Naturally, the voluntourism industry aims to serve the largest number of people possible. It’s kind of like politics: one party trying to appeal to the largest demographic by riding the middle. As the market grows, more and more organizations are providing streamlined, polished, non-threatening excursions that get people excited without frightening them. This is great because it means more people are deciding to travel and volunteer. But for adventurous volunteers who are looking for something less polished—something challenging, remote, and raw—these voluntours may not be a good fit. These travelers are the third party voters, people who like small organizations that don’t compromise on specific issues (like adventure). For them I suggest Fronteering, an exciting volunteering organization that brings travelers off the beaten path to experience isolated cultures in remote areas.
Lately, I’ve been exploring the benefits of multigenerational volunteer travel experiences. I think families grow stronger when they face positive challenges. Being out of your element as a family means sticking together, relying on each other for support, and learning side-by-side. Seeing your family members in a new way teaches you about who they are as people. On volunteer excursions, families learn as much about each other as they do about the country they’re visiting. I’ve also been on the lookout for family volunteer experiences that involve total cultural immersion. I think, especially for kids, being challenged to acclimate to a home-stay fosters adaptability. It also encourages the development of language skills, since many home-stay families don’t speak English.