We can all agree that traveling is the best thing in the world, right? WRONG. The best thing in the world is working towards a positive impact on our society at large. Sure, it’s not as sexy as Tahiti and it usually involves fewer piña coladas, but you can’t argue that altruism improves your overall quality of life.
Well cool news, dudes: Traveling and volunteering converge with a little something called “voluntourism.” While the concept isn’t new — travel with the explicit goal of volunteer work — the idea has really caught fire in the past few years. Millennials especially are interested in seeking out experiences and doing good, and global communities are happily accepting the generation’s generosity.
But it gets a little tricky to know which opportunities are legit and which are exploitative scams. (For instance, some “ready-made orphanages” are falsely founded to siphon money.) A good rule of thumb is to pursue non-monetary voluntourism opportunities where the work is literally hands-on and you can see results in real time (think: farming, building, teaching).
No matter your interests, there are plenty of voluntourism opportunities that are valid, safe, and hugely beneficial. As with all charitable efforts, you just need to do your due diligence. Luckily for you, we’ve done the work for you.
Go Overseas rating: 93 percent positive
If you’re passionate about healthy food and sustainable food chains, WWOOF may be an ideal choice for you. Choose from 120 countries, then go live and work on a farm — from olive groves in Italy to chestnut farms in Korea.
Go Overseas rating: 94 percent positive
This varied-project organization teams up with well-rated international partners (think The Red Cross, WWF, Project AWARE) to tackle global issues. It’s a great place to start if you aren’t wed to a specific cause and prefer to browse a mix of opportunities.
Go Overseas rating: 96 percent positive
Science, nature, and adventure come together in this organization that focuses on environmental impact projects. Choose from wildlife, archaeology, climate change, and ocean health: You can monitor ocelots in Trinidad or help save Joshua Tree’s desert species!
Go Overseas rating: 97 percent positive
This conservationist-specific voluntourism group will have you hands-on with endangered species. From observing baby turtles in Seychelles to rehabbing rhinos in South Africa, you can have a very real effect on saving species from extinction.
Go Overseas rating: 100 percent positive
If your muscles are as strong as your desire to do good, consider Build Abroad. It’s the leader in construction volunteering with a focus on homes, schools, and infrastructure improvements. They’re located in in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru, so you can explore volcanoes and rainforests in your spare time.
Go Overseas rating: 95 percent positive
Global Volunteers offers a diverse range of projects, but its primary focus is community development and humanitarianism. If you want to work directly with people, GV is a trustworthy: It’s been around since ’84 and all of their projects are verified by local leaders.
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