Archive for the ‘Vacation Ideas’ Category

Happy Birthday Dalai Lama — Volunteer to Celebrate

Dalai Lama quoteToday, July 6, is the 81st birthday of His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

To celebrate, practice what HE preaches and find new ways to express compassion and connection in your world. One of his more famous quotes: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

If you’re particularly inspired by him, here are a couple of Dalai Lama-specific volunteer opportunities to check out.

The Dalai Lama Center for Peace + Education, in Vancouver, seeks volunteers for all of its expanding programs, including their renowned “Educating the Heart” program. Find out more here.

Redwood City, California’s Dalai Lama Foundation seeks worldwide volunteers for actions for ethics and peace. Let them know you’re interested in lending a hand by filling out Dalai Lama Foundation volunteer interest form.

Traveling to India? (Lucky you!) The Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education in Bangalore welcomes volunteers who, in return for their service, are able to learn Tibetan language, Buddhist philosophy, and receive room and board while volunteering. Check out their needs and opportunities at this link.

Volunteers in Dharamsala, India work with refugee Tibetan communities in need of assistance and support in the areas surrounding the palace ad home of His Holiness. Volunteer projects are organized by Volunteer in India.

Dalai Lama Fellows is a global program authorized by him, working with social innovators and those working toward worldwide peace, justice, and ecology. Several fellows of the program have developed and launched programs around the world that need dedicated volunteers. Find your perfect match here.

On Equal Pay Day Commit to Volunteering for Women

Today is Equal Pay Day, one of those oops-we’re-doing-it-wrong shake your head sorts of days…it is the day each year when a woman’s earnings from the year before would finally catch up to one year of a man’s earnings doing the same work.

Yep, still true, it takes until April for a woman to earn what a guy took home by last December. On average, full-time working women still only make about 79 cents to a dollar for a man (better than the 72 cents of a few years ago, but c’mon…really?)

The wage gap costs the average full-time working woman about $430,000 dollars over her lifetime. Here’s the perplexing other side of the coin, and I know we’re all ramped up about minimum wages and unskilled labor making more than military, and those are entirely separate issues (about which…surprise…I have some very specific views…) but if we CLOSE the wage gap, we could add as much as $4.3 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy by the year 2025.

Since that closing of the gap won’t happen today, in the meantime, while you add your name to this petition to stand up for equal pay, here are a few volunteer opportunities around the world that you might consider that are dedicated to equality for women:

Voluntourism, Killer Whales, and SeaWorld’s Tilikum

adult and young orcas in wild

Photo: Christopher Michel – CC License

You’ve likely seen, or at least heard about the documentary Blackfish, exploring the life and striving times of captive killer whales, or orcas, at SeaWorld marine parks. While SeaWorld has been goaded by the resulting uproar into some changes in planned habitat restructuring and living conditions for their largest resident animals, there are many who feel captive orcas can never be appropriate.

The main storyline of the film focuses on a particular whale named Tilikum. This 35-year-old cetacean over-earned the “killer” moniker by being responsible for the deaths of three people while in captivity for more than two decades. Now, SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida has announced that Tilikum has an infection from which he will not recover, and he is in declining health. It’s a rough life in a cement pool too small for comfort, no matter how attentive the care (and, to be fair, SeaWorld’s staff caretakers and medics are dedicated and skilled animal lovers) and many believe it has been tantamount to torturing the whale for the majority of his life.

The flip side of this difficult coin is the marine study of orcas in their natural habitat, like this brand new volunteer expedition from Earthwatch: Killer Whales and Their Prey in Iceland. The first of several offerings of this 12-day voluntourism service trip is offered in June of 2017, where you will help study the feeding behavior of orcas in Vestmannaeyjar in the Westman Islands in the south of Iceland. Some of your time will be on shore, some on boats, as you scan for whales and take detailed scientific research notes on behavior of individual whales. You’ll be thoroughly trained and also get up close and personal as you assist the scientist research team to collect small (non-harming) skin and blubber samples from whales to biopsy and record diet, pollutant levels, and genetic information. You’ll be living at the research field station in dormitory accommodations, cooking and sharing time and laughs with your fellow volunteers.

This is a leading study of the species, and, like all Earthwatch volunteer opportunities, the work you do actually advances scientific understanding–this work, in particular, will help establish policies to better protect killer whales.

Travelocity Doubles Down to Support Voluntourism

From my second post-earthquake voluntourism trip to Haiti in 2012

From my second post-earthquake voluntourism trip to Haiti in 2012

I loved the news that Travelocity is re-invigorating their commitment to voluntourism, making service travel desirable, and even in some lucky folks’ cases, available and accessible.

The company’s Travel for Good portal is bringing welcome eyeballs to the concept of voluntourism, a travel category that bloggers had been piling on lately, accusing heartfelt service travel seekers of being motivated by wealthy guilt or savior complexes, or just being spoiled rich kids. So misguided, jaded, and wrong—truly frustrating that they don’t recognize what’s going on out there in the real world, where more and more people are making significant differences every day.

