Give Back While You Get Away—Take a Volunteer Vacation
Make your next trip more meaningful by giving back to the communities (and the natural habitats) you visit.
Getting away from it all may sound like an ideal vacation, but opting for an itinerary with an altruistic twist could prove to be just as rewarding. In a shift toward natural resource preservation, both locals and visitors to some popular destinations are turning an eye toward the environmental impact of tourism. The result: A new kind of "experience travel" designed to clean up overrun hot spots and help give back to the communities who call them home.
While the Global Sustainable Tourism Council is working to help destinations become more eco-friendly-they've outlined a certification criterion that ranges from supporting local businesses to conserving natural resources and encouraging visitors to participate in the community-a number of start-ups are equally committed to helping travelers do the same. Here's a look at what they offer. Plus, a few breathtaking destinations to consider for your next eco-jaunt.
Elevate Destinations has been called the Warby Parker of travel: Every journey booked-whether it's a foodie tour in Bolivia or a trek through Bhutan-enables an underserved group of children to visit an important site in their home country (Machu Picchu in Peru, for instance).
If you want to get your hands even dirtier, WWOOF places volunteers on organic farms, from olive groves in Greece to a vineyard in Patagonia. Guests typically live with families, cook what they pick, and linger over laid-back meals.
Adventures in Preservation
History and architecture buffs will love Adventures in Preservation, which operates in the U.S. and Europe. Retreats include sleeping in a French château while helping to restore its 19th-century kitchen and chapel; or, in Virginia, you can excavate a 1600s plantation manor house.
If saving the planet while also exploring somewhere beautiful is important to you, consider an active eco-excursions. In Huntington Beach, California, you can help clean up the oceans. Without intervention, trash in Huntington Harbour drifts right into the ocean. The Surfrider Foundation intercepts it on scenic kayak trips that double as cleanup missions. Should a trip to Colorado be of great interest, we found a spot where you can take the whole family along. Kid-friendly trips with Volunteer for Outdoor Colorado take groups hiking on backcountry trails and camping beneath the stars, between gardening- and-planting sessions in national forests.
And if the tropical islands of Hawaii are calling, feel good about a trip to Maui. Help clear invasive plant species and get a close-up of Hawaiian history: The Pacific Whale Foundation puts volunteers in stunning natural areas that are otherwise closed to the public, like a decades-old archaeological site in the Honokowai Valley.