Voluntourism for Seniors
I have done a fair amount of traveling over the past 12 years, but for my next trip instead of just being a tourist I want a different experience. So, I looked into voluntourism for seniors.
What is Voluntourism for Seniors?
Voluntourism is defined as a trip that combines traditional travel and tourism with volunteer work. Travelers who participate in this type of trip are given opportunities to contribute money or time to causes related to their destinations.
The group I have been traveling lately is wonderful and has given me a little taste of volunteer travel already. When we were in Bangkok, for example, I had a wonderful massage given by someone who was taught the art of massage by a charity sponsored by the group. At least once or twice during each trip we have gone to a school or charity funded by the group, or had meals with local families.
Someone had made a difference in the lives of these people and now I want to become that someone.
Why Choose Voluntourism?
I started researching opportunities for seniors that would combine both travel and volunteering. My first round of research showed me that before I went any further, I needed to answer some questions about myself and the kind of experience I wanted to have.
I sat down and wrote a list of questions, which I compiled from researching what different groups offer, that enabled me to narrow the field of volunteer travel opportunities.
You will need to ask yourself:
- First and foremost, consider what kind of personality you are. Do you like everything organized or do you prefer to wing it?
- How is the time divided up between tourism and volunteering? Does that meet your needs?
- Do you like to work with your hands or do you prefer to work more with your brain or a combination of both?
- What is your lifestyle like? Do you prefer tents or five stars? Can you go a few days without showering?
- Do you have a special skill you can offer a group? If so, how will they utilize it?
- Are you up for strenuous work? Will you be able to lift and carry heavy loads, pound nails or climb hills? Or do you prefer more sedentary type of work?
- Does the organization and place you are considering offer medical care and repatriation in case of an accident or do you have to provide it on your own?
- What types of inoculations and papers are needed?
- What, if anything, does the organization offer in exchange for the work you’ll be doing or would you bear the entire cost?
- What are your passions? Can you find an organization that matches those?
- Are there challenges, physically or mentally, that you will have to overcome?
- Will you be able to speak to people in your age range who have volunteered with the group? Do you want to be solely with people around your same age or do you want a lot of different age ranges?
- What do you want to get out of this experience?
- If the geographic location is out of your comfort zone, are you okay with that?
- Will you be able to get along even if there is a language barrier?
- What if there are gender issues you do not agree with? Can you understand and cope with those?
- What are your expectations of the group?
- What is the average age of the people who volunteer with the group and/or on the project you are considering?
- How many hours a day will you work?
Where to Put Your Contributions
Selecting the right organization and the right program is every bit as important as selecting the country you are going to be volunteering in. Make sure, as much as you possibly can, that it is the right fit for you.
You need to get to know them and they need to get to know you. That is easily done through an email exchange of questions and answers and by speaking with people who have experience with the group. Based on your answers to the questions above, you should be able to narrow your scope of the possibilities that are available.
Where to Look for Voluntourism for Seniors
To help you get started, I have compiled a list of websites that have voluntourism opportunities for seniors, both for a fee and free placement:
- Global Volunteers: Seniors Sought for Service Programs Worldwide
- Hands Up Holidays: Luxury Travel, Meaningful Adventures
- Transitions Abroad: Young and Seniors Working Together
- Senior Volunteer Travel: Seeing the World While Helping Others
- Volunteer Abroad: A Compilation of Websites Offering A Variety of Programs
I personally love the idea of being an agent of change in people’s lives. While at the same time learning about new cultures, meeting new people and exploring new things.
I cannot wait to embark on my next adventure. Happy travels!