With more and more of the Baby Boomer generation transitioning into part-time work or retirement, there are increasing opportunities for them to participate in one of their generation’s prized experiences– traveling!
According to recent AARP data, a whopping 99% of Baby Boomers planned to travel in 2016, on vacations ranging from domestic weekend getaways to full international trips. But with our world’s rapidly-changing travel landscape, Boomers have a tough decision when it comes to deciding how, and where, to spend their travel time.
Our suggestion on a place to start? A volunteer vacation! Most Baby Boomers want to continue contributing to society in a meaningful way as they exit the traditional workforce, and volunteering is an excellent way to stay involved and make a difference. So why not blend volunteering seamlessly with exciting travel destinations and adventures along the way?
Here’s our Top 5 reasons why the Baby Boomer generation should take volunteer vacations…
The More, The Merrier
For many members of the Baby Boomer generation, finding a destination where they can comfortably travel alongside their spouse, immediate family, extended family or friends is a high priority. The reality is that not all major tours or all-inclusive packages will cater to these different group sizes and needs.
When taking a volunteer vacation, you’re usually working with a smaller, more flexible organization who is excited to have you on board! The unique needs of your group will be addressed in a transparent and responsive way. Because not only are you traveling, but you’re volunteering your time to benefit others. Organizations may even design custom experiences for your group to make the trip as impactful as possible.
For solo travelers, there are also huge benefits to taking a volunteer vacation. Not only can you meet new friends and bond over a powerful shared volunteer experience, but it can be surprisingly affordable for individuals to volunteer abroad.
Although everyone likes to relax and unwind a bit while traveling, research indicates that Baby Boomers don’t want to just sit around in a vegetative state by the pool when they take a trip. Instead, they are increasingly opting to include adventurous, bucket list-type experiences in their travel plans.
Always wanted to see the tigers? Check it off your list while on a volunteer vacation in India. Want to work with Elephants or Sea Turtles? Travel to Thailand or Costa Rica and partner with organizations that’ll give you hands-on experience with these animals.
Volunteer vacations are often designed to include a bit of everything, from making a difference in a community to seeing and doing new and exciting things. And of course, there’s usually some relaxing built in, too!
Choose Your Own Volunteer Adventure
The great thing about volunteering? It can be done nearly anywhere on earth! There are always opportunities for meaningful contribution, especially if you’re looking to travel and volunteer outside of the USA. This is good news, as a recent study showed that at least 45% of the Baby Boomer generation plan to take at least one international trip this year.
The most common international destination on Baby Boomers’ radar for the coming year? The Caribbean. With tropical weather, warm waters and rich cultures, this region of the world is also a great place to volunteer! From the Dominican Republic to Belize, there are countless opportunities to get involved.
Are you a doctor or a nurse? Perhaps you’d be interested in a volunteer trip with a medical theme. Have you always loved working with young children? Find a volunteer vacation that focuses on projects that support youth.
You may also want to use the opportunity to volunteer abroad as a way to dive into a new hobby. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn more about farming or the environment, but you’ve never had the chance to do so. A typical vacation might not be a place for you to learn about and pursue new passions, but on a volunteer vacation that works with local farmers on environmental sustainability projects, you’ll learn loads and have fun along the way.
While you’re on an international volunteer vacation, you’re living and working in a community that is likely new to you. You’re also spending 1:1 time getting to know the locals in a way that, as a typical tourist, you might never have the chance to.
This type of immersion is hard to come by unless you’re living in a place. But as a volunteer, you’ll get an insider’s perspective of what it’s like to be a local.
The beauty of taking a volunteer vacation lies in the doors that it opens up for travelers. By removing yourself from the resort pool or tour bus, and placing yourself in a new and dynamic environment, you’ll walk away from your trip knowing more about the culture and community of a new place than you thought possible.
And the best part? You can stay in touch with the new friends that you’ve helped along the way, and those who’ve helped you in return. -Sara McDaniel
BIO: Sara McDaniel is a San Diego-based educator who uses her summers to explore the world, often alongside her students! In addition to writing for The Volunteer Traveler, she has directed international programming for various travel organizations. When she’s not writing or researching, she can often be found swimming in the ocean, eating all of the delicious foods she can find, and teaching in San Diego State University’s College of Education.