What is volunteer travel good for? How about seeing exotic places, learning something fantastic, and doing some good - all at the same time.
But, if you're a budget traveler, either from need or plain common sense, you might think that voluntourism is for the well-heeled and willing-to-spend traveler only.
I'm here to tell you that isn't true. There are many opportunities that are quite manageable on a low budget. The trick to a great volunteer travel experience is to pick experienced organizations that have a lot of service programs and a long history with them. That way you can be assured that the project is well run and the bugs have been worked out.
Here are three volunteer travel opportunities that fit those criteria, and that won't break the bank.
Tutor children at a Navaho reservation school.
That wonderful redo of Elderhostel, Road Scholar, offers a tutoring program for the Navajo Nation Schools in Arizona. This highly popular program, coordinated by Northern Arizona University, has two 6-night programs (back-to-back in October and November so you can attend just one or both).
Travelers assist children and teachers in Navajo Reservation schools. The program has a history back to the late '90s, so you can be sure that it is well organized. Besides tutoring, participants learn about the Navajo culture, take a field trip, and enjoy evening lectures and entertainment.
The cost? Less than $700. That's a bargain, and you'll be close to many Southwestern attractions, such as the Grand Canyon, for pre and post program fun. (Road Scholar is for those 50 years of age and older.)
Road Scholar has many other service programs, such as archaeological preservation in the four corners of Colorado; rehabilitating the endangered panthers of Florida; and environmental restoration on Chincoteague Island in Virginia.
Build houses while traveling in your RV.
Yes, Habitat for Humanity has a special program for RVers. It's called RV Care-A-Vanners.
When you volunteer with this program, you'll connect with a local Habitat affiliate and receive free or low-cost RV parking. It costs nothing to participate, and the RV programs last about two weeks. You can choose to participate in the actual building of a house or, if you're not the handy sort, you can be assigned to less strenous activities.
Right now there are builds available from Florida to New Mexico to Canada. Check out this special page at the Habitat for Humanity website.
Preserve history in Pennsylvania.
If you're a history buff, you'll love this service program, offered through the Sierra Club, at Valley Forge National Historic Park in Pennsylvania.
The Sierra Club is renowned for its wonderful travel and volunteer programs and reasonable costs. This particular program is scheduled for this October and costs less than $600 for a six-day stint.
Participants will help preserve historical and natural resources within the park, but with free time to explore and learn. Plus, you'll be there for the fall foliage.
Once you navigate to the Sierra Club website, you'll be entranced by the variety and simple abundance of travel opportunities that this organization offers. These service projects are usually small groups, so you'll need to plan in advance to get involved.
Volunteer travel can be budget friendly, and there are a myriad of opportunities available. Here are some leads to more possibilities:
- VolunTourism - Top Sources for Finding Volunteer Travel and Vacations
- Decide If VolunTourism -- Volunteer Travel -- Is For You
- Volunteer Travel for Seniors
- Travelanthropis.com - A website for voluntourists.
- Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others, Bill McMillon (Chicago Review Press, 2012)