Would You Like to ‘Travel with Purpose’?
Creative Stories of Volunteer Vacationing at Home and Abroad
April 2019 saw the launch of a comprehensive new field guide to the many variations of voluntourism in the 21st century by Colorado-based globetrotter and author, Jeff Blumenfeld. Travel with Purpose: A Field Guide to Voluntourism profiles examples from Blumenfeld’s travels and from many others illustrating that you don’t need to be wealthy to travel to foreign lands to volunteer. In fact, you may not even have to go to foreign lands at all, as opportunities abound within your own country. These are stories of inspiration from everyday people, all of whom have creative opinions about the best way to approach volunteer vacationing. Jeff’s message is “Make volunteering part of your next great travel adventure!”
Travel is now more open to a greater number of people than ever, and travelers are often looking for new adventures and experiences. And yet with crises developing constantly around the planet, many travelers want to explore the world and do good at the same time. Travel with Purpose is both an encouragement and a step-by-step guide.
Imagine yourself in a schoolroom in one of the most remote regions of one of the most hard-to-reach countries on earth. Nepal. The Lower Mustang region to be exact. To reach it takes a 14-hour flight from New York to Doha, Qatar. Then four hours by air to Kathmandu. Transfer at one of the world’s most dangerous airports to a 90-minute flight to Pokhara, followed by a jarring, eight-hour Jeep ride over a dizzyingly-steep dirt road – the up side is a mountain wall, the down side is a 200-foot cliff.
Finally, you arrive but it’s not just any schoolroom. It has been converted into an operating room so that doctors from New York Eye & Ear Infirmary can provide the gift of sight to 24 Nepalis who were blind due to advanced cataracts. Jeff Blumenfeld witnessed this first-hand. He was there as a traveler, but also as a volunteer. A voluntourist.
People often wonder how they can explore the world and help the less fortunate even if they don’t possess specialized skills. These are people who make lousy rest and relaxation vacationers. They’re bored sitting on a beach or touring umpteen churches on a cruise ship excursion. They want a meaningful role when they travel.
That’s where voluntourism comes in – a mix of both travel and volunteering. Is it hard work building wells and schoolhouses or excavating dinosaur bones? Yes, it is. But voluntourism doesn’t have to take a particular skill, just plenty of sweat and the desire to see the world and leave it a better place.
Blumenfeld shows readers how to identify the right location and volunteer opportunity, how to go about planning trips and preparing for activities, how to reach out, how to help. Through vivid examples and personal stories from both recipients of volunteer work and the volunteers themselves, Travel with Purpose may make you rethink your next vacation.
Travel with Purpose: A Field Guide to Voluntourismtravelwithpurposebook.com
By Jeff Blumenfeld, Rowman & Littlefield, April 2019
198 pages, b&w photos, Kindle, Hardcover or Paperback
ISBN-10: 1538115328; ISBN-13: 978-1538115329
Available in local bookshops or online such as Amazon.
Booklist Review: Well-traveled expert Blumenfeld shares many ways to combine the spirit of volunteerism with a vacation. As he tells stories of his own good deeds abroad he also expounds on this booming subindustry, its growth, how to select the right project, and the good and not-so-great sides of volunteering outside of the U.S. He writes well, with a good eye for memorable details, and provides a wealth of dos and don’ts for starting to help readers learn new skills, lower expectations about what the work will be, avoid some of the darker issues (such as lack of sustainability and, unfortunately, human trafficking), and fund the project.
Among his stories and advice are tales of a just-married couple who raised funds to enjoy a volun-honeymoon, and a young woman who fundraised through a unique combination of creative food-related events. Blumenfeld leaves almost nothing to the imagination, with appendixes on volunteerism resources, best travel applications, favorite travel books, and volunteerism videos, along with notes and a bibliography. Who wouldn’t agree with Albert Schweitzer? “Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you.”
— Barbara Jacobs, April 1, 2019
Innovative U.S.-based charity, Pack for a Purpose, www.packforapurpose.org, encourages travelers to take requested items with them to countries they are planning to visit on holiday. Sometimes that’s all it takes to become a volunteer – deliver a box or a suitcase or a wheelchair to the in-country airport for pick-up! For example, working with African View Lodges in Tanzania and American visitors to that country, the charity is able to deliver to a Rehabilitation Center requested school supplies, children’s clothes, toys and sports equipment for children and babies with clubfeet, people living with mental challenges, and a vocational training program.
Jeff Blumenfeld is founder and president of a public relations and adventure marketing agency based in Boulder, Colorado. He is also editor and publisher of Expedition News, a newsletter, blog and website he founded in 1994 to cover news about the adventure marketing field. He is the author of You Want to Go Where?: How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams (2009), and Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would-be World Travelers (2014).
In May 2013 he served as communications director for Dooley Intermed International’s “Gift of Sight” Expedition to Nepal – an effort to deliver badly needed eye care to 700 impoverished villagers. He returned to Nepal in December 2017 to continue his work there, with a moving 11-minute documentary being filmed. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org