We spend a lot of time thinking about — and planning for — trip experiences that go beyond the standard beach vacation. How can we connect with locals? Contribute to the economy? Make new friends? Make some meaning for ourselves? And do so in a dignified manner — without exploiting the environment or the people in it?
The world of volunteer travel is a tricky one, but we've found a number of organizations that take great pains to evaluate needs, give assistance with respect, and utilize the traveler's skills and resources to great, positive effect.
We searched, polled, interviewed, and collected anecotes from participants (incuding Fathom contributors) and organizers in the realm of health, food, environment, animal welfare, and education to assemble what we think are 24 great opportunities to do good wherever you go.
Check back over the course of the month: We'll be publishing firsthand accounts from the field.
SEE THE SLIDESHOW
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE
All month long, we'll be spotlighting stories that strike a chord for global giving. Check back.
Voluntourism 101: Tips for Giving Back
Find a balance between enjoying traveling and recognizing why you're there. Respect cultural norms and figure out how you can best help the community. You'll have an incredible experience.
6 Good for You Gifts
These gifts will help cultivate a warm and fuzzy feeling, no matter where in the world you unwrap them.
14 Photos of People Who Are Changing the World
We asked you to show us how you give back. We never imagined how inspiring the images would be.
Giving Backing in the Maldives with Atoll Volunteers
I swam alongside a large hawksbill turtle for about a minute, until I ran out of air. We made eye contact with each other the entire time.
Bridge the Gap Villages, Fiji
Bridge the Gap Villages has given us a way to channel our energy into creating the meaning in life we were seeking while giving back to the community that adopted us when we needed it most.
Vorovoro: The Little Island That Could
We took a boat ride to Vorovoro Island, down a lazy river of mangroves and out towards Cakaulevu Reef. I fell in love with the island before I set foot on its shores.
Keeping Haiti in Mind
A photo diary from a photographer's ten-day trip to Port-au-Prince with the English in Mind Institute.
How I Got Hooked on Haiti
Anybody who comes here is stepping out of the ordinary. They don't come to enjoy air-conditioning, color TV, pools, and saunas. It's to experience something that is very warm and very real.
I Followed Orangutans Down the Road Less Traveled in Borneo
It was an intense four-week program that involved laboring in the heat of the Bornean sun, but to see the infant orangutans climb on the structures we built was a joy to behold.
Local Alike Builds Community in Thailand
Assumptions turn out to be arbitrary fears. Human connection comes naturally when we all let our guard down and embrace differences.
Diving with the Great Whites of Gansbaai
It's not just about the thrill of seeing sharks up close for the first time. It's about replacing fear with respect. One Marine Dynamics volunteer tells us what it was like swimming in a cage mere feet from them.
All Aboard the World's Most Charitable Ship
A floating hospital sails the coast of Africa to provide free medical care to ill people in developing countries. Hop on board for a chat with a volunteer nurse.
Building a Nest in Morocco
A woman teaches me their shrieking technique, and I realize why I do things for Nest, why I came to Morocco to meet these women. We are part of something phenomenal.
One Kid, One World, One Incredible Trip
Travel junkies. Out-of-the-box thinkers. Donors who want to see their money at work. This is the trip for you.
Voluntarism in the Amazon with The Pachamama Alliance
Our host family explained that they thoroughly enjoy housing guests from various countries since they aren't financially able to travel to these places.
Going Organic on the Mediterranean
For Liz Barratt-Brown, owner of historic Pedruxella Gran in Mallorca, Spain, the garden of Eden might just be her own olive grove.
Heroes on Horseback in India: Relief Riders International
I wanted riders to have a deep connection with each other, the villages, and the land. The ride through India offers people a dynamic trip that allows them to grow as well as help others.
To the Horses of Humanity
The stillness of the lake on one side. The babbling, noisy, river of humanity on the other. It seems to represent the contrast that is India. A Relief Riders International volunteer shares her story.
How to Run a Farm in St. Croix
Living off the land in a manner that makes the place better is not only possible, it breeds inspiration and healing. And on top of that, people will pay for it. Ridge to Reef Farm owner Nate Olive tells us how.
He Built a Farm in Paradise
Old life: Atlanta, nature, parks. New life: St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, farming, sustainability, giving back. Watch the new "Ex-Pats," and wonder, "could I trade my life for one in paradise?"
Kayak the Appalachians with the Sierra Club
Kayaking in the North Carolina mountains, listening to the bugs at night, working with the National Forest staff, getting caught in a late summer rain shower, and warming and drying by the evening campfire.
A Spark of Inspiration For Giving Back
Spark Ventures gives back to local communities in Nicaragua and Zambia.
Spark Ventures on a Children's Crusade
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." So what can we do to make a difference — especially from Chicago? We interview Spark Ventures CEO, Richard Johnson.