If you’re thinking about incorporating volunteer service into your travels, there are literally thousands upon thousands of opportunities to choose from all around the world. The voluntourism industry – combining volunteer work with more typical sightseeing and vacation time in a place – has exploded in recent years.
Some of the most common that come to mind when people think of voluntourism are working with children in school or orphanages, saving the rainforest or helping in some sort of third-world medical clinic. But if you really want to get off the beaten path and do something far more unusual, check out these awesome volunteer gigs.
Steep Yourself in History in the UK
Do you love the romance of the past? If so, National Trust volunteer and working holidays are for you. In locations throughout the countryside, you can assist house staff with preserving and running historic buildings, help with gardening or archaeology at historic sites, or work alongside a forester in countryside management. There are more than 400 opportunities available every year, from herding goats to surveying moorland plants, and some allow you to combine activities such as surfing, horse riding and digital photography.
Scuba Dive in Mexico
Interested in doing work below the sea rather than as a landlubber? Check out GVI’s “Marine Expedition in Mexico” program. Located just north of the Mayan village of Mahahual, you assist with marine habitats and conservation by monitoring coral and fish, conducting turtle nesting surveys and working with scientists at the field research center. The voluntourism aspect will take you to nearby villages and Mayan ruins, and let you learn basic Spanish. Participants must already be PADI certified in open water, but you’ll do one to two dives a day and improve your diving skills in this program that can last from 2-10 weeks. College credit is even available!
Save the Tasmanian Devil
If you’re thinking about Australia, you definitely want to check this place out. Devilish volunteers are involved in field monitoring and wild management of Tasmanian devils, helping with trapping at various sites across Tasmania. A typical survey lasts 11 – 12 days. While team leaders trap and release Tasmanian devils, volunteers assist with scrubbing and cleaning traps and scribing. You will four-wheel-drive into breathtakingly beautiful places that very few people get to see, and help an amazing endangered animal that is full of personality. Food, accommodations and transport to the work site and back are included; volunteers must get there on their own.
Work with Dian Fossey’s Gorillas in Rwanda
Dian Fossey is one of the world’s most famous animal researchers, and you can work with her beloved gorillas at her Karisoke Research Center. Volunteer positions available include rehabilitating orphaned gorillas or those rescued from poachers for release back into the wild, as well as helping to analyze the data collected and the opportunity to teach English in the local communities.
Assist Refugees in Thailand
In the charming, heavily expat city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, the Thai Freedom House assists families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and Indigenous peoples of Thailand. Thai Freedom House provides education in Thai and English language and the arts, as well as a community resource center with information on where to find valuable resources for people in need. There is also an on-site clothing donation and distribution center. The type of volunteer work available includes teaching ESL or art, office duties, working in the café, gardening and school-related functions. Volunteers must commit to a month minimum, and the typical placement is 6-8 weeks.
Don’t have the time to volunteer for an extended period? Think about becoming a flight escort for Let’s Adopt , an animal rescue organization. Flight escort volunteers simply inform Let’s Adopt of flights you already have planned, and if they have an animal that needs to travel that way for a new home, you meet the representative and furry friend at the airport, and meet the new adoptive family at the other end. Escorts never pay anything and do not have to arrange logistics or permits for the animals. Without people to get rescued animals from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ many of these animals would never find their loving forever homes. Seeing this joy first-hand is when you feel the truly amazing way you have contributed to this vital link in the animal rescue process, and it’s an easy way to make a big difference while you travel.