Volunteer Abroad

6 Types of Meaningful Volunteer Vacations to Take in 2020

Eva Wieners
Topic Expert

Eva is a German writer and geographer, currently living in Nepal with her daughter Miriam. She has worked and volunteered in South America, Europe, and Asia for more than a decade and loves to travel.

Traveling to other countries is a brilliant way to get to know the world and understand how we are all interconnected. It is also an opportunity to relax, recharge, and focus on something completely different than your daily life.

But what if you could not only do something for yourself while on vacation but actually spend your time in a meaningful way? If you add a volunteering stint to your holidays, you can do something good in the communities you visit. You may even experience your destination at a much deeper level when you go on a volunteer vacation.

While many volunteering programs require long commitments, there are some that are also designed to take in short-term volunteers. Make sure to arrive with a learning mindset – this way you can take a vacation and tack on a short-term volunteer project and be sure to have a positive impact on your destination as well as on yourself.

Does this sound like a great idea? In this article, we put together some ideas for the different types of meaningful volunteer vacations to take in 2020.

1. Safari in South Africa, then volunteer with wildlife

A safari in South Africa must be on everyone’s bucket list. To be out in nature and get a chance to see the Big Five is a once in a lifetime experience that will stay with you forever. Imagine if you could dive even deeper into South Africa’s natural wonders?

Tack on a stay at one of the many projects in South Africa that work with wildlife and help to protect it. You can decide to work with primates, cats, or other species and will gain a much deeper understanding and insight into the problems these animals face. Your work will contribute to their conservation, and you will walk away with experiences and knowledge that you cannot gain on a safari only.

2. Learn to surf in Costa Rica, then save the sea turtles

Learning to surf is maybe one of the coolest ways you can spend your vacation. You are at the beach all the time, you get to meet people from around the world and you will definitely have the time of your life. And where better to ride the waves than in Costa Rica? No matter if you are a beginner or a pro, you will find the perfect spot for you in Costa Rica.

However, there's also ways to give back. As a surfer, you love the ocean and probably already gained a deeper understanding of how much sea life is endangered by pollution. Spend some more time in beautiful Costa Rica and volunteer in a project to save the sea turtles and other sea life! You will not only have a positive impact on the ecosystem you love but will also gain a much deeper understanding of the issues connected to sea conservation.

3. Trek in Nepal, then volunteer in a local school

Nepal is known for its amazing mountains and treks that you can take. If you visit the Annapurna, Langtang, or even Everest, you will definitely have the experience of a lifetime. Hiking through the mighty Himalayas, accompanied by Yaks and sleeping in tiny teahouses along the way is the perfect way to find peace and grounding. You will get a glimpse into a different world and probably be intrigued for the rest of your life.

You can also give back to the communities you met along the way. During your vacation, you'll probably see schools along the way and realize that there is room to help within the education sector in Nepal. Stay a little bit longer and volunteer in a local school in Nepal – this way, you can help improve the learning conditions of the kids and get a new perspective. Make sure to choose a good project, though, as teaching typically requires a longer time commitment. But even if you can't teach, there are plenty of other ways to support local education.

4. Explore Australia, then volunteer at an animal sanctuary

Australia is a dream destination for a vacation during any year. Relaxing at the beach, adventuring in the outback, or enjoying the cities – Australia has it all! No matter what you are interested in, you will have the best time in this huge country.

While you're traveling, you can add a volunteering component to your dream vacation in Australia. One option is to work in an animal sanctuary with all the incredible creatures that you saw while traveling to support their conservation. This way you give back while at the same time gain incredible experiences and perspective.

5. Sail the Galapagos Islands, then help protect them

Ecuador is an amazing country to visit – but the highlight definitely has to be the Galapagos Islands. To truly discover the islands where Darwin developed his theory of evolution, you'll need to go on a boat. Hop from island to island and discover the wonders of nature. Walking with turtles, diving with sharks and seals, and stepping over iguanas – that’s daily life on the Galapagos!

If you add a volunteering stay in one of the many conservation projects on one of the islands, you can add another layer of value to your trip. Not only will you be able to see life on the islands from a totally different perspective – you will also contribute to the protection of this magical habitat. Make your vacation in 2020 something super special and share your gifts.

6. Visit the natural wonders of Bolivia, then work with wildlife

Bolivia is an incredibly diverse country. You can visit the jungle, climb mountains, drive on huge salt flats, and stroll through beautiful cities, all in the same country. If you are into nature, Bolivia is the place for you to go in 2020.

Bolivia is also the perfect spot for a volunteer vacation. You can choose from a variety of projects and help to protect the amazing wildlife of the jungle. Imagine how much deeper your understanding of the country will become once you work with endangered species. While you learn and explore, you can also give back and support!

As you can see, there are many ways to go on a volunteer vacation and have a good time while doing something meaningful as well! These are just a couple of ideas, but if you start looking around, you will surely find many more options! Make this year's vacation something super special and create some unforgettable memories by giving back!