Americans Show Increased Interest in “Voluntourism”
(NewsUSA) – When Rose Blondin, 19, chose her vacation destination last year, she opted for hiking boots and T-shirts rather than bikinis and shades.
Blondin, a sophomore at Boston’s Emmanuel College, decided to spend her time working on a trail project with American Hiking Society (AHS) in the Smokey Mountains. “I learned so much about the environment when I went on hikes with the park ranger,” said Blondin. “The trip was a lot of hard work, but if you have a good attitude, you can really have an awesome experience.”
Blondin is not alone in pursuing non-leisure activities during vacation. The Travel Industry Association of America first noted that “voluntourism” was becoming more popular in 2005. Today, the practice has become more mainstream. Travelocity.com, a travel-booking Web site, surveyed over 1,000 travelers, and 38 percent expressed an interest in voluntourism. Some travelers make voluntourism a way of life. When 57-year-old Paul Tourville and 52-year-old Julia Tourville retired, they wanted to give back to the community and the environment. The couple became American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacations trip leaders, leading five trips so far this year.
For 30 years, American Hiking Society’s Volunteer Vacations have offered participants one of the most affordable, fulfilling ways to explore natural areas and help improve the hiking experience. Trips range from easy to strenuous, and most require no prior experience -; families can enjoy front-country projects and cabin stays, while those looking for a more physically challenging trip can hike to base camps or backpack. AHS partners with Columbia Sportswear to
provide gear to the guides.
How do you know if volunteerism is right for you? Here are some things to consider before you hit the trail:
- You need to prepare for the elements. Depending on region, elevation and plain old luck, conditions on the trail can range from hot and sunny to cool and damp and everywhere in between. In addition to sunscreen, you should consider wearing protective clothing, like Columbia’s sunprotective Omni-Shade shirts and convertible pants that zip into shorts. A good backpack and proper footgear are essential.
- You need to do your homework. Find out what projects most appeal to you. Decide whether you want to spend your nights in a cabin or on the trail. Plan ahead of time -; the winter months are a great time to plan your spring or summer vacation.
Visit www.americanhiking.org to find basic information about Volunteer Vacations, www.columbia.com for gear for your trip.