Many of us spend our time counting the minutes to our next vacation when we can leave our work behind. But for some, working on vacation is far more rewarding than sitting on a beach sipping daiquiris. Not the kind of work that comes from your laptop, but the kind that comes from your heart -- a volunteer vacation.
Imagine taking care of babies in one of Mother Teresa's clinics in India. On another continent, you could teach English to children in Costa Rica, where there is little or no access to schools. Some volunteers may choose to work on sea turtle conservation in Ecuador or be interested in learning the basics of dolphin society in New Zealand. A volunteer vacation is not just a trip; it is quite literally an odyssey comprised of three parts: service, learning and subsequently getting involved back home. Think of it as a trip that keeps on giving to you and everyone around you. It's not necessarily for everyone, but if you are intrigued, read on.
First, begin researching and planning your trip no less than three months prior to the planned start of your volunteer experience. The first step is to find an organization that promotes programs that match your interests. There are many organizations that will help you through every step of planning your volunteer vacation. Not sure where to start? The resourceful Web site TransitionsAbroad.com has links to some of the best organizations to consider for your volunteer vacation. Idealist.org also lists volunteer organizations around the world.
Once you have found a company with a project that interests you, consider the caveats and other pertinent considerations. You should have access to program alumni, and you should not have to pay for program information. Do not send money until you have chosen a project and are securing your reservation. If you are browsing an organization's Web site or program guide, you should see a detailed breakdown of how program fees are used; a reputable organization will use 90 to 100 percent of funds received towards the various costs of the program.
Finally, you might see these letters and numbers: 501(c)(3). These numbers refer to a section of the U.S. Internal Revenue code that governs non-profit organizations. All companies must adhere to strict regulations to maintain their status as not-for-profit companies by filing an annual report. As an individual, you have a right to review the report. There should be clear instructions on the Web site on how to obtain this information. Doing the pre-trip "homework" is easy.
The real challenge will be trying to decide where in the world you would like to go and what type of project you would like to participate in. You might soon be on your way to monitoring nesting success and ecology of endangered hawksbill turtles in Barbados or assessing the nutritional aspects of rare Namibian rhinos to help improve their reproductive potential and stave off extinction.
So: Are you ready to try? Can you make this a New Years Resolution you will love keeping?
What To Expect
Regardless to what experience you select, you can enact change somewhere in the world and simultaneously change yourself. As you are working, you will experience an immersion into the local culture that you would never receive on a typical vacation. At the same time those around you will get a taste of your own culture. You will meet new people and develop friendships that may last a lifetime. You will see and do something new, different and worthwhile every day.
You can expect to spend a lot of time working, but it will probably not feel like "work." You will often have some of your afternoons free, as well as evenings and weekends. Local guides and program coordinators will assist you in choosing interesting activities for your free time. Since you are participating in what for some travelers is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (though many volunteers choose to repeat the experience), you should try and make the most of
Naturally, you'll want to take photographs, but if you wish to photograph the local people, please ask for permission before snapping a photo. Some cultures believe that picture taking is intrusive and might violate their cultural beliefs. The organization with which you plan your trip will inform you of this and other local traditions, beliefs and customs.
You don’t have to go to Africa, Barbados, or Costa Rica to travel as an Environmental Ambassador, (but please don’t remove these places from your “bucket list”. There are usually local places to get your feet wet while having a marvelous time and reducing the carbon footprint!
STAY. PLAY. LEARN. CARE. Welcome to the California Coast.
Explore marine life from abalone to elephant seals, find specialty lodging packages, learn about nature preserves, fun citizen science, and the many seaside hikes found on the Central Coast
Come celebrate the first annual “Coastal Discovery & Stewardship Month” honoring California’s rich heritage, Highway 1 Discovery Route, and the country’s first Stewardship Travel Program (STP). We make it easy for you to find more than 70 unique, enjoyable and inspiring activities and/or contribution opportunities with area historians, scientists, and specialists in more than ten localities, including: Ragged Point/San Simeon, Cambria, Cayucos, unincorporated Morro Bay, Los Osos/Baywood Park, Avila Beach & Valley, Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, Oceano and Nipomo.
During Coastal Discovery & Stewardship Month delight in special seafood dishes from local restaurants listed below that support environmentally responsible seafood choices. Take a Whale Watching adventure or learn about our marine birdlife. Those who are adventurous will enjoy WineCoastCountry’s Kayak, wind surfing and kite boarding outfitters, paying special attention to the whales, dolphins, and elephant seals migrating during this time of year. Take the Pacific Coast Wine Trail or jump onto a Hummer or ATV to check out the area. There’s also planned pier and beach walks as well as a special Tide Pool App you can download on your phone.
Consider the Blue Dolphin Inn
Blue Dolphin Inn is situated steps from the beach and seaside boardwalk that runs two miles along the coast. Take in the scenic sunsets while sipping a glass of renowned local wine. The six full oceanview specialty rooms feature places in the world where dolphins are found in abundance. The lower full oceanview rooms provide spacious patios to delight in the scenery and coastal breezes. The upper level full oceanview rooms allow unparalleled seascapes.
Breakfast is individually prepared from a selection of foods designed to fulfill every appetite. If a celebration of any kind is in order, Blue Dolphin Inn is a perfect place to recognize an accomplishment or milestone. Grab a loved one or meet an old friend for an unforgettable getaway that is environmentally friendly.
P.S: Get ready for the time of your life!