Did you spend a chunk of your 20s backpacking around the world? Are you the sort of traveller who loves immersing themselves in a culture and community? Do you want to take a holiday, or make a difference? And what if you could do both? These are the questions a growing number of Australians are asking themselves as they join one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry: voluntourism.
Combining tourism with volunteering, travellers spend anything from a couple of days to several months working on development or eco projects around the world. Subtly different from volunteering, where skilled individuals undertake longer placements in the developing world, this group is combining altruism with a desire to gain deeper travel experiences than they ever could as a tourist.
They pay their own way – but usually come back enriched beyond their wildest dreams. “It’s a whole different type of travelling,” says Dr Stephen Wearing, associate professor in the School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism at the University of Technology, Sydney. “It’s growing in popularity because many parents of 18-to-25- year-olds would prefer them to do an organised volunteer experience, and Gen Y is just more altruistic. But it’s also attracting older people who backpacked 30 years ago.”
If you’re interested in working at the grassroots level, sleeping in basic accommodation, living on a local wage, and changing others’ lives, then read on.
If you have a few days…
• Responsible Travel – Journey to remote northeast Arnhem Land to work side by side with the Aboriginal rangers collecting, cataloguing and disposing of the marine rubbish that’s posing a significant threat to the local community. Not only will you gain insight into the Yolngu people’s knowledge about the land, sea and animals, depending on the season, you may get to release turtles. Click here and select “Aboriginal tours” in the Location drop-down menu.