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Why volunteering is the best kind of group travel

By Zaytoen Domingo 9 months ago
A group of volunteers standing on the beach with their arms raised.

Original photo: “Sunset Human Dawn” by Wahlershaeuser is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Day one of your tour, you wake up jetlagged. You yawn, thinking about the long itinerary for the day. The sunny view you were anticipating burns your eyes and bed bugs have given you a free exfoliant, as promised in your tour package. 

If you are looking for an opportunity to travel abroad with a group, your experience doesn’t have to be like this one. 

While convenient, a tour package isn’t always the experience you expect. So before you sign up for the first package tour that catches your attention, take a minute to see if it’s really what you want out of group travel.  

 

A group of volunteers with local people on a hillside.

Why do most people choose package travel deals? 

Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to pay a once-off fee and get everything, from a rental car, to a bed and room service galore for their trip? Of course we all do, that’s why we love fairy tales! 

Package travel deals are usually all-inclusive trips, and might include transport, accommodation, an itinerary full of activities, and sometimes even a tour guide. The reason people choose a package travel deal is to make planning a trip easier, less lonely and more cost-effective.

For a first-time traveller, a package deal might be convenient, But making a choice based purely on convenience can mean you miss out on other possibilities. 

 

A woman wearing a back pack, walking into a crowded street.

Original photo: “People City Person” by Free-Photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The downsides of a typical travel package deal

Package travel deals can be a great way to experience new things. But no-one wants to spend a vacation rushing between obligations on a jam-packed itinerary. This would limit your experience in the countries you visit and you won’t have time to learn about people and cultures. 

It’s also important to cover your safety bases when you travel abroad. It would be advisable for you to join a group with at least one emergency first-responder, and join a company that prioritises your health and safety. It’s always good to have peace of mind, especially when participating in physical activities.

 

A volunteer wearing a harness and walking across a rope bridge in the jungle in Costa Rica.

 

What about the value of your trip that money can’t buy? One way that value is added to a trip is when you do something important that makes a positive impact. We aren’t always aware of how sustainable or ethical tourism activities are. But there are ways of ensuring the best possible impact.

How can I ensure sustainability and value?

Some itinerary activities, such as visiting animal sanctuaries, may not focus on making a positive impact. For example, many of these programs allow humans to touch the animals, which has been shown to have a negative impact on the animals. 

Instead, you can take part in activities that actively conserve animals by becoming a volunteer on a sustainable development program.

 

A group of volunteers surveying an elephant from a distance in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

 

When you join a volunteer group package program, you will be part of a group of like-minded people from all over the world. You will work alongside one another with a shared goal of making a positive and sustainable impact. It’s an opportunity to make deeper, lifelong friendships.

A full itinerary on a package tour may not leave time to think about your surroundings. But a volunteer program should focus on meaningful cultural immersion, alongside project work.  

 

Volunteers in a Buddhist temple with Novice Buddhist Monks in Thailand.

 

As a volunteer, you can learn to engage and deepen your understanding of cultures different from your own. All GVI programs are community-led, and you will work closely with people from local communities when participating. 

You can also volunteer alongside a team of experts that will ensure your health and safety at all times. You might not have a tour guide, but you will have a whole team of supportive participants and employees.

Go on a meaningful group tour abroad and have the adventure of a lifetime by becoming a volunteer.

Zaytoen Domingo is an intern at the GVI Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a skills-development program that pairs development editors with budding travel writers. Learn more about the program here.

 

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