For many, an ideal vacation means lazy days on a beach or skiing on fresh powder. For some, volunteering to better the lives and communities others makes for a satisfying vacation. Many people don’t know that they can combine giving with traveling and maybe a little relaxation as well. A volunteer vacation is a way to get away from the daily grind, while satisfying those philanthropic urges. Students looking to make the most of their gap year may benefit from a volunteer vacation, as well as an established professional taking a sabbatical. There are endless opportunities to volunteer all over the world, no matter what your talents, training or personal cause may be.
A volunteer vacation can last from one to 40 weeks, can be anywhere, from Ecuador to Mississippi, and can be anything, from education to health care to construction. If your passion is teaching, the need for native English speakers is abundant all over the world. Teaching skills may be needed in other areas such as math, sign language or basic living skills. Many if not most volunteer vacations in teaching do not require the volunteer to be a certified teacher.
For those who love animals, there are whale watching volunteer vacations, saving the sea turtles and their habitats, and chimpanzee rescue efforts, among many others. Environmentalists may want to be involved in saving the rainforest, protecting coral reefs and wetlands, hiking trail preservation and organic farming volunteer vacations.
Compassionate volunteers with a soft spot for children can find numerous programs for a volunteer vacation. Countries all over the world have overflowing orphanages and hospitals with sick children. There are programs where volunteers can help care for children with HIV and AIDS, cancer and deformities. Project Smile has missions all over the world for plastic surgeons and doctors who want to help correct facial deformities. Doctors Without Borders has numerous opportunities for volunteer vacations for trained medical professionals. Many countries are lacking in basic medical care for most of their population, and without programs such as this, easily curable illnesses would run rampant.
For those who are in construction or who just have a strong back and want to work, they can take a volunteer vacation to help build schools, housing and medical facilities in impoverished or devastated areas. Habitat for Humanity is a well-known charity that has ongoing projects all over the world. You don’t have to be a carpenter, an electrician or a contractor to be of service on a building site, but those with specialized skills are highly beneficial.
Anyone wishing to take a volunteer vacation can contact their favorite charity directly to inquire about volunteer opportunities, or they can find companies that help organize trips for charities all over the world. Some well-organized programs will arrange travel plans, plane tickets, ground transportation, lodging and meals. Most volunteers enjoy some time off during the vacation to explore the local sights and culture.
The cost of a volunteer vacation ranges, depending on the destination, and degree of amenities offered. For example, a one to two week trip to Ecuador can range from $2000-2300 US Dollars (USD). Student discounts are available. In addition to the reward of feeling a sense of satisfaction and a renewed sense of gratitude for your blessings, part or all of the costs of a volunteer vacation is tax deductible.