Experiential Travel

What is Experiential Travel?

The goal of experiential travel is to understand a travel destination’s culture, people, and history by connecting more deeply than a traditional tour allows. It is traveling not just to tick off sights from a list, but to immerse in every aspect of the destination – food, art, handicrafts, lifestyle, language. This means rather than only visiting the local art museum, also stopping by a local artisan’s workshop for a class on a traditional technique. For us at Travel to do Good, experiential travel also means giving back to local communities through volunteering.

Volunteer travel ranges from providing low-skill work clean-up to providing high-skill medical aid. Volunteers are diverse but typically share a desire to “do something good” as part of their travel experience. Volunteer travel can sometimes be known as: community tourism, responsible tourism, philanthropic travel, service learning travel, immersion travel, faith based travel, mission travel, reality tours, humanitarian travel, etc.

At Travel to Do Good, we specialize in experiential travel that focuses on education, cultural immersion, and sustainable, impactful volunteer experiences.

Why Should I Participate in a Experiential Travel Program?

Experiential travel can enhance your overall destination experience by connecting to you to the people and culture of your chosen destination in a unique and special way. It is an incredibly rewarding way to travel.

In preparation for this type of experience, it is important to reflect on your driving motivation.  Participants will have their own unique goals and objectives for wanting to travel to do good. We partner with organizations that focus on projects that have long-term viability and sustainability, which enable you to become a link in a process that will hopefully continue long after you have left that destination. We believe that this form of philanthropic travel fosters learning, empowerment, mutual growth, respect and understanding.

If I am volunteering, shouldn’t my costs to travel be covered?

This is our most frequently asked question. Never do we want to cause a financial hardship to an organization in our desire to give back. Even though you are there as a volunteer, you are still responsible for your own travel expenses. Your personal travel style and individual group needs (how, when, why, and where you travel) will certainly drive those expenses. There are also logistical fees that the organization covers to support your work, such as logistical coordination, staffing, and supplies needed for a specific project.


Travel, Support, and Requirements

Is it better to travel with an organized group when traveling to do good?

When participating in this form of travel and especially when traveling abroad, it is important to work with experienced professionals who are familiar with the project, understand the volunteer travel industry and, most importantly, know and understand the local destination you are visiting.  Our international network enables us to source program partners from around the world. Our extensive network includes local entities with personnel who live and work in the communities of the destinations you may wish to serve. Traveling with an organized group can help you to avoid pitfalls as well as create a mutually beneficial experience for both the traveler and the participatory non-profit organization.

What skills are required to participate in a volunteer vacation?

Your desire to help combined with an open heart and an open mind are the primary prerequisites. Depending upon your skill set, we can then match you with the right project based on your experience, desired activity and comfort level. Safety is our utmost concern. If you are working with children, a background check will be required.

What support is provided to volunteer vacation participants?

To ensure a safe and meaningful travel experience, we provide professional assistance and local coordination. Travel to do Good in-country staff are available during your entire trip. Trip briefings will familiarize you with the necessary prerequisites for your trip. You will also learn more about your non-profit partner organization and what specifically you will be doing as a volunteer. Before the trip, we also encourage (when possible) a “meet up” via video conferencing that will enable you to connect with the local in-country coordinator and non-profit partner (via Skype).

How much actual time is devoted to volunteering?

Whether you devote your entire trip to volunteering or wish to have a blending of volunteer time, down time or other tourist activities, will depend solely on you. Some projects have specific time requirements while others may not. Our goal is to always create a travel to do good experience that is mutually beneficial to all involved

Where can I travel to?

Travel to do Good provides programs in the U.S., Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe. We offer a variety of rural and urban experiences in each destination country. 

What type of volunteer work will I be doing?

Travel to do Good projects will pair you based on your skills with a local non-profit. Some of the options for volunteer travel projects include creative arts, community development, education, medical relief, and women’s empowerment. Our projects are focused on sustainable impact and support the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.


Self-Assessment, Helpful Links & Tips, Customer Forms

What trip is best for you – take the assessment!

There are no right or wrong answers…this survey is designed to get you thinking about what is motivating you to travel to do good, as well as explore what volunteer travel options what might work best for you.

How do you like to travel to do good during your volunteer travel experience?  What appeals to you most?

What are the “must have’s” in your suitcase?
A – Jeans, gloves and boots
B – Sunscreen, bug repellent and band-aids
C – Change of dress clothes, toiletries and hand sanitizer
D – Laptop, MP3 player and leisure reading

How important is a shower to you?
A – Could really care less
B – Warm water or not, it’d be nice
C – Was hoping to get a warm one every few days
D – Warm, daily, and no exceptions

On eating local food…
A – Bring it on!
B – I’m up for trying anything once
C – I’ll need to have a look at it first
D – I was kind of hoping there was a burger-joint close

It starts to rain and your work site turns into a mud-pit, you
A – Have a laugh and am as happy as a pig in, well, mud.
B – Clean up the site and help people get under shelter
C – Start thinking about your change of clothes.
D – Time to go

Answer Key:
Mostly As – Budget travel – dormitory style living – very very flexible – creature comforts not so important
Mostly Bs – Budget  traveler at its best – would be open to in home accommodations
Mostly Cs – 2-3 star hotel experience – some of the creature comforts are needed
Mostly Ds – 4 star Volunteer travel is an option, but be sure to check that your destination/accommodations has the creature comforts of home
What type of project is best, in terms of your emotional threshold?

