One of the things I love about being a Generation-Y traveler is being involved with so many other people who love to help others on their journeys. We are an age group that has grown up with the idea that it’s important to help the environment and others, and as a result, we can often see this as a reflection in the places we travel to. I often scroll through Facebook and admire where many of my friends and acquaintances have ended up and how they are helping various causes throughout the world.
I’m often asked about how we can be more aware about using travel as a way to improve the world rather than just as a way to vacation. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to be aware of what your idea of “volunteering” is and how you plan on making a difference. You might not be aware that many organizations that encourage travel through volunteering really aren’t doing all that much—they just plan on taking your cash and very little goes to help people in need. That’s why it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time and look into which programs have made the most impact.
You might also want to think about whether the reasons you are choosing to volunteer are the right ones. Many choose to volunteer while traveling solely for the experience of going abroad, and that can be a fine line to cross. A location should be considered when you are planning on doing some volunteer work, but it shouldn’t be the main reason why you choose to go abroad. Think of it this way, you can always choose to go abroad for your own purposes and if you want to be a tourist in that location. Choosing to go for other reasons can mean that your trip is less of a vacation—if you understand that, then you are more likely to manage to do good while abroad.
Also, you will want to do some research to which programs can offer you the best opportunities to help the organizations that you admire. There are a few websites that can put you in touch with different nonprofits so you can find the best tours that work for you and what you want to accomplish. I find Visit.org extremely helpful when you are looking for short-term tours in multiple areas. Finding the right tour or program for you can make all the difference when you want to help others.
Have you ever done volunteerism abroad?