Today’s New Ways of Travelling: Explore and Make a Difference

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    New Ways of Travelling: In recent years, a new travel trend has emerged, marking a shift in the way individuals, especially among the younger generations, approach the notion of travel. In fact, the conventional notion of vacations, characterized by hotels and Airbnbs as well as some visits of the country’s typical tourist attractions, seems to be slowly losing its appeal.

    Rather than simply seeking leisure and sightseeing, an increasing number of individuals are turning to alternative travel opportunities such as volunteering, becoming an au pair or even taking a role as a housekeeper abroad.

    This emerging movement has given rise to new terminology such as “voluntourism”, which describes the act of volunteering abroad. According to The Guardian, the number of individuals engaging in volunteer abroad programs surpasses 10 million annually. These initiatives span across diverse sectors, ranging from education to agriculture.

    What are the advantages of such a way of traveling?

    Budget Friendly

    One of the main advantages of volunteering, being an au pair or a housekeeper is the cost-effectiveness. In fact, most of the time for these experiences travelers get a place to stay, and sometimes even food or money. That allows them to reduce drastically their travel expenses in exchange of their services for a few hours in a day.

    Meaningful Impact

    What most people seek when undertaking these types of experiences, especially for volunteer work, is a sense of fulfillment through services. In fact, the main goal is to make a meaningful impact on the area where they choose to take action while discovering it. Whether it is through giving classes to local people, helping around a property, or participating in an environmental conservation project, volunteers can have a positive influence.

    Moreover, simply living with local people is a way to enrich both volunteers and locals with an exchange of culture and language.

    Immersion in the Country

    Such experiences allow a longer stay in the country, enabling travelers to meet local people and truly live in the country rather than simply passing through as tourists. Foreigners can authentically experience the country and its culture.

    Personal Growth

    Embarking on new ways of travelling; journeying through volunteering, serving as an au pair or working as a housekeeper can truly contribute to the self-development of travelers, as they are engaging in various activities and interacting with new people. Getting out of the comfort zone is essential for fostering personal growth and venturing to another country to take part in tasks is the perfect setting for such growth. Travelers also have the opportunity to develop valuable skills such as communication and adaptability along the way.

    Negative Consequences of These Travel Experiences

    Although travelers are usually well-intentioned, these ways of traveling can actually lead to negative consequences on the local area in some cases.

    In fact, sending foreigners to work for free in some areas can foster a dependency on external assistance. Moreover, it can negatively affect the living conditions of locals, as employers may prioritize taking volunteers over hiring local workers to avoid financial losses.

    It is also important to highlight that volunteer programs sometimes assign travelers to tasks for which they do not have the expertise required. As they usually stay a few weeks or months, they also do not have time to make real fundamentally big changes in the communities they are in, thus leading only to short-term results.

    Some people also argue that volunteering abroad is often a contemporary way of perpetuating white saviorism as the majority of volunteers are from Western countries and travel to less-developed regions, thus portraying individuals from privileged backgrounds as coming to “rescue” disadvantaged locals. This dynamic can lead to a reinforcement of power imbalances as well as stereotypes.

    It is also important to note that as the volunteering industry became a booming travel sector and now generates millions of dollars, some volunteering programs prioritize profit over meaningful impact. These programs operate solely as businesses, sometimes even dismantling the work made by some volunteers to welcome new participants.

    How Can I Ensure My Volunteering Will Have a Positive Impact?

    To ensure that your volunteering will truly benefit the local population, it is crucial to carefully select the volunteer organization facilitating your trip, and understand their intentions and the ethical dimension of their programs.

    To achieve this, future volunteers must learn information about the program by asking numerous questions, examining reviews, and looking for past achievements of the organization. It is also advisable to verify if the project has an end date, to ensure your experience will not foster long-term dependency on volunteers.

    Moreover, the application process volunteers go through should be conducted with seriousness. It should feel like a job application rather than some type of vacation planning, with the organization asking you about your skills and motivation.

    Once you have chosen your organization and started looking for programs, the most ethical thing you can do is apply for tasks for which you are really qualified, ensuring that you can make a positive contribution.

    Finally, something to always keep in mind is that, although this volunteering opportunity involves exciting travel experiences for you, you are engaging in this experience to help others and not simply go on vacations.

    Maïna Couturieux

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