Voluntourism: Travelling With a Difference.

We talked about Volunteer Travel in our first ever #Untravel Twitter Chat, co-hosted by @IndiaUntraveled and @_thealternative. From little things to not so little things, we shared ideas, experiences, recommendations & tips on how to spice up your travels with volunteering.

Photo by Christian Huegen.

1. A mix of travel enthusiasts, volunteers, and volunteering organizations joined the chat. Some had volunteered while travelling before. Many were still warming up to the idea, asking how to start, where to go, who to contact. 

haven't ever volunteered on a vacation. haven't ever thought about it, to be honest. 

Can someone tell me bout volunteer options in Goa? Hehe, obvious travel destination. 

  What is a good period to volunteer so that you contribute and travel too? One month or more?

 Nice, can you think of anything we can do in our backyard, Kerala? 

Exactly! RT  how do we connect with the organizations ?? 

  Is carrying stuff not other way of donating? How would you define real volunteering?

What would be the best way for most of us to volunteer without having to give up our jobs? 

2. We came to a common consensus, you don't necessarily have to be attached to an organization to 'volunteer' while travelling. 

 Haven't really volunteered while travelling,but do carry books with me.Donate to schools/kids I meet on the way

I don't do much volunteering during travel. But i pick up waste on my way whenever I go to a wildlife sanctuary. That's all :0 

Haven't volunteered in my travels, only reported from realities such as Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon  cc

social work doesn't need to be formal. next time you're on a trip, spice it up and hire a bicycle instead of a cab. little things! 

 An example that comes to mind is that of 's bike ride :  

  I second that. Helped a tour guide sell post cards last week in Estonia. Little things matter. 

3. Experienced volunteer-travellers & friends of friends offered several recommendations for organizations with opportunities to volunteer in beautiful places that should be on your travel list.

 Try Sikkim. Amazing volunteering opportunities and organisations working on inspiring issues 

Manav Sadanand in Ahmedabad! Met a lot of volunteers there who came to visit Gandhi ashram and stayed back to volunteer!

Always wanted to go volunteer in a farm, like the wwoofers do!  

I volunteered with Spiti Ecosphere in Spiti last summer. One of the most touching experiences I've had. 

-India has a green hiker campaign which also includes cleaning up mountains of trash. 

tried to volunteer in Pondicherry. Unfortunately, that requires booking(the guesthouse ) much in advance 

 check out Wildernest:  on the way to goa - lotsa conservation ops

See  RT  can you think of anything we can do in our backyard, Kerala? 

Toying with the idea of volunteering on farms as I travel. Starting with, following a trail of fresh veggies. :) 

A friend worked at NGO Chirag, teaching kids high up in the Himalayas. The experience changed her life! 

 is also looking for volunteers to teach kids at a lovely school in Kashmir  

  Have a look at  for responsible travel / volunteering ideas in NE. 

 If one is traveling to Ladakh during Summer break, an option is to volunteer at 

 Yes, people traveling to Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai or Delhi are welcome to volunteer in classrooms 

The chennai trekking club () is doing a great job of cleaning up the coast and water bodies. 

1 of the best places to volunteer in the Himalayas is Spiti -http://ow.ly/bzy6z - Inspired the start of India Untravelled! 

 The school featured in 3 idiots is another option if you are traveling to Ladakh - 

Nilgiris Documentation Centre works for preservation of nilgiris, must-visit organization in Nilgiris(TN) 

 me me. Tried to volunteer at a turtle conservation centre for 2 days in Perhentian. They wanted more time 

Also Goonj. RT : Orgs to connect with on vol travel  , grassroutes journeys

  works with kids development through sports. try volunteering with them! 

Is there a common database of live volunteering opps+experiences or would you like to take it up  

4. We talked about the 'little things' that could make travelling different - independent, informal ideas to volunteer while you travel.

In Bhutan, stop by a remote school on your long trek and share some sweets, ideas, experience.  

 how about helping fishermen unload? Or cleaning up back waters? 

 I helped an old woman for 3 days setting her shop & selling things. 

If anyone is visiting Leh this year, check with  to see if they need supplies for the kids they are working with. 

If you're visiting Spiti this year,  need old laptops to teach young monks. 

How about quieter ways of volunteering on travel - Vipassana   said the exp. was awesome

Gud idea to capture videos of local communities n their issues, and spread it across after coming bk?Might create some impact

 Me and my kids picked up a huge amount of trash on the trek down from Har Ki Dun and took it all the way to Dehradun.

On your way to see the Rann of Kutch,drop of books/learning materials for the school in Dhordo. Last village before the border.

5. Common considerations for not volunteering while travelling were voiced.

If ur travelling with friends, most of the times if they're not in for it, u don't end up either. Happ in my Mcleod trip! 

 If I tell my boss to give me 3 months off for volunteer travel, he will start finding a substitute :P 

Many volunteering orgs ask for a lot of money to let you volunteer, kind of ironic. What do you think? 

6. Then it was agreed that it was surely worthwhile considering volunteering on a holiday. Tips for planning your next trip & for first time volunteers flew around.

While making your travel itinerary you can check orgs where you can volunteer and who would also be ready to host you 

I generally take books, sketch pens, drawing books etc to give to kids. 

During my travel, I had clicked some photos of street children. Next day I gave them the prints! Got huge smiles in return :) 

Travelling responsibly is a way of volunteering for the environment. suggests some ways -  

Its exciting to take 6 mnths off. Plan your travel route. Figure out orgs on that route. Stay with them and volunteer  

But wat bout volunteer travelling in ur paid vacations? Or is that too precious? 

How about volunteer + travel on your corporate retreats. Maybe you can suggest it to your HR? 

Here are some of my stories frm my recent Volunteering   

 Go with an open mind. Don't impose culturally, as an outsider. 

: find something you love, travel and go get some more people to love it! Would do it for dancing any day 

 Ah, just enjoy the experience because the joy of giving is just immense. 

 Its imp to be flexible wherever you are volunteering. A commitment to learning & open mind makes your exp richer

Tips: Be sensitive, especially when working with kids. Think of the implications once you withdraw your commitment. 

 for 1st timers. Go with open mind. It's ok if u r disappointed or things are not as per ur expectations. 

7. Some people left inspired =)

Wow! Nice ideas coming up on 's  chat. Never knew we could contribute in so many ways while travelling.

Would love to volunteer in North India, I have read of many opportunities brought about by locals themselves 

Man, i love the suggestions & tips here. All u get on a google search r orgs trying to extract so much money 4m u 

Sigh, can i please pack my bags and go somewhere now? this tweetchat is greatly increasing travel angst! 

Are we the only ones to think volunteer travelling as your honeymoon is a hopelessly romantic idea?  

Apt time for Anne Frank to say, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

Loved the chat .a more of learning on volunteering XD 

That was a great enlightening chat,my1st twitter chat experience as well. Thx :) 

It was really nice to meet so many great people full of desire to give and share. 

Much like  we were quite transported to a distant land or our own backyard to fold our sleeves & do good. TY for this!

India Untravelled & The Alternative are working on a list of organizations offering volunteer travel opportunities across India to share with all travel & volunteering enthusiasts. If you have ideas, email them to us at shivya@indiauntravelled.com or tweet us @indiauntraveled.

Also see this Storify compilation of the #Untravel Voluntourism chat by The Alternative.

Our #Untravel chat will resume next week, on Thursday at 3 pm. Drop us a note if you have ideas of topics we should discuss, and see you there!

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