Life Travel Pack your bags for a holiday that helps
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Pack your bags for a holiday that helps

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Are you too time poor to volunteer regularly, yet feel like you want to make some kind of contribution to the planet and its people? The good news is you can do both – take a holiday that’s all about helping out. Whether across the seas or on your own doorstep, there’s a meaningful travel option for everyone.

Get on your bike

cycle-vietnamFor those who like multitasking, a bike tour for charity is the perfect solution – you get to keep fit, see some of the world that’s a bit off the beaten track, make friends with like-minded people and raise money for a cause which is sure to give you the warm fuzzies. It’s a fundraising model that’s offered by various charities, one of the latest being Guide Dogs Victoria, who are offering their first Pedal for Pups tour this October.

The 12-day trip through Vietnam and Cambodia includes five days of cycling and plenty of sightseeing in both rural areas and cities. In order to participate, each individual is expected to raise $3000, or $5000 for a tandem bike team.

Funds raised will go towards ensuring vision-impaired people can be matched with guide dogs for free as well as possibly funding the purchase of equipment and training guide dog puppies. And if you weren’t feeling warm and fuzzy enough already thinking about all the good you could do on this tour, we have one word for you: PUPPIES.

When: From October 11-22.
Cost:  Register for $770
For more info: Visit Guide Dogs Victoria.

Travel in the raw

Sumatran-elephantsIf swimming and tubing in secluded waterholes, rainforest walks, hand-feeding and bathing elephants and discovering Sumatran cuisine through traditional banquets are your bag, sign up for the Earth 4 Orangutans trip with Raw Wildlife Encounters.

Just one of many tours offered in various countries, on this week-long trip participants contribute directly to Earth 4 Orangutans, an international fundraising and awareness campaign to support The Orangutan Haven and Wildlife Conservation Centre in Northern Sumatra.

With a mix of jungle camping and eco-lodge accommodation and the chance to see wildlife in its natural habitat and visit community development programs aimed at nature conservation, this is an aspiring eco warrior’s dream come true.

When: June/September.
Cost: $2500 pp
For more info: visit Raw Wildlife Encounters.

A few days that will change your life

McLeod-GanjA laugh a minute? Possibly not. But a life-changing experience? Definitely. The Australia Tibet Council runs annual trips to Dharamasala’s McLeod Ganj, offering participants the opportunity to meet with members of the Tibetan exile community and their organisations – and possibly with the Dalai Lama himself.

“It was such an inspirational trip,” says Elizabeth Jones, who took part in the 2013 Dharamsala Insight tour. “I had been thinking of volunteering in McLeod Ganj and then I found out about the trip and thought it would be the perfect introduction, providing a context and experience that I could never have had on my own.”

Turns out Jones’ hunch was right – since taking part in the 15-day tour she’s started doing volunteer work with the ATC, continuing a relationship way beyond her holiday in Northern India.

In the same neck of the woods, Hands On Development runs educational tours to Nepal. Sightseeing is interspersed with visits to remote villages and vocational centres, including the Seven Women Centre, which was set up by Melbourne’s own Stephanie Woollard to provide training and employment to disabled Nepalese women.

When: 1-15 November 2014
Cost: Approximately $4,995 (includes a $1,200 contribution to ATC)
For more info: Visit Australia Tibet Council.

One-day wonders

laos-children-2An entire holiday based around volunteering can be a big commitment, but it’s easy to start small. If you already have a trip planned, why not find out if there are places travellers can volunteer, even for a few hours? Language exchanges and literacy projects are possibly some of the easiest to take part in.

Visitors in Laos’ two main cities can drop in to Big Brother Mouse to stock up on locally-made books to distribute to children on treks to hilltribe villages or give locals the chance to practise their English; and for a small fee, children’s education organisation Room to Read offers site visits to its projects in countries including Bangladesh, Tanzania and South Africa.

For more info: Visit Big Brother Mouse.

Closer to home

Quoll-credit-Lucia-GriggiWhile there is literally a whole world to choose from when it comes to meaningful travel, there’s plenty to discover in Australia, too. Bush Heritage is a non-profit conservation organisation dedicated to protecting Australia’s unique animals, and allows members to camp and hike on some of the reserves it manages at no charge. It won’t be a luxury getaway but the chance to experience wilderness areas is priceless.

Speaking of luxury, volunteers on the Endangered Wildlife Conservation Great Ocean Road 3-day experience are in for a treat. Days are devoted to hands-on environmental activities and getting up close and personal with endangered tiger quolls and other native wildlife under the guidance of park rangers, but any hard work is amply rewarded in the evening with delicious dinners and the cosy, relaxing atmosphere of the multi-award winning Great Ocean Ecolodge. So if you only have a few days to spare, why not pack your bags and kick off your meaningful travel experience in your own backyard?

For more info: Visit Great Ocean Ecolodge.

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