I would be able to work with very sick individuals

A- Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D- Disagree

I would be able to work in very under resourced; and under-developed communities

A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree

I would be able to work with children in an orphanage or medical capacity.

A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree

I am alright with not seeing the end result of my work knowing that even the most minuscule contribution is valuable.

A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree

What is your motivation for volunteering?

I’m eager to give back (time, talent or treasure)

A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree

I’d like to utilize a particular skill set of mine on the project.
A- Strongly agree
B- Generally agree
C- Not necessarily
D- Disagree

I’d like to work on an established project and be given direction as opposed to working “on the fly.”
A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree

I’m interested in learning and immersing myself in the culture
A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree

I will be alright financially during and after my project.
A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree

I don’t need to find friends to go on the project with me – I’m sure I’ll make some there.
A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree
I am willing to take the time to discuss this with my support system before making my final decision

A – Strongly agree
B – Generally agree
C – Not necessarily
D – Disagree

Answer Key:
Mostly As – You’re ready – start your planning
Mostly Bs – You’re pretty much there; take however much additional time you need to make this happen
Mostly Cs – You sound like you’re about 50-50.  Open up this conversation with your family and peers.
Mostly Ds – You may want to continue your research

What is the most valuable skill set you think you bring to the project?
A – I am physically capable of performing various forms of manual labor
B – I have experience working with either sick or injured people
C – I work well in groups and am able to learn quickly
D – I enjoy working with people, and am generally very patient

What segment of the population would benefit the most from your experience?
A – I enjoy working with children and teens
B – Working with adults
C – Working with the elderly
D – I enjoy developing others

How would you deem your experience a success?
A – I would like to see a project through to completion, and know that when I left, the job was done.
B – Knowing that I helped improve the well-being of someone’s life
C – Seeing the smiles on the faces of the community as you leave
D – If I can help lay a foundation for a community to build on, the experience was worth it

Personally, how important is it for you to work with other volunteers?
A – I enjoy working on teams, and believe that more volunteers would bring more resources and I would enjoy my experience more.
B – Working with other volunteers is good, if they are on the project to work first and be social second.
C – I think working in a group would bring a good energy and dynamic to the project
D – It’s not important at all.  I am there for the community, not for myself.

Answer Key:

Mostly As – then consider building projects.
Mostly Bs – then maybe health work is for you.
Mostly Cs – try community development.
Mostly Ds – try teaching.

If you answered the same amount of each, then you need to go on several trips

Volunteer Travel Tips

There is no doubt that travel feeds the soul. Travelers return from trips often refreshed and a smidgen wiser for experiencing a new part of the world and a new culture vastly different than their own. The effect is reciprocated by those countries and cultures that thrive from the inward flow of money tourism brings.

But oftentimes those cultures need more than money. They need help building schools and shelters. They need help learning skills and languages. They need help preserving the fragile environments and historic sites that draw tourists to their small part of the world. That is where volunteer travel steps in.

Volunteer travel involves people from all age and social classes traveling globally to give aid to communities in need and intimately experience the culture. This combination of exploration and inspiration is growing in popularity, mostly due to an increase in the number and variety of opportunities now available. No longer do travelers need to stay enmeshed in a foreign land for months to make a difference – they can now impact an entire community over the course of a week or two, or even during their honeymoon.

Regardless of how these travelers choose to contribute their time and energy into such a globally beneficial cause, they always return satiated, their souls well fed after making a lasting difference in the lives of their international neighbors.

Do You Have What it Takes to Volunteer Abroad?

Many of us have a strong urge to help others around the world, especially after witnessing such high-profile devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina or the 2004 tsunami off the coast of Thailand. Volunteer travel is the perfect way for everyday people to make a difference; however, they should first know what they’re getting themselves into.

As a volunteer travel, you must be realistic – you are not going to single-handedly save a village or build a new school. During a week-long stay in Tanzania, you may only build a few desks and paint a classroom, which will not seem like much at the time. But the schoolchildren who later sit in those desks and enjoy that classroom will appreciate your efforts for a lifetime. Every improvement – no matter how small.

Volunteer travel is more than an alternative to a standard vacation. It’s about offering your skills and time while being part of a team and interacting with diverse cultures. Anyone considering this line of travel should be flexible, take direction well and have both a sense of adventure and humor. No special skills are needed – you only need an intense desire to make a difference and experience a destination in a way few tourists ever will.

The variety of programs is matched only by the variety of emotions each volunteer experiences during their stay.

You can teach English to Hungarian children, helping them fulfill their education requirements. You can nurture children in Ecuador, working at an orphanage. You can restore villages in the fabled Blue Mountains of Jamaica, restoring dignity to villagers. You can help care for disabled children in China and experience life through their eyes. You can repair Aboriginal homes in Australia, helping these proud indigenous people in their struggle for equality. You can help save lives by providing basic health-care screenings, such as diabetes tests, well-baby checks and prenatal exams, in Northern Greece.  In addition to programs abroad, there are programs right here in the US.

If you’re a budget-conscious college student who wants to see the world, a volunteer abroad program overseas is ideal. Set your sights on the unforgettable scenery of Yorkshire, England, while taking part in a conservation program. Soak in the gorgeous South African sunset and learn how to protect dolphins, whales, seals and seabirds. Or venture to Costa Rica and get your hands dirty rebuilding homes. .

This article was provided by the ASTA (the American Association of Travel Agents) 


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