If you’d like to do something more meaningful than drink, party and tan over Reading Week (not that there’s anything wrong with those things) consider a trip to Ghana, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua or Tanzania to help others.
You could lend a hand with reforestation efforts, work on improving local schools and orphanages or help to provide safe drinking water for the people you’ll meet during your journey.
Travel CUTS can get you set up with one of the trips with Volunteer Abroad, an organization that’s been connecting people who need help with travelers who want to help since 1988.
What are you doing this summer? How about travelling to Kenya, Ecuador or India with Me to We to help build schools and build futures?
Me to We is a group that has partnered with Free the Children to support their Adopt a Village program. If you join them for two weeks you’ll get hands-on experience in sustainable development, leadership training, and lots of time to get to know members of the community you’re supporting.
So whether you’re planning for a career that will deal with community building, sustainability, education or international development, or if you just think it would be fun to visit a radically different place and help out, you should have a look at the Me to We trips.
Tell Travel CUTS what you do to make the world a better place in 400 words or less and you could win a FREE Volunteer Abroad trip. Part of the contest includes getting people to vote for you, so if you can organize a strong campaign, your chances of winning are even better.
Entries must be submitted by January 18, 2012, so get writing!
Are you spending some time reflecting on the past year? Thinking about how to make the most of next year? Well then start with some resolutions, or at least this one resolution: Travel.
That’s it. I’m not telling you where to travel or how or with who. Just resolve to do it. Start small, maybe camping for a weekend with friends or visiting your grandmother like you keep saying you will or checking out your first sci-fi convention.
The where and the when don’t really matter. What’s important is that you get out of your house, try something new, open your mind to new experiences and ways of life and open your life to the new friends you’ll make on the road.
If you like your goals to be a little more specific, how about one of these?
Travel green. Resolve to minimize your carbon footprint, clean up after yourself wherever you go (that includes the movie theatre), and support local businesses whenever possible.
Travel for good. Take part in a volunteer project in another country and do more than just sit on the beach and visit museums. Build a house, teach, farm, take part in people’s lives.
Travel for study. Don’t be a tourist, be a student. Plan a semester or summer abroad and see what campus life is like in another country.
I also resolve to provide you with inspiring travel ideas throughout the year, because there’s plenty to see and to out there.
If you’ve ever travelled to a less developed country you may have left with the feeling that you’d like to do something for the people you met.
Maybe they don’t have clean drinking water or enough schools. Maybe they need help preserving their historical sites.
Well travel2change is a group that helps travellers put together projects that help communities around the world. Individuals and organizations submit project ideas and the travel2change community (anyone who joins the site) chooses who to support.
Four projects are then chosen to turn into a reality and travel2change helps plan and pay for them.
Visit www.travel2change.org to learn more or to get inspired with ways you can help the communities you visit.
Everyone knows about the Peace Corps. It’s an American organization that sends people to developing countries to volunteer – the ultimate voluntourism experience, with most assignments lasting two years.
But do you know about CUSO-VSO? Just like the Peace Corps it was founded in 1961, so they’re both celebrating their 50th year in operation. And just like the Peace Corps, CUSO-VSO (a combination of the Canadian University Service Overseas and Voluntary Service Overseas programs) sends people overseas to volunteer (around 15,000 of them so far).
But unlike the Peace Corps, CUSO-VSO is open to Canadians, so it’s something you might think about doing at some point in your life.
Go ahead. Finish university, work for a few years, start to settle down, then have your quarter-life crisis and decide to pack up and start over again, but this time in Cameroon or Bolivia or Indonesia. You can blog about it, get a book deal and have Hollywood make a movie about your life. It’ll be a good time.
Your generation isn’t nearly as shallow, apathetic, or clueless as the media makes you out to be. (Right?) Sure you want to have fun and spend some of your holiday sleeping in, dancing on pub tables, and extreme sporting, but you want a little more to show for your time away from home than a sunburn and a few blurry photos taken with your friend’s camera phone.
If you’re looking for an experience that will let you combine good times and good deeds, consider spending time as a volunteer in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Nepal, Nicaragua, Peru, or Tanzania.
With the Volunteer Abroad program, you can work with kids in a local school, support conservation efforts, help rebuild homes and schools in regions that have been hit by floods or earthquakes, assist in a medical clinic, or pick out one of the many other worthwhile projects available.
So get yourself connected. Projects last between 4 and 24 weeks, making it simple to combine a shorter project with a backpacking trip you’re planning, or make the volunteer experience the main part of your itinerary. Volunteer Abroad will help you plan your travel arrangements, including any day trips, weekend activities, or other destinations you want to add to your adventure.
What are they feeding people in the Dallas airport?
I was flying home yesterday from a mini-vacation in Boston, Mass., and during my layover the airline announced that the plane they had was smaller than the plane they originally booked. That meant too many people and too few seats.
Since I wasn’t in a big hurry to get home, I volunteered to give up my seat for the $300 travel voucher they were offering. I grabbed a bite to eat, read a book and killed the extra two hours I had thinking about where I should go for my next trip, now that I had $300 to spend on airfare.
What I didn’t find out until later was that my original flight took off, had a medical emergency and had to go back. By the time they settled everything and took off a second time, it was after I took off, so they arrived after me.
So now I’m up $300 and I got in earlier than I would have if I had stayed on that flight. As a final bonus, my luggage was on my original flight, and since it didn’t arrive with me, the airline delivered it to my house for free today, which means I didn’t have to lug it on the train from the airport home.
You’ve moved into the dorm, or your new off-campus apartment, or maybe you’re still at home and commuting to school.
Now Grandma is asking if there’s anything you need, any way she can help out. You have the essentials covered for now, but you’re already thinking about your first three-day weekend, and Winter Break is coming up after that.
So you say, “Actually, I could use a little help with my _______.” And fill in the blank with “next flight home”, “holiday travel plans”, “volunteer trip” or “upcoming semester abroad”.
But Grandma can’t afford the $1,000 or so you need. She wants to give you $50 or maybe $100. No problem. Have her give it to you as a travel gift certificate so that you can put it toward the next trip you book (and you won’t be tempted to spend it at the local pub’s trivia night or on something silly, like school supplies).
Visit TravelCUTS.com to learn more about travel gift certificates or buy one for a friend. After all, it’s just as good to give as to get.
All of my past travels have been purely selfish. I went places that I thought would be exciting, adventurous or beautiful or places where I had friends and family to visit or places where I had a free couch to stay on.
Now I’d like a chance to travel for good, where my time will help someone other than myself.
There are many options available for volunteering abroad depending on if you want to volunteer for a week or two, a month or a year. Here are two names in volunteer travel that you know you can trust to provide you with a well-planned cultural experience:
Volunteer Abroad is run by Travel CUTS and places students and adults with groups that build housing, run health clinics, support education and do other things to get involved in communities around the world. They have programs for Summer and Reading Week as well as other times during the year.You do have to pay for these programs, but the program fee covers accommodation, meals, language training, activities during your orientation week and cultural training. Your international flight, transfer to your placement and weekend trips are not included.
Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program connects you with a home-building project in one of the dozens of countries around the world where they operate, from New Zealand to Romania to Macedonia. Projects last from 9-14 days, so you could easily combine your volunteer time with a regular holiday.Habitat trips cost between $1,275 and $2,500 (travel to and from not included), depending on your destination, but they provide ways for you to fundraise through their site.
Some universities also offer summer volunteer projects, so check with your study abroad office to see if they have anything that interests you.
If you have other volunteer programs to recommend, leave a comment below.