Thursday, 29 January 2015 00:00

Voluntourism and solo travel

GoGirlfriend.com is a niche blog that focuses exclusively on travel for women, products and tips. Highbrow or budget, hot spots or off the beaten path, eco-friendly, sustainable and smart travel choices. GoGirlfriend.com profiled Amy Angelilli, a socially responsible lifetime adventurer who’s visited at least 24 countries – and she continues adding a new one to that list every year. Amy shared her solo travel experiences and the big-draw of volunteer travel. Enjoy!

Travel... It's Good for You!

Still scouring the Internet for an ideal adventure that’s right for you this year? Don’t be overwhelmed reading about other people’s adventures. What’s right for someone else isn’t necessarily right for you. What matters is that you have an authentic experience, get just a little bit out of your comfort zone and do, see or feel something you’ve never experienced before. It could be half way around the world, or, it could be just a short drive away. Make it yours and completely immerse yourself in it.

As a follow-up to my original piece about simple ways to add adventure to your travel, here are five more suggestions to get you packing. Hopefully one resonates with you, and, fits your lifestyle.

Stay local

It’s easy to stay at a chain hotel when traveling because it gives us comfort, as we know what to expect. Don’t do it. If you stay local, you not only put your dollars into the local economy, you’re able to cross the line between tourist and traveler – and that’s where the real adventure begins. To access these local opportunities, you might rent a place through Airbnb.com, which offers unique stays from local hosts in more than 190 countries. I’ve stayed in a guesthouse on an organic farm in Tortola, in a guest room on the western hills of Portland, Oregon and in an Adobe house on ten acres in Southwest Colorado via Airbnb.

If you like pets, TrustedHousesitters.com is a great resource as it connects home and pet owners who need a sitter. You’ll have the opportunity to stay at someone’s home (for free!) in exchange for taking care of the home and pets.

Go solo

Have you ever traveled with someone who just wasn’t on the same page – or schedule -- as you? It’s a drag as you find yourself compromising on what to see and what to do every day. And, let’s face it – the trip is only so long, so to miss out on opportunities can be heartbreaking. The solution? Go alone and spend each day however you’d like. I traveled to an eco-camp on St. John over Thanksgiving a few years ago. This is an example of how not to travel alone. It was a remote location on an American holiday, so the facility was filled with couples and families. I made only one friend – a single woman traveling with her daughter -- who had a rental jeep. For a few days, I had a friend – and a ride. However, the experience taught me a lesson. As a solo traveler, avoid holidays and seek out places to stay that attract other solo travelers. For more solo travel tips, visit AdventurouSkate.com – a solo female travel blog and the “She Travels Solo” page of JourneyWoman.com.

Go to camp

If you’ve longed to return to camp ever since you reached an age where you became too old to return to camp, now’s your chance. Summer camps for adults are exploding. And, some even cater to the solo traveler. At the Mac & Cheese Productions Life of Yes! Sleepaway Camp, you’re whisked away to an undisclosed location within a two-hour drive of Chicago – but that’s all your told. Everything is taken care of for you – lodging, meals and itineraries – so there’s nothing to worry about. And, the best part is that everyone comes solo, so you wouldn’t even be eligible to attend if you wanted to bring a friend.

If big is more your thing – big trees, big crowds and big productions – then get your backpack ready and head to Camp Grounded – summer camp for adults. A digital detox experience in the Redwoods where adults get to be kids again, Camp Grounded offers playshops, wellness activities, sustainable meals, and most importantly, live real-time conversations with real people – no digital devices needed. Summer of 2014 was my summer of camps – it impacted me so much that I just completed an old school style scrapbook of my experiences.

Participate in a volunteer program

Voluntourism is at an all-time high, as more people want to give back via their travel experiences. VolunTourism.org is a great resource to explore volunteer vacations. As you dig deeper about this kind of travel experience, you’ll discover a global debate raging regarding the value of volunteer travel. If you’re on the fence about where you stand, or, if you just don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can have your volunteer vacation be about nothing more than talking. Seriously! At VaughTown, native English speaking volunteers spend several days in a small Spanish town conversing with Spanish business people hoping to get better command of English. I participated in this program in 2003 and I’m still in touch with some of the friends I made there

Travel off-season

There are so many advantages to traveling off-season – the biggest being the cost. There are always bargains to be had, as there are fewer visitors coming through. Plus, if it’s a popular tourist destination, the locals tend to be more relaxed and open to conversation as they aren’t up to their eyeballs with tourists. I took this concept to the extreme about 15 years ago when I traveled to the island of Ibiza in February. It was a ghost town. But, there was one pub open and the British folks minding it gave us the royal treatment, making for an unforgettable evening. If off-season seems too much of a stretch, try shoulder season – bargains are still available, crowds are still thin and authentic connections are still easier to find.

May you find – and embrace – your own adventure in 2015. And remember, even if everything doesn’t turn out perfectly, an imperfect adventure is better than no adventure at all.

What tips would you like to add on why traveling is good for you? We'd love to hear. Drop a comment below or connect with your GoGirlfriends on Facebook or Twitter!

About Amy Angelili

Amy Angelilli is a socially responsible lifetime adventurer who’s visited at least 24 countries – and she continues adding a new one to that list every year. Between trips, she moved from Philadelphia to Denver in an RV filled with rescue pets, and opened a low cost spay/neuter clinic for stray cats so she wouldn’t have to adopt any more. Now, as Chief Adventure Officer of The Adventure Project, she uses improvisational theater techniques to play with others so that they may discover and create their own adventures – at home or abroad.

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