Tag Archives: volunteer vacation

Voluntourism for solo travellers

Voluntourism for solo travelers

Voluntourism for solo travelers

Solo travel has traditionally had something of a bad reputation.

Associations people make with solo trips include unfair surcharges for travelling or staying in a hotel alone, to awkward, single-types tours with uncomfortably forced social activities.

If you’re of a mind to adventure by yourself, voluntourism is one of the most ideal ways to do it. Not only do you get to have a memorable, life-changing trip, but you’re much more likely to meet like-minded people, bond over a shared endeavour and feel safe and secure in the hands of your expert local guides. If you’re looking for a rewarding solo trip, be sure to check our Solo Traveler Notice Board.


Top 10 Eco-friendly tourist destination countries

According to the Economist, the top ten cleanest and greenest countries are below. Of these, you can have an amazing voluntourism experience in: Costa Rica, New Zealand and Colombia.

1. Switzerland
With so much of Switzerland made up of mountains and lakes, it’s little surprise that it tops the enviro-charts. If you want to experience Switzerland’s alpine beauty in a low impact way, try WhitePod Village – a collection of eco-friendly pods, tucked away on a Swiss mountainside. Complete with cosy wood burning stoves, comfy beds and incredible views, this is eco-camping in luxury.

2. Norway
‘Powered by nature’ is the slogan of Norway’s tourist board and if you take a trip through fjord land you’ll see why. Steep cliffs plunge into deep blue fjords whilst waterfalls cascade down the mountainsides creating a landscape of sheer beauty. The best way to experience Norway’s nature with minimal impact is by foot and Bergen is a great base for hiking the area. You can also explore the region by train which takes you through the fjords and up the mountains.

3. Sweden
In joint second with neighbour Norway, Sweden offers cascading northern lights, white sandy beaches, mountains, meadows and a glittering array of over 24,000 islands. Sweden was the second country in the world to introduce an eco-tourism charter, and also created Europe’s first eco-label that assures the quality of around 180 holidays and activities run by its 80 eco-certified tour operators around the country.

4. Finland
Finland’s Lapland is one of Europe’s last true areas of unspoiled wilderness, with vast swathes of forest and hundreds of pristine lakes, visitors can enjoy the midnight sun, stunning natural scenery and see bear and lynx. A paradise for campers, hikers and bikers, Finland was recently named ‘Best Country in the World’ by Newsweek, and is one great escape.

5. Costa Rica
This Central American country has been deemed the world’s ‘most natural conservation area’ having protected more than 27% of its land by creating a network of Wildlife Refuges, Biological Reserves and National Parks. Costa Rica offers a diverse range of ecosystems and activities; trek through million-year old rainforest, hike volcanoes, raft wild rivers, and spy jaguars, reptiles and multicoloured birds.

6. Austria
If you’re looking to learn something on holiday, visit Kalchkendlalm, Austria’s most unusual school. Located high on a mountain pasture with a backdrop of snow-capped mountain peaks, toy town houses in the valley, thick forests and craggy cliffs, you can join the ‘bread and butter’ class, bake your own loaf, milk a cow and churn butter.

7. New Zealand
Ever since Frodo Baggins and Gandalf introduced us to Middle Earth, New Zealand’s vast open spaces filled with stunning rugged landscapes, gorgeous beaches and spectacular geothermal and volcanic activity have captured the world’s imagination. Take a sea kayak tour in the Abel Tasman National Park, an exquisite area of coastline between Marahau and Takaka, and explore the bays, beaches and headlands of the park. Campsites occur regularly along the way, so you can pull into shore and pitch a tent at the end of each day.

8. Latvia
Visit an ‘open farm’ where you can learn how food is produced, try your hand at some of the eco-friendly farming techniques, and buy fresh and healthy foods which are not available from the city supermarkets. There are many types of different open farms to choose from: livestock farms, mushroom farms, fish farms and flower farms. Visitors can stay in beautiful farmstead log cabins and enjoy horse riding, hiking or canoeing on Latvia’s various lakes.

9. Colombia
This south American country has a diverse selection of nature holiday options; go diving in Colombia’s coral reef (which claims to be the third biggest in the world), see snow capped summits surpassing 5000m in the volcano region, then relax in the soothing thermal waters of a natural hot spring. Or visit Colombia’s coffee region, which showcases the country’s biggest (legal) export, and where eco-adventures abound in a landscape of rolling hills and coffee plantations, which can be explored by bike or horseback.

