Welcome to part two of our Ripple Effect interview with Anna Strahs Watts, blogger, gluten free baker and avid traveler. To learn more about Anna and her amazing adventures, visit her blog A Girl and Her Backpack, where she chronicles her experiences overseas and how they have changed her perspective on the world in which we live.
It’s been a while since I wrote about a volunteer organization on the business side of the volunteering equation. The for-profit volunteer industry is one of the main engines driving our global increase in volunteer travel. These are travel companies that provide a vital service for communities in need while they offer great travel and volunteering adventures to their customers. The links between tourism and volunteering continue to blur as itineraries increasingly include volunteering stints amidst sightseeing and outdoor adventure. Often volunteering opportunities are half-time and include room and board, permitting a much more long-term vacation than would otherwise be possible.
For the 30-something traveler and volunteer (me), there is something so nostalgic about college-age adventure. It wasn’t that long ago and yet, I remember the idealism and excitement as if they were things of the last century. It’s so easy to become jaded—to let the terrible things about the world into your heart. I don’t think of myself as cynical, but reading about the subject of today’s article has inspired me to take a good hard look at my tarnished optimism. There is no reason for it! Optimism is the product of positive change. It’s the result of standing up for something, of doing things yourself to get them done right. I spend a lot of time reading about volunteer companies. It’s a wonderful thing to read about because so many of them are designed to make the world better. Still, just like in any marketplace, there is often a very thinly veiled profit-incentive. This is fine, so long as the programs are well run, sustainable, and responsible, but it is refreshing to see a company that openly addresses this obvious and pervasive ethical quandary.