Experience. Explore. Give.
Travel, like sex, usually leaves you feeling good, but can leave you feeling selfish if you take more than you give. Volunteer tourism in places as seductive as Luang Prabang, Laos lets you eat your cake and give some, too – explore, share and love fully.
The lure of foreign second- or third-world travel is captivating – the rawness of life, the tangible culture, the struggle for basics that we take for granted. No justification for such fascination is necessary, but if it were, it lies in what we learn, what we share and how the experience opens our minds.
As travelers of all ages seek opportunities for truly unique, personal and satisfying travel experiences, the popularity of volunteer tourism grows. Perhaps it is fueled by an escape from our own culture of materialism and shallow culture. Regardless, volunteering our time in a country we visit is an opportunity to bridge cultures, share insights and experience the simple joy of sharing.
In Luang Prabang, you can volunteer with Global Vision International (GVI) and experience the splendor of Laos’ former kingdom capital in French-influenced comfort while teaching novice monks conversational English. The monks offer a unique view into the lives of Laotians and thanks to the skills you imbue, a first-hand guide to the culture, history and hotspots of this UNESCO world-heritage town. Teach from 1-12 weeks and directly help these young Laotians take steps to improve their livelihoods and futures.
In the past, volunteer travel typically meant a significant investment of time – generally requiring several weeks or months supporting a project. Now opportunities exist for travelers to mix smaller doses of volunteering in with vacation travel. Different options emphasize work and vacation in various doses to perfectly match one’s tastes.
And an array of companies has popped up to help. Services range from a simple introduction to a relief organization to a complete in-country orientation, accommodations and 24-hour support, all backed by an in-country agent. Placements vary from two to 12 weeks and volunteers can work teaching English in impoverished schools, supporting the construction of homes and infrastructure, offering social work in orphanages, or pursuing environmental conservation.
And conserve you will, but be prepared to pay. Volunteers pay mediating companies from $200 up to $1,650 to help abroad. This money pays for accommodation and full board as well as the other services mentioned above. Some may also go towards a host family and project.
Given the range of options available, scouting your ideal trip will involve a fair bit of Internet searching, but start by:
1) Honestly assessing your interests: do you want to spend more time volunteering, or more time touring? Is the volunteer activity a seasoning to your trip or the main dish?
2) Let this answer influence how you conduct your search and how you select a program.
3) Size up the vast universe of opportunities out there. No definitive database of volunteer travel experiences currently exists. Make your own.
Volunteer tourism offers travelers a unique insight into a country and the satisfaction of making a difference. Experience, explore, give.
Laos Volunteering: http://www.gviusa.com/projects/Asia/Laos/volunteer-teach-english-laos/home