No longer content with tanning on a tropical beach with some easy reading, many Americans are seeking enrichment in their travels. After all, you can read a book at home, but scuba diving, taking authentic French cooking classes or visiting ancient temples requires some traveling.
Americans find unique ways to authenticate their experiences abroad. Some travel with charities that offer volunteer opportunities. “Voluntourism” allows vacationers to experience their destination at the ground level, while also helping local communities.
Others seek opportunities to enhance their knowledge or gain new skills. For example, a person traveling to Spain might enroll in a full-immersion Spanish class or take cooking lessons, allowing them to return home with foreign language skills and the ability to cook a mean paella. Travelers can find trips to suit any interest, from learning to rate wines in the French Riviera to participating in archeological digs.
Some charities offer vacation packages that raise awareness for their causes. For example, Bread and Water for Africa (www.africanrelief.org), a nonprofit that supports grassroots efforts for community self-sufficiency, health and education, offers a Kenyan Safari and Program Tour. In addition to traditional activities like game drives and village tours, the package includes a visit to the Lewa Children’s Home, an orphanage that provides food, clean water, clothing, shelter, health care and counseling to children who have been neglected, abandoned or orphaned. Travelers, in interacting with the home’s staff and children, see exactly how Bread and Water for Africa’s work benefits communities.
Another charity, Running Strong for American Indian Youth (www.indianyouth.org), has run a similar tour every September for the past 20 years that takes participants to Indian reservations in South Dakota. Over the course of a week, visitors not only experience Lakota culture first-hand, but also see how Running Strong’s programs improve reservation life.