Zip through the bustling city of Hanoi on the back of a motorbike to teach English, discover Italy's ancient Roman coast, or play with the children at a local orphanage in Costa Rica. These aren't out-of-reach travel experiences -- these are volunteer vacations.
Students and work professionals are changing their vacation experience by signing up to volunteer with medical, environmental, and teaching programs around the world. Volunteer vacations can last up to two weeks and will give you the chance to fully immerse yourself into a new culture, see the sights, and help out the community with some hard work.
If you want to see the world but are looking to cut costs, a volunteer vacation could be the best fit for you. Here is why the traveling community is buzzing about this alternative to a tourist vacation:
1. Financial rewards
Teaming up with a charitable organization for a volunteer vacation means that the organization will help cut down on costs through hotel group rates and donations. Each program is set up differently, so be sure to figure out expenses before signing any papers, but keep in mind that a portion of your expenses may be tax-deductible.
2. Get active
The best memories you'll take away from the experience will be working. Instead of sitting on a beach with hundreds of other tourists, get down and dirty in the building of a school or travel to parts of a city a guide book would have never directed you to and speak to locals about development projects. From helping with conservation projects to working with children, putting your time and energy into working for a worthy cause is an experience like none other.
3. Learn something
If you're interested in teaching or environmental issues, a volunteer vacation is a great jump start to your career. You can teach English in a rural school or gain insight into the field of marine biology. In addition to working for a cause you're interested in, you'll be learning more about the culture you're visiting and picking up some of their language during your stay.
4. Help others
The point of a volunteer vacation is to give back. Building homes for underprivileged families or assisting in a community development project may only take a few weeks of your time, but these communities will feel the impact of your hard work for many years to come. Give back to the world by helping a community in need and you'll walk away with an experience of a lifetime.