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The Green Life: Voluntourism: Take A Trip, Lend A Hand

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January 29, 2009

Voluntourism: Take A Trip, Lend A Hand

Volunteer Inspired by Barack Obama's call to action, Americans turned out in droves for last week's MLK Day of Service, participating in more than 13,000 official service projects across the country. (The Sierra Club helped organize many of these.)


Now, with February just around the corner, many of us are musing about a vacation to put a little pep back in our step. But with the economyand our bank accountsreeling, luxury vacations aren't in the cards. So why not harness the spirit of service and participate in a volunteer vacation?


Working vacations have been on the upswing thanks to 9/11, Katrina,and the 2004 Asia tsunami. The percentage of travelers planning to volunteer during their vacations nearly doubled from 2006 to 2007. According to a new survey, 55 percent of us are interested in taking a volunteer vacation.


In addition to helping a cause you believe in, working vacations are often cheaperand a portion of your costs may be tax-deductible. Options include trail work, invasive plant removal, and restoration projects in national parks, forests, and other public lands; environmental and scientific work; building schools or teaching English; home-building for Habitat for Humanity; and bike-riding to raise funds. Of course, there are always good old Sierra Club service trips, offered through the Club's Outings Program.


Finding opportunities to take working vacations is just a click awayenter "volunteer vacations" or voluntourism" into your favorite search engine and more matches than you'll know what to do with will pop up. Whether you're a student or a senior, traveling solo or with a family, at home or abroad, you'll find something that works for you.

--Tom Valtin


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