Want to come home from your vacation with more than a few amazing photos? Here’s how to add in some incredible memories of volunteering from your trip — travel for good with these tips from Spa Travel Gal’s Ava Roxanne Stritt.
Travelers seem to crave a deeper purpose, and the trend to blend volunteering with vacationing is still surging. In fact, it’s growing.
Experts say “voluntourism” or traveling for good will continue to be a top travel trend in 2019. One study found that a whopping 84 percent of millennials wanted to travel to volunteer.
Some call the No. 1 travel trend for 2019 the “Appren-trip,” with travelers adding more purpose to their trips. This study found 68 percent of global travelers would do a cultural exchange to learn a new skill and more than half would book a volunteering trip.
There are many reasons to travel for good. It can get you up-close-and-personal with another culture, as you can often see how locals live, try authentic food and meet real people beyond the boundaries of a resort. In that, the experience can change your perspective and life, as well as the life of others.
Doing work abroad can also translate to your career and connections back home, too; it looks good on a resume (although there are far more noble reasons to help others than that).
All of these reasons — and more — ring true for me.
If you’re looking to plan your next vacation for a good cause, here are two destinations in the United States to consider — plus, a few tips on how to arrange a philanthropic excursion without requiring too much planning and work, so you have plenty of energy to share with others once you arrive.
Where to Plan a Vacation for a Cause
Georgia makes a wonderful getaway, with its rich history, scenery, hospitality and delicious food. While there, spend some time at Noah’s Ark, where you can help animals, two by two. Noah’s Ark is a nonprofit animal sanctuary that’s home to more than 1,500 abused, neglected and unwanted animals. It provides care and love for more than 100 different species.
Start at the Welcome Center and stroll through the natural habitat (the sanctuary spans 250 acres) from noon-3 p.m. Have lunch in the picnic area, and bring your kids to hang out on the playground until noon. Leave with a souvenir from the gift shop.
It’s free to visit the sanctuary, but donations are accepted (and needed), so even if you can’t donate time to volunteer, you can still help with your contribution. It costs $33,000 to care for and feed the animals every month. There are many ways to help: Buy something off the wish list, adopt a dog or cat, buy a tribute brick and more. You can even shop the eBay store remotely and make a difference.
Key West is a paradise vacation, especially if you make The Perry Hotel your home base. The award-winning boutique hotel greets you with a glass of champagne at check-in, and it only gets better from there. All rooms have stunning water views. Dine at the poolside bar, relax by the outdoor fire pit and enjoy direct access to the marina and ocean.
Then balance out your relaxation with some action. The Florida Keys voluntourism website is a great place to start to find the right fit for your skills and interests. Help rehabilitate wild birds, build houses with Habitat for Humanity or help at the Key West Wildlife Center. I always love to donate my energy to animals in need.
While in Key West, a must-do is a sunset sail on a yacht with the company When and If. You can experience the Keys via private charter, an unforgettable experience. If you feel called to the water more and want to donate your energy there, check out Maybe Sailing’s volunteer opportunities — although these placements are for a minimum of two months. In that time, however, you’ll gain a ton of experience and knowledge about sailing. Maybe Sailing relies on volunteers to help.
Tips for Planning a Vacation for a Cause
Help where you are.
You don’t necessarily have to search far to find a way to help. Opportunities are all around, no matter where you are visiting. You don’t have to coordinate with a specific organization. One example comes from Alexis Grace Stritt, an advocate for “Pass on Plastics.” She shares great Instagram stories about the environment and her efforts.
Avoiding plastics whenever possible while traveling, both in packing and shopping abroad, is an easy way to make a positive impact.
“Plastic is a non-biodegradable substance that is polluting our oceans and landfills. Plastic lasts over a thousand years, and when it is burned, it releases chemicals into the air,” she says. “Animals are being impacted by this, as well, by becoming entangled in plastic waste and ingesting bits of it. We need to opt for reusable items that are plastic free. Let’s pass on plastic together.”’
Make an “Adventure Bag.”
This idea comes from Victoria J. Your of Follow Me Away. She suggests taking an “adventure bag” on your next hike, walk on the beach or stroll through a new town.
“Simply pick up a used paper or plastic bag and pick up trash along your route. You wouldn’t believe what you will come across during your day,” she says. “Make sure to bring a pair of gloves you can use if you don’t want to use your hands. If you are exploring with kids, get the whole family involved and make it a challenge to see who can collect the most trash during the day. You will help save the earth in the meantime.”
Ava Roxanne Stritt of Spa Travel Gal is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.