With the travel category’s popularity has come the next wave of hucksters trying to rip well meaning folks off or get high fees paid to line their pockets, but that’s not new to the tourism world. I always heartily suggest would-be voluntourists ask lots of questions, talk to previous clients, and have crystal clarity about who initiated the project and why (projects should be generated by the community served, not outside agencies who are not fluent in the nuances of a community’s needs).

The Travel for Good program also brings a web-sticky element of competition into the mix, with a social media contest giving away travel expenses and donations to causes for contest winners.

Go explore. Let your imagination run wild about ways you can help. Enter the contest

and win an amazing voluntourism trip! For just about every cause you can imagine, there is a way to get involved to really help. Every step you make toward creating a more workable world is significant.

Reality Tours Open Eyes Around the World

Haiti Capital 2010

Haitian capital post-quake 2010

This travel company was recently brought to my attention, and I’m loving them: Global Exchange.

Their Reality Tours take clients to rich and intriguing destinations we might not even know we need to add to our bucket lists. North Korea, Afghanistan, Rebuilding Nepal, Iran (all places I would LOVE to go) and so many more, but the genuinely exciting part is the context in which you travel. To explore and discover human rights causes, or sustainability efforts, or post-disaster recovery, or food scarcity programs, women’s rights—it is issue-based travel and connection.

The company’s tag line is: “…an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic, and environmental justice around the world.” Their experiential education excursions connect deeply to communities and issues, and help make a real difference while fostering true understanding far more deeply than the levels we glean from most media. Over 100 trips a year to 40 destinations means you can absolutely find a trip that is meaningful and supports the issues about which you are passionate.

In addition to travel opportunities, their robust website offers plenty of other ways to get involved (including great “5-Minute Actions“), events, thoughtful blogs from past participants, and other programs. Go explore. Fair warning, you may disappear down the rabbit hole of intrigue the way I did, fantasizing about my next opportunity for impact travel.

World Elephant Day and You

Today, August 12, is World Elephant Day.

ivory decoration with World Elephant Day text overlaidThere are lots of recognition events around the world, and a flurry of social media about them.

#WorldElephantDay is the Number One trending topic on Twitter.

The recent Cecil the Lion travesty has brought new attention to the plight of endangered and overly hunted species. Elephants have that extra strike against them of the voracious ivory trade that this nothing of slaughtering them for their tusks.

Currently in the United States, import and trade of African Elephant ivory and Asian Elephant ivory is prohibited (there are some cases where transport is allowed of antiques and family possessions acquired before the 1970s), but other nations still consume ivory as a weirdly valued status symbol.

Since the Cecil and the Dentist dust-up, many international airlines have now banned transport of endangered animal trophies and products on their flights—a good deterrent to poachers placing a price on the heads of elephants and other threatened species.

There are some wonderful elephant volunteer situations in East Asia and Africa, to help support the species and care for orphaned and injured elephants. Here is a list to get you started (and if you can fit me in your suitcase when you go to volunteer at one of these, I will ABSOLUTELY come along!)

Elevate Destinations Kenya Private Elephant Adventure

GVI Thai Elephant Project

Elevate Namibia Conservation Safari

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tanzania Elephant Conservation Service and Safari—Elevate Destinations

 

Carnival Cruise’s Fathom Line – Cruising With a Social Mission

Adonia for Fathom Carnival Cruise

The Adonia

The cruise industry gets lots of grief for the huge impact they have on the environment, burning vast reserves of fuel to move their skyscraper-sized vessels through the seas. There’s also lots to pick on about port villages created just for them and the impact that has on local communities and cultures, the insane amount of food waste on a sailing, and more…but I’m a firm believer in pointing out what companies are doing right, wherever I find it. Especially when it concerns making a positive difference in the world.

Carnival is launching a new cruise line called Fathom Impact + Travel, with the specific mission of taking guests on vacations where they will volunteer at social projects. The first voyage will be on the 710-passenger “Adonia” bound for the Dominican Republic in 2016. Once they arrive in the D.R., passengers will participate in projects including English language instruction, reforestation initiatives, water purification projects, and help harvest at a women’s cocoa co-op. Their model of “Impact Travel” is scaled for growth in subsequent years, with a target of 35,000 volunteer visitors in year one.

Fathom Cuba is also the line that will handle the new cultural exchange voyages to Cuba, specializing in person-to-person experiences and cultural immersion with humanitarian projects.

I, of course, have concerns as I do with any large scale drop-in volunteer gig, about the sustainability of projects and community impact in the down times when no boatloads of passengers are there. I’d love to go on a Fathom voyage and get a deeper understanding of the long-range plans for the brand’s evolution. If you go–please let me know about your experience in the comments below or contact email. I love that the company sees that the market is there for this kind of travel on a large scale. That says something positive about travel in general, and our priorities as members of a global family.