We are one week away from the official start to summer and that means it is time to relax and take a vacation. For many Americans, vacation time is increasingly taking the form of "voluntourism" or travel and tourism combined with volunteer efforts. Whether spending time rebuilding New Orleans or contributing to the resurgence of a Sri Lankan village battered by the 2005 tsunami voluntourists describe their efforts as fulfilling and more meaningful than traditional package tours. There are several nonprofits who are trying to match tourists with volunteer opportunities and you can find many of them detailed on a webpage of voluntourism resources established by the Case Foundation. Interested voluntourists can locate more travel resources on the voluntourism.org website and read about the experiences of globe trekking voluntourists in stories from the Case Foundation, the Los Angeles Times, and the Today Show on NBC.
A variation on the theme of a "working vacation" is the idea of being a "vocationeer". "Vocationeer" is a concept being advanced by companies like Vocation Vacations that will help place you in your dream job for a few days to see if it is a vocation you would enjoy. Founder Brian Kurth told one newspaper that about a quarter of his clients explore new careers out of curiosity while the other 75% are just fed up with their occupation and are seriously seeking a new job. Among the top five fields explored by clients are culinary jobs, those related to animals, fashion, and sports. Numerous stories have already been written about vocationeers who have tried brewmaking, marine biology, or working with a NASCAR pit crew.
These are both interesting approaches to capture the attention and interest of our ready-to-travel culture. Both also demonstrate some unique opportunities and possibilities for regions and communities looking for development ideas that will attract tourists but preserve, if not promote, local culture.