned beach boys) in skimpy bathing suits. And of course it should be an amazing bargain so that we can tell our friends about how much we got for “next to nothing!”

I have been both participant and guide on several trips of this type over the years.

I have also participated in and led a number of very different kinds of trips in which the goal was not only to enjoy but also to give back to our hosts and their community in ways that were beneficial to both parties, trips that give host and visitor the opportunity to connect with one another in immediate and genuine ways.

My volunteer vacations have generally been less luxurious and more strenuous than the storybook kind. Yet working with other travelers and community members on a worthwhile project has been significantly more rewarding than a typical tour. Many people’s lives have changed (I’m one of them!) as a result of the contacts made and understanding gained during these short sojourns in someone else’s territory.

The volunteer component of a volunteer vacation might involve helping to build a clinic for cane cutters in the Dominican Republic or repairing a trail in the national park in Costa Rica or teaching African teenagers about the dangers of AIDS or protecting sea turtles from extinction or excavating the site of an ancient civilization with a global team of volunteers.

DIANNE G. BRAUSE has been writing about responsible travel since her first trip to the Middle East in 1964. She has been a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, a college teacher, a public health educator, the founder of an intentional community, and a trainer of tour guides. She has also set up responsible travel programs in several countries. This winter is co-leading a Lisle, Inc. trip to India. Contact her at diannebr@lostvalley.org . This article has been reprinted from Transitions Abroad Magazine.