8 Amazing Vacations That Give Back to the Community
For the altruistic at heart
Skiing in Aspen. Island-hopping in the Caribbean. Sightseeing in Tokyo. There are a million and one ways to spend your vacation (and we'd take them all, thank you very much). But for those who want to travel and help others (coined "voluntourism"), we applaud you. Here, eight ways to do some good on your next globe-trot.
Study Endangered Species in the Amazon
As part of a small international team led by Biosphere Expeditions, you’ll assist local biologists with an ongoing survey of biodiversity in Peru. On foot and via canoe, you’ll help track animals and record endangered species such as jaguars, pumas and primates. Warning: Part of the deal is that you have to get up at 5 a.m. every day, so night owls need not apply.
Teach HIV Awareness in Cambodia
On this two- or four-week volunteering adventure, you’ll provide vital wellness education to disadvantaged kids and adults all over Cambodia through Global Service Corps. After a couple days of training, you’ll be ready to lead workshops focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, drug and alcohol abuse awareness, hygiene, nutrition and issues related to domestic violence.
Feed Elephants and Plant Trees in Thailand
After a day of sightseeing in Bangkok, Hands Up Holidays' guests are whisked to Chiang Mai for five days on an elephant reserve. There, you'll feed and bathe an elephant, replant trees in deforested areas and learn about general rainforest rehabilitation. There's also plenty of time for relaxing by the gorgeous infinity pool.
Help a Child in Nairobi
Through Micato Safaris, travelers can enjoy a traditional luxury safari (you’re going to see rhinos, people!) with a philanthropic twist: During the trip, all guests are encouraged to spend a few hours volunteering with AmericaShare, a nonprofit devoted to bettering the lives of children in Nairobi.
Save Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Though some time is blocked off for swimming, you’ll spend the bulk of your vacation cleaning beaches, relocating nests and rescuing turtles on the gorgeous shores of Costa Rica with GoVoluntouring. (Don’t worry—you’ll learn how to do all of this during training.) There’s a good chance you’ll be without electricity, and you may have to source your own water from a nearby well. In other words, this adventure is not for the faint of heart.
Install Solar Panels in Nicaragua
Transform an off-the-grid community by helping GRID Alternatives install solar panels in schools, hospitals and homes. You don’t need to know Spanish—or understand anything about solar electricity—to help out, and the program encourages you to bring along the entire brood. (Read: Kids are welcome.) While in training, you’ll stay in a fancy hotel with a pool, spa and restaurant. While working with the community, you’ll stay, well, in the community—in rural houses with no running water or electricity.
Eco-Scuba Dive in the Seychelles
Guys, the coral reefs need your help. Head to the Indian Ocean with GoEco and spend your days collecting data on coral reefs, sea turtles, tropical fish and plankton. Volunteers learn how to identify many indigenous species while traveling amid idyllic desert islands.
Serve Food to the Needy
If you’re looking for a volunteer project that’s a little less all-encompassing, the Ritz-Carlton has a terrific program in place called Give Back Getaways. Here, guests are invited to partake in half-day volunteer efforts, all coordinated through the hotel and included in your stay. We particularly like the San Francisco branch, which facilitates trips to a local church to serve meals to the homeless, elderly and underprivileged.