Do good and see the world
Relief Riders International sends participants to help Indian villagers.
If an extravagant vacation is out of the question, but the idea of another staycation feels, well, underwhelming, you may want to make a creative compromise: combining volunteering with traveling.While hard numbers are tough to come by, experts say “voluncationing” is on the rise.
Studies indicate that mixing beneficence with pleasure increased by about 30 percent this year; last year about 100,000 Americans took voluncations. There’s a sort of Oprah “pay it forward” sensibility that many may find appealing as they themselves struggle economically, said David Clemmons, founder of Voluntourism, an organization that sets up volunteer-travel packages. Simultaneously, there’s a hipster cachet to the notion of “traveling through India on horseback and helping villagers, or lodging at an organic farm in Spain and milking goats,” he said. Bonus: The trips are usually tax-deductible.
The cost, type of work, length of stay and quality of room and board vary, but there’s something out there for almost everyone.
FoodiesIn return for a few hours of assistance each day, WWOOF hosts offer farm-fresh food and
For the food-obsessed, it would be tough to beat the plethora of opportunities (such as cheese-making, viticulture and harvesting) available through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
board at farms around the world. The work is light and travelers have plenty of time to escape the farm and explore local sites. There’s no cost, except for transportation and any additional activities.
City slickers pining for the great outdoors have numerous cut-rate options.
The Sierra Club runs trips worldwide in which participants help rangers restore parks, assist on research projects at whale calving grounds or poke around archaeological digs.
Trips last a week and the cost varies — many are about $500, including room and board.
American Hiking Society
The American Hiking Society offers service trips — including stewardship projects such as trail maintenance, bridge renovation and installation of drainage structures — around the U.S. The trips range from easy (day hikes) to very strenuous (five to 15 miles of rugged backpacking each day) and cost about $250, which covers food and accommodations.
Best Friends Animal Society
The Best Friends Animal Society is the country’s largest sanctuary for abused animals, nestled on 33,000 acres in Utah. Best Friends offers a program in which volunteers feed, clean and spend time with the animals (and take advantage of the surrounding gorgeous scenery). Accommodations cost about $65 a night.
Relief Riders International
If money isn’t an issue, there’s always a 15-day horseback-riding trip through India with Relief Riders International. Participants can explore southern Rajasthan and help villagers set up medical camps. Cost: $6,300 (room and board included; airfare is not included).