For many Americans, taking a vacation does not mean sitting around a pool sipping strawberry margaritas. They want to spend their precious vacation time making a difference on this earth. They want to get up and do something while exploring the world.
Perhaps this is why the newly-coined term "Voluntourism" is all the rage.
"Voluntourism," or volunteer tourism, is one of the fastest growing travel trends today. From full vacations helping impoverished people in far-flung parts of the globe to simply giving one afternoon of a vacation to read to children at a local school, Americans are fully embracing this trend.
Voluntourism is big business too. Over 1.6 million people participate in volunteer tourism each year, spending about $2 billion dollars to do it. Many travel companies and resorts are now making it easy for tourists to find volunteer opportunities.
The Sandals Foundation was set up to focus on helping the backbone of the Caribbean society, the people.
The foundation has funded schools, literacy programs, and much needed infrastructure for the residents of the islands which their resorts call home. They have also opened up the option for guests staying at the resorts to do something as simple as read at story time in a local school during their trip.
While the resorts are all about fantasy and vacation perfection, they also believe their guests are hungry for more than the next buffet. They want to help.
Americans don't have to go far to find opportunities to volunteer when traveling. United Planet is an international non-profit organization that provides cultural immersion volunteer experiences in over 40 countries. Its goal is to foster respect, support, and cross-cultural understanding.
The organization provides both quests, or volunteer tourism experiences from one week to one year. United Planet is about forging communication with people of different backgrounds to create close, long-lasting relationships and work towards peace.