10. France
With scenery as diverse as high Alpine peaks to Atlantic Ocean islets, France has plenty of pristine countryside to offer. One of the less visited areas that is gaining attention is the Lot Valley in southern France. Whether you’re looking for flatlands or fields, forests or fens, foothills, gorges or valleys, following the River Lot as it meanders down a 481km long valley is a great way to see a clean and green part of France.

President Obama encourages Americans to volunteer

“Whether through the workplace or a house of worship, in our own neighborhoods or in another state or country, voluntary service binds us together as Americans in a way nothing else can. It defines us as a people, and it is essential to achieving our national priorities.”

Read more: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7018433024#ixzz0m2faphgh

Naturally I agree with the President, and am excited that he recognizes the value of volunteering in another country, which Hands Up Holidays can make happen through a meaningful voluntourism/taste of volunteering experience which can be incorporated as part of a larger vacation.

Thailand – five years on from the tsunami

Sitting on sandy Khao Lak beach, it is hard to imagine the disaster that struck here five years ago. It was the day after Christmas 2004, when a devastating tsunami hit the pristine coast of Khao Lak leaving devastation in its wake. I went there on a volunteer travel trip at the time, and it was awesome to behold, and yet, even then, the spirit of the survivors was inspiring.

It is a testament to the resilience and wonderful nature of the local people that they have recovered so quickly, leaving few reminders from that terrible day. One such reminder is Police Boat 813, which had been tasked with protecting Khun Phum Jensen (grandson of the king, who was one of the casualties). It still lies where it was left when the waters receded, hundreds of yards from the shoreline.

Huge replanting projects have returned most of the greenery to its former glory. The stunning long sandy stretches of beach are ideal for an early morning or evening walk or jog. Though, as the sun rises higher into the sky, most people retreat back to the oasis of their secluded resort pools.

The low key nature and relatively small amount of traffic makes it an excellent place to explore by scooter or car. Many stunning National Parks are nearby and several lovely waterfalls are only a stone’s throw away.

The area also lends itself to water sports, with sailing, kayaking and windsurfing all high on the agenda. It is also the gateway to the world famous Similan Islands, a dream destination for divers and snorkelers alike.

As the sun sets and turns the sea to gold there is a moment to reflect on the lives of those that were here on that fateful day…those that will not be forgotten, and the ones that have picked up and started again.

You can play a part in helping the children that were affected by this terrible tragedy, by assisting in a voluntourism adventure at a local orphanage. This orphanage is run very much like a family and the children are expected to stay there till they can make their own way in life.

You can help the children with the homework when they return home from school, and during the day you can help relieve the burden of the permanent caregivers.

It may be the shared experience or just lovely nature of the Thai people that appears to give these children a special bond. Whatever the reason, you will treasure the time you spend with them.

We have two trips where you can experience a meaningful taste of volunteering with the tsunami orphans, and we can also tailor-make a fulfilling trip to meet your preferences exactly.

1. A 9 day luxury volunteering trip where you get to go on an overnight deluxe boat trip to the ancient capital of Ayuthaya, gain unique insights in the bustle of Bangkok, spend 3 days volunteering at the orphanage, and finish with 3 days relaxing by the beach or in the jungle of Khao Sok.
The price is US$3,400 (£2,050) excluding international flights, based on two people sharing a room.
For full details, click here.

2. A 15 Day 4* trip which takes you to the north of Thailand (Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai) before your 4 day meaningful experience at the orphanage, and you round it off with 3 nights relaxing in Phuket.
The price is US$2,850 (£1,700) excluding international flights, based on two people sharing a room.
For full details, click here.

Both of these trips can be run at any time of the year, with a minimum of 2 people. The best time of year to visit is from November to April.

If you have any questions, or would like to book any of these trips, email me directly at chris@handsupholidays.com and I will be delighted to serve you personally.

Keep in mind that with two or more people, you can set your own dates, or we can tailor-make an adventure that counts to meet your exact requirements!

