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Taking Time Out to Help Out—Thoughts on Volunteer Vacations

Summer vacation rejuvenates us because it’s a break from the troubles and stressors in our daily lives. But taking a vacation from your own troubles doesn’t mean you have to take a break from others. Many philanthropic summer-breakers are foregoing beaches and European tours to help others this year.

Altruistic travelers are not just taking a vacation. They’re taking a volunteer vacation.

Volunteer vacations combine our need to get away with the more pressing needs of others, whether in our local communities or in different countries. Choosing to spend your vacation time—and, sometimes, your vacation budget—is a tremendous act of charity. Learn more about sacrificing your vacation time for the greater good below.

Pick and Choose
The adventure of selecting a cause and a destination begins after deciding to spend your vacation time volunteering. You can use your days off work to serve people near your home. Select a charity or nonprofit whose mission resonates with you, then contact them about spending a few days in their service. They’ll be happy to have a weeks’ worth of your help, and it may even be the start of a longtime volunteering relationship—all the better.

If you’ve got more time and money to spare, look beyond your home town for people who need you. You can spend your time teaching, rebuilding homes destroyed by natural disasters or serving the sick in hospitals. Highly specialized professionals like doctors, dentists and nurses are always in demand. Plus, volunteering in a foreign country offers the added benefit of cultural immersion.

Note that going abroad for a volunteering vacation can be costly. But here’s some good news: depending on the organization you serve, your expenses could be tax-deductible.

Bring ‘em Along
Take someone with you on your volunteer vacation so that together you two can make even more of an impact. Though volunteer trips are not the stuff of romantic getaways, couples that help out abroad report greater marital satisfaction afterward. The positive effect of volunteering on your relationships relates to developing a greater appreciation for your love’s talents, goodwill and generosity.

But single people need not feel left out of the relationship benefits of volunteer vacations. Invite a parent, sibling or friend to bond with while volunteering. No romantic attachment necessary.

Gratitude
Going back to work after a vacation full of volunteering won’t be so difficult because you’ll return to your normal life more grateful for it. Consider making your trip especially meaningful by dedicating your vacation time to someone you love.

Although your first volunteer vacation experience may be unnerving in its unfamiliarity, be assured that wherever you end up and whomever you serve, you’re going to have a great vacation.