Something new for your travel plans: Voluntourism

Ever thought of combing your love of travel with helping those in need? 

Many people who are traveling for fun, or who are retired or taking a sabbatical, are looking for something more meaningful to do while away.  In fact, there have been reports of an uptick in adults who are taking advantage of an adult “gap year” to see the world and in many cases, to help others by partaking in the growing trend of “voluntourism” .  

Adult travellers choosing to volunteer in various parts of the world is an undeniable trend as mentioned in a recent NYTimes Article.

These opportunities range from helping to build a school, teaching English or other skills to local children or adults, conservation, or working with animals, just to name a few.

We have found numerous organizations which help to facilitate these volunteer placements.  Some also help to organize side excursions so that your trip is not all work and no play.  For example, you may want to add on cooking classes, expeditions to local attractions, or lay on a beach to recharge.  

Some of the many websites you may want to check out include: 

International Volunteer HQ which has volunteer opportunities for seniors in countries ranging from Africa, Asia, Central America to the Caribbean and Pacific. 

GoAbroad lists study, work, and volunteer opportunities abroad. 

Global Vision International  is devoted to over 50s volunteering.

These are just a few of the many organizations which help to place volunteers in various countries abroad. 

This is not to say that volunteering abroad is not without its critics.  Some people claim that it creates dependency on the volunteers, takes work away from locals, or in some extreme cases results in exploitation of vulnerable people.  This article from National Geographic provides an interesting analysis of these concerns. 

As with anything, the key seems to lie in doing your due diligence.  Our suggestion is that you ask a lot of questions such as:

Cost: What is the cost of the volunteer excursion and where does this money go?  You want to have a sense of what the fees are associated with the volunteer program and what portion goes to the administrator.

Goals: What is the goal of the volunteer opportunity?  Try looking for projects that are focused on the community and building skills and capabilities for the locals which will hopefully leave a lasting positive impact.

Skills: Will there be extensive training required before I can be of use to the community? Look for organizations that want to utilize your existing skill set rather than spending a large amount of time training you for the task required.  

References.  What do prior customers think about this their experience and the impact they left on the community where they were volunteering? Talking with people who have previously volunteered with this organization will give you more information than can be provided on a website.  

Whatever your travel plans, make sure to take the step of ensuring that you have proper travel insurance to cover any unexpected medical emergencies. is a great place to start your inquiries, particularly if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.  By providing transparent documentation as to what medical conditions you have disclosed, and without have to worry about stability periods, allows you to live your travel dreams, protected from the unexpected.

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