Day 6 of the TOMS Shoes voluntourism adventure

Port St John’s is the “Jewel of the Wildcoast”: a small charming coastal town, and Umngazi is the jewel of the jewel; set high on the Umngazi hillside, with breathtaking views of the coast below, we were treated to a secluded, tranquil experience, which is difficult to beat, and rounded off our day well.

Some of us were in need of some personal pampering and indulgence, and experienced the professional spa.


After a superb night’s sleep and an excellent breakfast, we headed off at 8:30am for our last shoe drop, at Eluxolweni School, in Port St Johns. Today was raining, so we were lucky to be able to do the shoe drop indoors.

As we entered the hall, we were humbled and moved by the beautiful voices resonating from these wonderful children.

The weather did not dampen anyone’s spirits, and it was a fabulous morning; tinged with sadness knowing that this was our final shoe drop – for this trip anyway.


Day 5 Voluntourism adventure with TOMS Shoes in South Africa

Today we had breakfast at 7:30am and departed for our 40 minute drive to Margate for today’s voluntourism TOMS Shoes shoe drop  at Murchison Primary School, where we met the enigmatic, high energy Cala Flippo.

Cala is a passionate Christian lady from one of the Southern States, Alabama I think, who works for Genesis Trust: “a non-profit faith based organization formed in 2002 by the Norwegian Settlers Church. It was started due to the recognition of the incredible needs caused by poverty, disease and social problems in the communities immediately surrounding the church and a desire on the part of members within the church to lovingly care for those in need.

They have a strong focus on AIDS/HIV palliative care, and help with daycare facilities for the children in the area, and after-school facilities for children at Murchison Primary School.

The lovely kids came out according to their ages, so all the shoes were allocated in ascending size and fitted accordingly, from the cutest tiny ones through to ones that will be vying for a place in the South African rugby team…and that is just the girls!


It was, as ever, an emotional time with these incredible children – saying goodbye does not get any easier, but as we had a long drive ahead of us to get to Port St Johns, we had to hit the road.

Ronny, our driver, made good time and we arrived at our luxury accommodation, Umngazi Bungalows, in the late afternoon – time enough to settle in and for some of us to swim acrosss the river, climb a dune and soak in the stunning view.

There was a quiz night at the bar before dinner, and, we won! In fact, we were the first team to ever score 100%, so we earned two bottles of wine instead of the usual one.

They complemented the dinner nicely as well, and I slept like a baby.

Voluntourism in South Africa with TOMS Shoes – Day 4

Day 4 of our voluntourism adventure with TOMS Shoes:

We left the Hluhwewe Game Park in north-east Kwa Zulu Natal and had a big drive back past Durban, down the South Coast, for our first shoe drop of the day at Saphinda Primary School in Umlazi.

We were greeted by the whole school singing Zulu songs, which sounded angelic – simply incredible voices.

Some of the children wore Zulu outfits as they danced according to their traditions – their arts teacher should be proud.

We then got down to the fun business of fitting the shoes on the children’s feet…there were a lot to get through, but we are a well-oiled machine by now, and we were encouraged on by the continued singing of the children.

Not content with having extraordinary musical talent, some of the children were great acrobats as well, performing somersaults from a standing start.

Somersault at Saphinda Primary

Somersault at Saphinda Primary

This particular shoe drop was done in partnership with Peace Players International, a phenomonal, “innovative global organization that uses sport to unite and educate young people in divided communities. PeacePlayers International was founded in 2001 by Sean Tuohey, on the premise that “children who play together can learn to live together.” PeacePlayers International currently operates programs in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus, and the Middle East that bring together thousands of children to form positive relationships, develop leadership skills, and improve their futures. Over the past six years, the organization has worked with over 45,000 children. PeacePlayers International is led by global network of youth leaders who work together as coaches, mentors and facilitators.”

Skateboarding, surfing, and now basketball – it is awesome how sport is being used to change lives.

Being from New Zealand, I performed the haka for some of the lads, who loved it.

We shared lunch with the teachers which was a special time as well, before jumping back in the bus for 90 minutes to get to our next shoe drop at the Sacred Heart Primary School, where we worked in with the Thanda after-school program.

The children came into the hall according to their age, and the fun and games started up again!

We spent the evening at Pumula Beach Resort in Hibberdene, had a super buffet dinner, and slept well to the sound of waves crashing on the beach. An epic day!