10 Great Volunteer Vacations
Why not extend the goodwill and start planning for your next travel experience with an eco-friendly volunteer vacation in mind?
Here are 10 great ways to not only get your butt off the couch this summer, but to make a difference through travel with a voluntourism opportunity.
1. The American Hiking Society offers multiple volunteer opportunities to help clean up our nation’s gorgeous trails. Each trip is made up of a crew of between six and 15 volunteers and a leader. The Hiking Society has trips organized by level ruggedness—i.e. whether you’re sleeping tents or cabin—and level of difficulty. The average vacation length is a week, but each volunteer can choose to participate for as long or as short a time period they wish.
If you’re looking for a real getaway, check out a program at the Hawaii Nature Center in Maui, Hawaii in which volunteers will cut new trails through the vegetation or the Summit Creek Trail on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska in which volunteers will remove invasive plant species.
But don’t confuse a volunteer vacation with a traditional vacation: The workday starts early at 8 a.m. and volunteers work for about seven hours, followed by an afternoon of doing camp chores and exploring the local area. But the really good news is that these experiences are affordable: the first trip costs $245 for American Hiking Society Members and $275 for non-members; every trip after that costs only $175 per person. http://americanhiking.org/volunteerVacation.aspx
2. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) teaches students leadership, environmental ethics, and wilderness skills. The organization offers courses ranging anywhere from 10 days to a full year. Previous experience is not needed—all you need to have is a positive attitude and an interest in learning wilderness skills. NOLS has courses for participants ages 14 and up.
One upcoming trip includes a 16-day Whitewater River Expedition in which students learn to kayak and row an oar rig on Utah’s Green River, starting from $3,535 per person. Or, if you are interested in developing your outdoorsy skills this winter, check out the Winter Outdoor Educator Trip in which students learn to build snow kitchens, igloos, and snow caves in Idaho Falls, Idaho. This trip departs in January and costs about $2,500 per person. NOLS can offer college credit if needed. http://www.nols.edu
3. If natural science is your thing, Earthwatch Institute may be for you. The group pairs real scientists with volunteers to work on finding solutions to the world’s environmental problems. Expeditions include visiting the Santa Lucia Reserve of Ecuador where volunteers take inventory of local species and their eating habits, which help’s the reserve workers to create habitat action plans. This trip departs in June and September and costs $2,550 per person.
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