Luxury travel is on the rise but more and more travelers are looking for a bit more. No longer are international travelers simply looking for a spa or all-inclusive resort. The traveler of today wants to experience the world in a way that enriches not only their life, but the lives of those they meet along the way. The mere act of volunteering and immersing yourself in communities around the world is a win-win for all involved.
More and more resorts and destinations realize this and, even if you choose to lodge in luxury at one of the great resorts of the world, taking some time to meet the locals in a new way is a very rewarding option. Whether helping build a home for a needy family in Guatemala, assisting with orphaned children in Kenya, or walking rescued dogs in Thailand, vacation can now also be about making a difference in the world. To create an interesting dichotomy would be to take a private jet to your destination and then focus your day to day on local, public transport!
Here are five great destinations that support the idea of a fantastic vacation while also providing volunteer opportunities to help the local community.
This exotic Southeast Asian location has long been a tourism favorite. With amazing cuisine, colorful culture, and great diversity, Thailand is not “new”. What is new is the interest in active, volunteer inspired holidays that combine such luxury as a stay at The Shore of Kathakani combined with spending time working with the locals. Luxuriate in the infinity pool overlooking the sea before retiring to your 5*star resort room with every possible amenity.
Then head off to Soi Dog, one of the world’s premier dog rescue organizations, to volunteer with the hundreds of dogs rescued and in need of new homes. A little puppy love is always in order and once you hear the sad tales of these pups, you will fall in love. This fascinating rescue has saved many friendly pups from a life of untold hardships.
For a truly diverse vacation, consider a luxury volunteering week or two at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. A fantastic choice of hotel is the Laguna Lodge resort is the queen of Santa Cruz. This lakefront luxury lodge is designed in keeping with Guatemalan style while offering tremendous views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes along with Zotz, their award winning restaurant.
Next depart by lancha, the local boat transportation on the lake, to San Pedro for volunteer opportunities. Here you can learn about the fascinating craft of Guatemalan home building with the Guatemala Housing Alliance. This organization, similar to Habitat for Humanity, helps build homes for families in need and is rewarding on so many levels. The types of homes built, involving cane and mud walls covered in plaster, is a unique learning experience all on its own.
For the ultimate adventure, head to Africa, the birthplace of civilization and still home to some of the most extreme vacation opportunities on the planet. Known for its vast numbers of animals, Kenya also offers up many of the most luxurious accommodations imaginable. A variety of safari options await at Micato Safaris, all including game drives, dinners around a fire in the boma and adventures of a lifetime.
But if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities during your Kenya vacation, Micato Safaris also partners with the Harambee Center, a non-profit that matches travelers with the people of the country. From planting trees, to delivering food and supplies to families, to sponsoring school for some of the children, this is the perfect way to experience the overwhelming magic of Africa, while also supporting the people who call it home. You can also visit the New Life Home, an orphanage for babies born with AIDS or veer towards a different type of orphanage for baby elephants at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage.
Costa Rica has been touted as one of the last Eden’s on earth. Offering both Pacific and Atlantic coasts, volcanoes, rain forests and gorgeous beaches. With more variety of birds than nearly anywhere on earth, Costa Rica is also a wildlife paradise. Quite a few lodging options offer interesting wildlife tours but the Lapas Rios Eco-Lodge offers up so much more. This National Geographic Unique Lodge award winner features luxury lodgings set in a private nature reserve and the ocean view bungalows are the ultimate jungle lodge.
Even more impressive are the volunteer opportunities that Costa Rica offers. The lodge works with Earth Equilibrium, a local non-profit that supports projects that show people how they can live more amicably with the planet. Now they support several schools in Osa Peninsula and a variety of work and donation based options for travelers to give back.
The sub-continent of India has drawn intrepid travelers for hundreds of years. Luxurious hotels, a world-class cuisine, and living the life of the Raj class all combine for an unforgettable holiday. Transport back to the indulgences of the past at hotels such as the Lake Palace, set serenely in the center of the lake in Udaipur. Or perhaps the Gateway Hotel in Agra will draw your interest, with the stunning views overlooking the most romantic building on earth.
Sadly, in addition to the luxury of this magnificent country, there is a very great need for help with many living in abject poverty. Opportunities to volunteer are numerous and one of the best is Go Overseas. With a variety of volunteer opportunities, set throughout the country, you can choose between community aid in Rajasthan to animal care in Jaipur to working with street children in Goa. Each and every possibility offers unlimited opportunities to enrich your life all while assisting those less fortunate.
Now is the time to embrace the new season of travel. A season where it is possible to treat yourself to an experience of a lifetime, all while still helping those around you. A season to explore new destinations and horizons and just possible change up your way in a way you never thought possible. A season to make the most of each and every sunrise.