How to book an amazing voluntourism vacation

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How to book an amazing voluntourism vacation

Hello, my name is Christopher Hill, founder of Hands Up Holidays. Thank you for this opportunity to provide you with information about how to get the most out of your voluntourism vacation. From personal experience, and from countless satisfied clients, I believe the most rewarding trips are those that include a hands-on, giving back component. That’s the essence of ‘voluntourism’ – volunteering plus sightseeing. The kinds of giving back experiences you can have as part of your vacation include: Helping to rebuild homes for impoverished families Renovating an orphanage or school Assisting on a wildlife conservation project

Using your skills, be they medical, marketing, IT or accounting related to help others. Here are some of the reasons why we think you will love this: You can experience the joy of helping those less fortunate You get to interact with another culture in a meaningful way You can learn valuable life lessons and skills in a safe context You can develop the confidence to start unfamiliar projects We will start by dealing with Five Common Misconceptions about voluntourism. Next, we will give you 12 Top Tips on how to find a voluntourism provider you can trust. We finish with Six Recommendations for having an inspiring voluntourism experience.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT VOLUNTOURISM: 1. Voluntourism means you need to rough it. Giving back and luxury accommodation needn’t be mutually exclusive. Your trip can easily combine the best of both worlds: amazing, luxury, tailor-made holidays that also give you a taste of volunteering on worthwhile local projects. Look for Tour Operators that work with properties in the ‘eco-luxury’ category. These are hotels and resorts that have the highest standards of comfort and service while retaining ethical and environmentallyfriendly policies, such as recycling, green energy solutions and community programs. Don’t worry about having to give up your home comforts – you can still travel in style. 2. You have to commit for a long time. As a general rule, the longer you give back for, the greater the impact you will have, but you don’t necessarily have to commit to months away from home. Your impact can be affected by Money, Time and Skills. Programs can be designed so that, with the appropriate level of funding, you can make a positive impact to the local community within 3-5 days. An example would be paying for a family to have a home. You may only have four days

to spend on helping alongside local expert builders to build it, but if your voluntourism provider knows what they are doing, the work can be started before you get there, so you get to finish it off, and hand it over to the family. And if your money was not provided, the house would not have been built. That is an amazing feeling! Look for programs where the role you will play has been carefully researched and selected so that no matter how short a time you’re there, you won’t be a burden to the local communities and you will have nothing but a beneficial impact. 3. You need specialist skills to make a difference. Everyone has different skills and abilities. Of course, if you do have particular fields of expertise, they should be put to good use, but as long as you’re able bodied or can speak conversational English, you’re going to be able to help. Building, teaching and organizing are all important, but so is basic human contact, helping with simple chores and being an extra pair of hands, helping lift the burden of the permanent care-givers. Even if you have skills that you think are specifically ‘urban’, such as IT, marketing or accounting, these can also often be put to work where you’re headed.

The main resources you’ll need are enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Good things will come from these, both for you and for the people you work with.

You may want to look for programs that offer accommodation that is of 4 or 5 star standard, so that you can be assured of a good night’s sleep.

4. You need to be a student or young person on a gap year.

5. You don’t get to see the sights on a voluntourism vacation. Voluntourism, as opposed to volunteer travel, is a combination of volunteering and tourism, so the sightseeing is a vital component of your vacation, or else it is not voluntourism. Your voluntourism provider thus needs to be able to speak knowledgeably about the destination, and prepare an itinerary for you that includes all the places you want to see (and suggest some you may not be aware of), along with recommendations for hotels, restaurants and insider tips that only the locals know.

There isn’t a maximum age to have amazing experiences. If you have basic fitness or have a healthy mind, you’re going to be able to contribute to many worthwhile projects. What can be a better legacy for you to leave than helping improve the prospects of those less fortunate? Look for voluntourism providers who rate and explain the activity levels involved, so that you can pick one that you’re going to be comfortable with.

4. You deserve all the help you need, so make sure that they are providing you with 24 hour, in-country support. 5. The more information you have before you leave, the greater an experience you can have. Find out if they’re going to send you a detailed briefing pack well in advance of your departure. 6. Testimonials count. Find out what opinions previous customers have formed, and what they got out of the trip. Your provider should always be able to give you first hand references and even contact details of past clients. 7. Nothing beats first-hand knowledge of the destination and volunteering project. Ask to speak to someone at the company that has seen the work for themselves and knows the destination inside and out. 8. It is a commitment you’re making, so find out as much as you can about what is going to be expected of you once you arrive. Your advisor should have a full run-down of your responsibilities. HOW TO FIND A VOLUNTOURISM PROVIDER YOU CAN TRUST: 1. Talk to them and make sure that they are being attentive to your needs and preferences, and not just trying to sell you what they want to sell you. Look for knowledgeable, sympathetic advisors. 2. Make sure that they are providing a match for your skills and interests. The closer the match, the more you and the people on your project will get out of the experience. 3. They should be managing your expectations. Inspiration is important, but they should be aware of the scope of your contribution and keep you anchored in reality.

9. Safety and health are concerns on any trip. Your advisor should be able to answer detailed questions about the health and safety issues for the country, region and specific project.

