Voluntourism: Traveling With A Purpose

Uganda's pastoral countryside

Uganda's pastoral countryside. Image: Meera Ashish

New breed of tours and adventures combine social consciousness with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

So it’s summertime and everyone’s either traveling or making last-minute plans for a vacation.  And by all indicators, many travelers are no longer satisfied by mere holidaying, as they are looking for something that will not only be enjoyable, but will also provide personal development and sense of purpose.  Exciting new options on the travel menu, collectively called “voluntourism,” comprise a fast-growing sector of the industry, and connect people of all ages and walks of life who want to make a difference while they travel. It’s  essentially been around for a long time, but each year, there are an increasing number of both travel providers and people, even honeymooners, who want to use their holiday time to do something meaningful and satisfying.

Issues have been raised as to how beneficial short-term volunteering really is for communities, as some even call it a new form of colonialism. While it is true that in some cases the volunteer benefits more than the communities, there is something to be said about making a commitment to altruism, especially in younger travelers, who want to make a difference, albeit in a short amount of time.

Truth be told, I can speak from my own experience: I used to work with an organisation in London called Connect India, which organises various programmes for young British Indians. This year, they’ve started Insight India, which will take 14-18 year olds to India to provide an insight into her culture and heritage. If an individual at the age of 15 takes the initiative to engage in such a programme and, perhaps, continues to do so for years to come, they may decide to work in the non-profit or political field in the future, possibly making a bigger difference in our world at large.

For those yearning to contribute as they travel, there are many ways to do so. If adventure and sport are more your thing than volunteering, then why not raise money for a good cause while engaging in something adventurous and travel-oriented? Opt for biking holidays, hiking trips, mountain treks and so much more. In December of this year, for example, there’s a seven-day cycling trip taking place in Uganda, Cycle4Uganda, which will take a hundred international participants through rural highlands and bustling towns of the country, all to raise money for secondary schools in Uganda.

A quick browse through responsibletravel.com reveals an abundance of walking and adventure trips, including the opportunity to have your own customized holiday for those who want a deeper experience delving into and the cultures and ways of life of the places they visit.

Ultimately, every trip is in essence a learning journey. So why not proactively learn something new, travel in a different way, and immerse yourself in a different culture to see the world with new eyes.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by team wandermelon, Ann Wycoff. Ann Wycoff said: Traveling With A Purpose: New breed of tours and adventures combine social consciousness with once-in-a-life… http://bit.ly/aAqKpv […]

  2. Nigel Ball on July 30, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Nice to see Uganda mentioned… Having been there before I’d highly recommend it. Be great to see it by bike too!

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