Take a Volunteer Vacation

My husband has a BIG birthday coming up next year and I want to take him on an international trip. I’ve been debating what type of excursion to plan. After reading Nola Lee Kelsey’s new bookThe Voluntary Traveler, I knew I’d found my answer: a volunteer vacation. As a caring, compassionate person, my husband will love the surprise. (Hopefully he won’t stumble across this blog post first.)

“Why travel any other way?” Daniela Papi asked after volunteering in Nepal with Habitat for Humanity. Papi is one of 22 writers who contributed an essay about taking a volunteer vacation in this adventure text that’s half anthology, half guidebook. Of course, deciding to sign up for a volunteer vacation is only the first step. Next you have to figure out what kind of work you want to do. The essays share experiences varying from grooming goats and petting piglets with Farm Sanctuary to educating kids in Coast Rica through WordTeach to cleaning people’s teeth in Mexico with Los Medico Voladores (The Flying Doctors).

The second half of the book is dedicated to a comprehensive directory listing global organization that range from large associations to local NGOs. Each listing includes the organization’s website, age requirements, costs, length of stays, meals and accommodations, and description of work. There are options you may never thought existed. Love donkeys? Help maintain a sanctuary for those that have been abandoned with Corfu Donkey Rescue. Is one of your hobbies mixing music? Volunteer to assist talented young musicians in Tanzenia.

If the idea of flying off to an exotic location to lend a helping hand feels a tad overwhelming, consider taking a volunteer vacation right here in the States by, for example, conducting archeology research in Cortez, Colorado with the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. But beware. From what I can gather after reading this book, once you start down the road of voluntary travel, it’s hard to stop. Before you know it, you might be flying off to Cambodia to teach English then heading to Greece to rescue injured dogs. I can hardly wait to see what road my husband and I wind up taking.

The Voluntary Traveler: Adventures from the Road Best Traveled created by Nola Lee Kelsey (Dog’s Eye View Press; $22)

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