Take a vacation and combine it with some volunteer time and you become a voluntourist. According to NPR (2014) there are 1.6 million active voluntourists in the U.S. spending $2 billion annually (Wilson Quarterly 2015). These projects range from a day helping to restore coral in the South Pacific, volunteering for an eye mission to Nepal, building a school in Senegal, or helping pack apples at a food kitchen in Las Vegas.
You don’t need to be wealthy to travel to foreign lands to volunteer; you may not even have to go to foreign lands, as opportunities may exist within your own state. Boulder resident Jeff Blumenfeld’s new book, “Travel With Purpose: A Field Guide to Voluntourism” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), shows travelers how to identify the right location and volunteer opportunity, how to go about planning trips and preparing for volunteering, how to reach out, how to help.
Voluntourism, quite simply, is the growing trend of helping out at a vacation destination, whether for an hour, a day, a week or more. Or simply pack medical or school supplies in luggage to be donated upon arrival, according to Blumenfeld. “It’s not hard to lend a hand wherever you go.”
Through vivid examples and first-hand stories from both recipients of volunteer work and the volunteers themselves, “Travel with Purpose” may make you rethink your next vacation.
A chapter on staying safe during volunteer projects suggests not petting dogs or monkeys, carrying hand sanitizer everywhere, checking for bedbugs and ensuring that bottled water hasn’t been resealed. The dark side of voluntourism is addressed in a chapter that warns about shady orphanages populated by children from the countryside of Nepal who are, in fact, not orphans.
“Travel with Purpose” received a starred review in the American Library Association Booklist magazine (https://tinyurl.com/twpbooklist), which praises the book for its, “wealth of do’s and don’ts for starting to help readers learn new skills, lower expectations about what the work will be, avoid some of the darker issues (such as lack of sustainability and, unfortunately, human trafficking), and fund the project.”
Adds real estate expert and TV personality Barbara Corcoran, “Every traveler can benefit immensely by lending a hand to local organizations wherever they travel for business or pleasure. “Travel with Purpose” explains how to do this most effectively and with passion. Don’t miss this book!”
Boulder resident Jeff Blumenfeld is editor and publisher of Expedition News, an online publication (expeditionnews.com) he founded in 1994 to cover news about the adventure marketing field. Excerpts from Expedition News also appear in The Explorers Club quarterly Explorers Journal. A Fellow of The Explorers Club (explorers.org) based in New York, he is chairman of its Rocky Mountain chapter, and member of its prestigious Flag & Honors Committee. In addition, Blumenfeld is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society based in London.
His first book was “Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would-be World Travelers” (Skyhorse, 2014).
In 2013 and 2017 he served as communications director for the Dooley Intermed Foundation’s “Gift of Sight” Expedition to Nepal – an effort to bring badly needed quality eye care to 700 impoverished villagers. Blumenfeld is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Colorado’s College of Media, Communication & Information.
“Travel with Purpose” is sold online and in bookstores nationwide. For more information: www.travelwithpurposebook.com, @purpose_book