Friday, March 15, 2013

Voluntourism; Life Changing Family Travel

It's a growing trend; family vacations that are more than just a vacation.  Family getaways that not only offer the opportunity to create phenomenal memories, but truly life changing volunteering experiences that till the collective family consciousness and plant the seeds of gratitude, compassion, awe, generosity, and the responsibilities of global citizenship.  The phenomenon has been loosely dubbed "voluntourism" and it has become a more popular choice for many families in recent years.

We've all heard the stories of "that youth group that went to Central America to help impoverished communities establish schools" or "someone's cousin who took 6 months to go to Appalachia and build homes for needy families with Habitat for Humanity."  And now, with increasing frequency, we are hearing about families embarking on trips that mingle traditional tourist activities like sightseeing with the opportunity to volunteer their time helping improve the conditions or quality of life in the community they are visiting.

Sierra Club logo
Earthwatch logo
There are a number of reputable organizations that offer a wide range of different volunteering expedition opportunities; so whether your family has a passion for working to aid environmental causes, impoverished communities, or helping unearth civilizations past via archaeological adventures, there's something out there for everyone!  For excursions within the US, the Sierra Club is our favorite resource!  Their site features an entire section of excursions for families ranging from those traveling with infants/toddlers to those with tweens and teens.  Outside the US, we love, whose site provides a phenomenal amount of information as well as their excursions for this upcoming year.

It must be noted that before you consider embarking on a family adventure that gives you a chance to introduce your children to the "classroom all around them," you should plan to do some substantial research.  While both the Sierra Club and Earthwatch have outstanding, informative sites, for the most comprehensive guide to voluntouring you'll want to check out Travelanthropist.  Their website offers advice on everything from determining the best destination for your family to how to perform effective pre-trip due-diligence.

As with any trip, be sure to keep the proper perspective and to choose something that will give all the members of your family a chance to feel they have participated; encourage everyone's efforts and use the opportunity to bond in a deep and meaningful way.  Safe and happy travels wherever the road may take you!

-Destination Mom


  1. Now, that's what I call a unique vacation. I'm going to pitch this volunteerism idea to my family before I book a travel republic deal. We're planning to have a vacation in Vietman this summer, and I think volunteerism will make it more than just a typical vacation.

  2. Thanks for your feedback Sylvia Jordan... and best wishes on your family adventure in Vietnam this summer!

  3. Thanks for the list of organizations to volunteer with! We LOVE traveling and are realy interested in instilling this type of travel into our little one!