The voluntourism travel segment is growing fast, and certain trends are starting to emerge. Over 69% of users are women, with half over the age of 35, and a third of all users are over 50 . The percentage of university aged students, and faith-based missions have shrunk as voluntourism becomes more accessible, transparent, and personalized. We are seeing older couples, newlyweds, and families in greater numbers, along with single female travelers who see a benefit from being in a larger group with similar interests. This is exciting for all involved. Yet questions remain as to what it’s all about, why people engage, and what makes a voluntourist.
Voluntourism itself, is the act of volunteering in place of, or in conjuction with, traditional travel opportunities. Generally speaking, these are short-term experiences ranging from one week to three months, and can fill the role of a holiday alternative. Voluntourists use both their time and resources to help communities and eco-systems in need. In doing so, they are rewarded with deeper cultural connections, broader exposure, applied learning opportunities, and a positive sense of fulfillment, and there are no shortage of opportunities to choose from.
However, the right voluntouring project requires homework. It means asking tough questions of yourself, and the volunteer organisation. There are two distinct pillars of decision-making that one must address. Those being; the operational and philosophical standards needed to make you feel comfortable with giving your time and resources, and what the legacy of your impact is.
To start, volunteers need to ask themselves: Why am I doing this? Where do I want to go? What project type do I want to support? Projects range from humanitarian, community development, teaching and mentoring, and environmental/wildlife conservation. From there, volunteers must ask any potential organisation how they operate, how is my personal health and wellness looked after, what are the local impacts on the ground, and what are the fees?
Volunteering is an amazing opportunity to do something completely out of the ordinary, meet amazing people, and make a difference in the process. It doesn’t speak to everyone, but it speaks to a growing number of us that are looking for something completely different.
An amazing way to search through what’s available is via GoVoluntouring.com, a free website connecting travellers with volunteer projects all over the world.