Vacations Doing Good… That’s a Sustainable Holiday!

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26 May, 2021


Use this time of rest while doing something for others. Now that’s a sustainable holiday!

As summer holidays are approaching, have you considered spending these vacations doing something enriching for other people?

There are countless ways to do so – however, not all of the available options are actually having a positive effect. That is why you should think twice before joining a useless or counterproductive activity.

It is estimated that 22 % to 23 % of Europeans aged over 15 are involved in volunteering. This desire to help others is commendable, but it should be put to good use.

Let’s see how this could be done – or what should be avoided.

Voluntourism can be damaging

Have you heard of the term voluntourism? It has been a trend for quite some time now and the voluntourism industry is worth up to $2.6 billion worldwide, according to a market study.

But more and more, this trend is being criticized – and for good reasons.

Voluntourism is essentially a merger of volunteering and tourism, hence the name. It often involves travelling quite far. Many times, the voluntourists will go to developing countries, and do volunteer work while also travelling. The basic idea is definitely intriguing, and not bad per se.

However, the danger of voluntourism is, simply put, wasting your time, and simultaneously harming the planet.

But how can this be if the intention behind it is good? Good intentions, unfortunately, do not guarantee a good and beneficial result.

The following illustrative example can showcase this.

Imagine you take a direct plane to Bali from Frankfurt, with the aim to clean up polluted beaches. By taking the plane to travel there, you would cause the emission of 1.76 tons CO2 into the atmosphere.

Just with this journey alone, you have a harmful impact on the environment. Worse still, there are plenty of voluntourists that do not engage in meaningful long-term projects at their destinations. Instead, they party and create even more waste for the local communities to deal with.

Because of cases like this one, it can many times be more impactful to simply donate to an organization that provides aid to struggling communities. This saves you the plane right there and ensures that the projects are being properly executed by locals who might be grateful to find a job this way. Additionally, it prevents the fostering of dependencies in the communities.

You can use this calculator to double check how many emissions your journey would cause.

Meaningful projects are the key

Having covered the danger of voluntourism, finding a project which is meaningful to you is another key aspect.

Concretely, this translates to identifying your personal core values and competencies. Then, it requires deciding how to best apply them to a project. For instance, if you have a deep-rooted passion for sea turtles and you are quite physically fit, you could look into projects that support the hatching of baby turtles, while also including an educational component.

The key point here is to look out for activities which align with your personal beliefs, where donating your time and energy has the potential to truly support a project.

Additionally, this will ensure that you will end up enjoying your vacation, and not simply suffer for some distant idea of a “greater good”. Motivation is essential, and it will best be maintained by witnessing how your passion can transform an environment.

Support the locals

Another dimension is the location of your desired project.

Is it situated far away, on a tropical island? Or perhaps it is just a few cities away from you, and you can simply take the train to get there?

These parameters have a great potential to decide whether the project you will take part in has a positive or a negative net impact on the environment and the people.

While it may be tempting to travel to Costa Rica to do “volunteer work”, you may end up just surfing and not actually helping the planet.

On the other hand, there are always local charities, animal shelters and other organizations that could use your help. Plus, language won’t be a barrier in that case.

Supporting your local town or region can be just as fulfilling – if not more.

You have an opportunity to stay connected to the organization and continuously see the developments you helped start.

Therefore, it is definitely worth considering focusing on local or national projects over long-distance ones. Plus, you can always start your own associations and find like-minded people to work alongside you.

Only vacations?

Lastly, note that it is certainly not necessary to use your vacations to achieve some positive social impact. Spending your precious holiday time to work, even as a volunteer, is very noble and precious. But you should never feel forced into it. That will only lead to low engagement and not result in anything substantial.

However, if you are truly interested in such projects, keep the above-mentioned points in mind to make sure your good intentions lead to good outcomes overall. This way, you will have great chances of spending your summer vacations meaningfully and joyfully.

To find some great projects, you can click here and browse through the various options for your location. If no results come up, there are still virtual opportunities you can engage with. But don’t forget to check in with your local communities IRL to see where your help can benefit them!

As Albert Schweitzer said, “Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you.”

If you are interested in learning about eco-friendly holidays, read our articles on conscious long trips and sustainable travel.

  • Have you ever done a volunteering trip? If so, how was that experience and what did you learn?
  • What are some local projects you would consider joining?
  • Do you think it is important that everyone does volunteer work at least once in their lives?
  • What kind of work would you like to engage with? Why?
  • What are some tips you have for possible volunteers?
  • Would you be interested in trying out virtual volunteer opportunities?


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  1. Monica

    Making a difference in our immediate environment is often underestimated …. Many people think they need to take a flight to clean beaches, but forget how harmful such a trip is for the environment ….

    • Komoneed

      Yes Monica! Sometimes our acts are like a live oxymoron

  2. Sarah G

    I am a nurse so’d love to use my skills and volunteer at a hospital that lacks funding. But now I would also check for more local opportunities…

    • Komoneed

      Thanks Sarah!… Not only for your comment but also for your life example!

  3. Enza

    I absolutely love volunteering, I’ve been doing it for about 5 or so years and it provides me with so much value. I always stick to my local NGO, so I’m happy this option is being discussed here 🙂

    • Komoneed

      That’s great! You are an amazing living example for all of us!

  4. Zachary Gonzales

    I totally disagree! Vacations should be all about relaxation and self-indulgence, not doing good. #SelfishVacays

    • Penelope

      Sorry, but I couldnt disagree more. Vacations are an opportunity to explore new perspectives, cultures, and give back to the places we visit. Its not just about us, its about making a positive impact. #MeaningfulTravel

  5. Gwendolyn

    I never thought vacations could involve helping others. Definitely an eye-opener!

    • Wylder

      Well, its about time you realized that not everything is about self-indulgence. Vacations can be a great opportunity to make a positive impact on the world. Maybe its time to step out of your comfort zone and give back a little.

  6. Gideon Snow

    Voluntourism is overrated! Just let me enjoy my piña colada in peace!

    • Nina

      Oh, how fortunate for you to enjoy your piña colada in peace while others are out there making a difference in the world. It must be nice to be so self-absorbed.

  7. Stella Phillips

    I totally agree! Vacations should be about giving back and making a difference. Lets make a positive impact! 🌍✨

  8. Santos

    Voluntourism sounds great, but are the meaningful projects actually benefiting the locals? 🤔

  9. Leah Day

    I totally agree that vacations should be about doing good! Its a win-win situation for everyone involved.

    • Robert Shaffer

      I couldnt disagree more. Vacations are meant for relaxation and enjoyment, not for turning them into some sort of volunteer work. We work hard all year round, we deserve a break. Lets leave the do-gooding for another time.

  10. Keilani Pollard

    I think vacations should be all about chilling on a beach, not doing charity work. #SorryNotSorry

    • Hunter

      While I respect your opinion, I believe vacations offer an opportunity to make a positive impact. Combining relaxation with volunteer work allows us to contribute to the community we visit, creating a more meaningful experience. Its about finding a balance between rejuvenation and giving back. #MakingADifference

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