19 January 2015 – Amid ongoing debate on the true intentions and impact of the “voluntourism” industry, two dozen influential professionals, writers and thought-leaders in responsible travel have contributed their ideas to Adventures Less Ordinary: How to Travel and Do Good, published today, an e-guide to travel that makes a positive and sustainable impact on local communities.
Adventures Less Ordinary is an anthology of analyses and suggestions from this ensemble of experienced experts who have been working to improve the volunteer travel industry for many years. The contributors explore the merits and perils of many established “voluntourism” activities and then provide practical advice to ethically-minded travelers about how to be sure of making a positive impact.
“The steady rise in popularity of volunteer travel has spawned a lucrative ‘voluntourism’ industry of often expensive programs, many targeting free-spirited and adventure-minded young travelers,” said Ethan Gelber, editor of the guide. “In turn, this has led to concerns over the impact of poorly-managed placements and whether certain types of programs actually do more harm than good.”
In light of this, Adventures Less Ordinary examines the state of the industry and explores the potential pitfalls of which travelers should be aware. It also outlines the kinds of questions they should ask before signing up to a program, while in the field and once back at home. For example: how do you gauge the project’s impact within the host community, how do you ensure you have the necessary skills to make a difference, and how do you measure your own personal impact?
One of the guide’s many notable observations is that travelers can often have a greater impact by not volunteering at all: that a financial or material donation, fundraising drive and awareness-building exercise can be more helpful than donating unskilled time.
Harold Goodwin, Professor of Responsible Tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “This collection of pieces about travel philanthropy is long overdue. Engaging with local people and with communities is a laudable and humane aspiration. But it is an aspiration which must be realised with care. The fundamental principle is to do no harm and never forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is a collection of stories and reflections from people who have experienced, and thought about, the problems which arise when you take an adventure less ordinary.”
The book includes an introduction by David Clemmons, Founder of VolunTourism.org, and contributions from respected experts like Shannon O’Donnell, Founder of GrassrootsVolunteering.org, Cole Hoover, a World Economic Forum “Global Shaper,” and Sallie Grayson, Co-founder of People and Places, among many others active in a wider debate about “mending, not ending” the volunteering industry. (The book’s presence on social media can be followed using the #MendNotEnd hashtag.)
“The result is, I believe, a potent resource for compassionate people seeking the ultimate adventure,” concluded Gelber. “It is a superb resource for people guided as much by the good people give as the good they get.”
Adventures Less Ordinary was made possible with support from Inspired Escapes, a new company that marries adventure travel with philanthropy and allows travelers to fundraise for important community projects in their travel destination. All editorial content remains strictly impartial.
Adventures Less Ordinary was published by Horizon Travel Press, part of I&I Travel Media.