Volunteer travel
Volunteer travel, volunteer vacations, voluntourism, or vacanteerism is travel
Travel is the movement of people or objects between relatively distant geographical locations. 'Travel' can also include relatively short stays between successive movements.-Etymology:...

 which includes volunteering
Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life, but people also volunteer for their own skill development, to meet others, to make contacts for possible employment, to have fun, and a variety of other reasons that could be...

 for a charitable
Charity (practice)
The practice of charity means the voluntary giving of help to those in need who are not related to the giver.- Etymology :The word "charity" entered the English language through the Old French word "charité" which was derived from the Latin "caritas".Originally in Latin the word caritas meant...

 cause. In recent years, "bite-sized" volunteer vacations have grown in popularity. The types of volunteer vacations are diverse, from low-skill work cleaning up local wildlife areas to providing high-skill medical aid in a foreign country. Volunteer vacations participants are diverse but typically share a desire to “do something good” while also experiencing new places and challenges in locales they might not otherwise visit.

There are also other types of travelling that engage people with scientific research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Participants cover a fee that would include expenses on the different sites worldwide, and engage in projects according to their interest or location.


Originally most volunteer vacations were undertaken by people with a direct connection to a particular cause and were considered more as short term, intense volunteer projects rather than vacations
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

. Many of these organizations were long-standing international development assistance organizations which placed short-term volunteers on community development project sites.


During the 1990s the travel industry developed niche products and firms to provide volunteer vacations to people who had no previous experience with a cause, and to cater to the increasing number of young people taking gap year
Gap year
An expression or phrase that is associated with taking time out to travel in between life stages. It is also known as sabbatical, time off and time out that refers to a period of time in which students disengage from curricular education and undertake non curricular activities, such as travel or...

s. These providers expanded the market but also drew criticism for the impact of their methods. At the same time, the first edition of "Volunteer Vacations" by Bill McMillon was published, featuring under 200 non-profit organizations which facilitated such service opportunities. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, more than 55 million Americans have participated in a volunteer vacation, and about 100 million more are considering taking one.

Volunteer Base

Volunteer tourism appeals to a wide variety of travelers, but the majority of volunteers are made up of high school and college students. Many students use these trips to boost their resumes, travel with friends, and as a way to gain world experience and see new countries. Recently there has also been an increase in baby boomer volunteers. One possible explanation for the increase is that baby boomers are transitioning into a new stage of life and their focus may shift toward finding activities that give their life new meaning. Voluntourism is therefore appealing, as it is specifically targeted at travelers who want to make a positive change in the world, while still providing a tourist experience. People generally volunteer in order to increase their international awareness, to contextualize poverty and its affects, as an education opportunity, and to help people while having a morally rewarding experience. Many believe that the trip will change the way they think when they return home. However, others are just looking to give to others and do not believe that their experience will cause them to think twice about their lives back home.

Vacations have been hit hard by the recession. However, voluntourism has remained stable because it offers individuals the opportunity to take a guilt free vacation. As criticism for excessive, lavish spending increased, volunteer vacations have become an attractive option. As many volunteer vacations include tourist activities at the end of the trip, these vacations provide volunteers with an enjoyable vacation that has an enhanced value. Families participating in volunteer vacations may feel better about spending money on their trip while still enjoying the bonding time vacations provide.

A survey by CheapTickets.com of 430 US adults 18 and older found that half of their respondents would consider voluntourism for their next vacation. In addition, 55% of respondents would consider adding volunteer activities to an already planned vacation. While 48% had heard about volunteer vacations, only 5% of applicants had actually participated in one.


While some experts on volunteering welcome the expansion of volunteer vacations as an opportunity to provide more resources to projects and to encourage a volunteer ethic in people, others have pointed out that the business methods used by tour operators, such as exclusivity deals, and catering to the needs of the volunteer rather than the volunteer project, exploit the communities the projects are intended to help. Claims by volunteer tourism organizations that these activities contribute to improving people's lives and contributing to development goals are yet to be evaluated in the vast majority of cases. It is possible that volunteer travel might excacerbate existing problems in the host community. Dr Anna Mdee of Voluntourism.org contends that while there is still a lack of understanding of the direct impact volunteering overseas has on development activities, there is a much larger value that can be gained from working and living in another culture.

External links

  • "Getting Good and Dirty" Article about volunteer vacations in Hawaii
    Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

    . Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine
    Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine
    Maui Nō Ka Oi Magazine is a bi-monthly regional magazine published by the Haynes Publishing Group in Wailuku, Hawaii.The phrase Maui nō ka ʻoi means "Maui is unparallel" in the Hawaiian language. Maui Nō Ka Oi Magazine features stories relating to the culture, art, dining, environmental issues,...

    Vol.11 No.2 (March 2007).
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