10. Since you’re traveling all the way out there, it might be useful and rewarding to take some kind of donation with you. Ask your consultant what might be best - they should have a good idea of what’s most needed and appreciated. 11. The time after your trip is incredibly important. Most people feel connected to the communities in which they worked and stayed, so make sure that a detailed debriefing and suggestions on how to maintain contact with the community are available. 12. Make sure that the company has liability insurance, as well as measures to protect your payment in the event of their insolvency. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HAVING AN INSPIRING VOLUNTOURISM EXPERIENCE: 1. It’s an important decision, so take your time. Research all you can and talk to your consultant for as long as you need. Don’t be rushed into anything. 2. Be clear on what you want to get out of the experience. One way to do this is to make a list of the top five things you want to achieve, and another list of the top five things you want to avoid. Use these lists as the criteria for selecting a voluntourism provider.

3. Be clear about the impact that your trip is going to have. Find out just how your visit is going to benefit that community, the local environment or local wildlife. It’s important to know just how much good you’re going to be doing, and also the limits of your endeavors. 4. There are no such things as stupid questions. Your reassurance and confidence are of the utmost importance, so ask as many questions as you feel you need to. The more the better, in fact, so that everyone involved gets the absolute most out of your trip. 5. Everyone is different, so be sure to find a provider that is accustomed to dealing with people such as yourself. Students, retirees, families and young professionals all have different budgets, preferences and skills, so look around for someone who’s going to understand you. 6. Focus on a provider that specializes in the length of time you want to travel for. Some providers only deal with people who have several weeks or months to volunteer, whereas others enable you to incorporate volunteering as part of your vacation.

NEXT STEPS Thanks so much for taking the time to read through this guide and for listening to our advice. We hope that you found the information helpful and inspiring. You are now well placed to book an amazing voluntourism experience. If you want a vacation that does not entail giving back, many companies can help you. Or you can book a hotel yourself. If you are attracted to voluntourism but prefer more budget accommodation, there are great operators that can help you. However, if you want your voluntourism vacation to be luxurious then I invite you to browse our website, or go right ahead and contact one of our specialist consultants: email: call: (US) 201 984 5372 (UK) 0207 193 1062 (Rest of World) +44 207 193 1062

Thanks very much for reading. I hope you found this consumer message helpful. If you end up making a booking with Hands Up Holidays, quote “VOLUNTOURISM2013� for free upgrades in all your hotels, where available. On behalf of Hands Up Holidays, thanks again and we hope to have the opportunity to inspire you soon! Christopher Hill Founder Hands Up Holidays

About Christopher Hill:

fulfilling, inspiring…and life changing. Experiences such as helping build a house in South Africa and teaching English to my host family in a home-stay in Guatemala are great examples, and the lifelong friends I have made as a result and the lives changed were the catalyst for leaving my job in the City in London and setting up Hands Up Holidays. Through volunteering, and the consequent meaningful interaction with local people, I gained an insight into peoples' lives, and was blown away by how whilst they had little materially but were incredibly rich culturally and socially.

"I founded Hands Up Holidays to give you the opportunity to not only see amazing sights, but also to have authentic interaction with local people and give something back in a “hands on” way to local communities through a taste of volunteering. In my life I have been blessed to have had some incredible travel experiences in over 50 countries, from African sunsets on safari, to swimming with dolphins, to hiking up volcanoes and even gasping for breath in the Himalayas. But as amazing as those experiences are, my most enduring memories are the times when I have engaged in meaningful ways with the local people: becoming the official photographer at a village wedding in a remote section of North-East Vietnam, sharing chai with Indian farmers, sheeshah with Touareg nomads or copious brandies with gracious Serbian hosts are memories I cherish. Moreover, when these interactions are overlaid with giving back through volunteering, they became incredibly

I was both challenged and inspired by this, and I decided to adopt a simpler, more contented attitude to life – being grateful for what I have, rather than striving for more and more possessions. I started working on Hands Up Holidays in 2003 to make it easy for you, fellow travelers, to have incredible voluntourism experiences and dig a little deeper into a community and give back in ways that enable you to make a positive impact in 3-5 days with a taste of volunteering. I am passionate about you having amazing travel experiences through Hands Up Holidays. Expect to have a meaningful holiday with us, while at the same time being challenged to look at the world in a new light. That’s why we are Hands Up -

“Adventures that count … for you, and the community”

About Hands Up Holidays: Hands Up Holidays is a luxury travel company with one BIG difference. We are obsessive about you having more than an amazing vacation; our passion is for you to have a remarkable luxury travel experience that you will treasure forever, by combining expertly-led sightseeing with meaningful community development through volunteering or philanthropy. Touch lives, including your own. So what makes us special? The secret ingredient that makes our trips so special is the combination of a fantastic tailor-made luxury holiday with a ‘taste’ of volunteering or philanthropy. Combining the two gives you the chance to get under the skin of a destination and interact meaningfully with the local people and giving them a 'hand up' in life. Don’t just scratch the surface: help that African girl have a safe place to live, teach hospitality skills to the Colombian coca leaf grower so he isn’t reliant on an illegal trade for a living, or help conserve elephants in Thailand. In so doing you will find yourself immersed in local life, championing a cause and learning new things, all combined with sights that you want to see, led by an expert local guide. Some of our clients have been so transformed by their journeys, that it has inspired them to change careers and in a few cases they have even moved to the country of the project. Now, this might not happen to you, but rest assured that you will have fun and return with great memories and touching stories.

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