What's The Difference Between Conventional Volunteering And Adventurous Voluntourism?

Riyanka | Tue, 01/30/2018 - 09:43 | 343 | , Volunteer Abroad, Tours, Responsible Tours,

Traveling has taken a new shape in the last decade and millennials are redefining their journeys by getting engaged in some sort of meaningful work. In the recent past, taking a trip abroad to volunteer has gained much popularity - but if one really digs deeper into the matter, then he/she can understand the difference between the concept of conventional volunteering and voluntourism that focuses more on an adventure.

Before going into the difference of characteristics between the two, let’s first look into their definitions and what these two terms mean in real.

Conventional volunteering is essentially a process in which you work for the society without getting anything back in return. In other words, it’s more of charity or community service. Since the last couple of decades, people from the developed countries mostly traveled to the underdeveloped countries for a substantial period of time to contribute and make life better for those who aren’t much privileged.

Voluntourism is a much newer concept in which the travelers get an opportunity to explore the destination they travel to and try out the best things available in the land while doing volunteer work. As the name suggests, it’s much like a perfect amalgamation of volunteering and tourism.

Let’s take a quick look at the differences between these two concepts:

Commitment and duration

volunteering abroad

The time that you commit to a volunteering project is extremely crucial as that directly affects the contribution you'll make.

In the case of conventional volunteering, it usually demands a longer period of commitment wherein the volunteer can effectively bring out some change and also learn from that process. This duration can vary from 3 - 4 weeks to a maximum of 6 months. This is extremely beneficial for pre-med, medical students and those studying subjects related to Social Work, as it would give them proper exposure to their field of study.

On the other hand, students, gap year travelers or backpackers who are looking for a valuable work experience for a shorter length of time can opt for adventure voluntourism as it would provide a perfect travel and volunteer opportunity to them. The voluntourism programs usually have a fixed schedule of 2 - 3 or 4 weeks, with a proper travel itinerary. It would be an absolutely perfect short term volunteer and travel opportunity for those who have a time crunch, yet are eager to travel abroad to work.


Level of work and expertise required

If you are thinking that voluntourism is all about traveling, then you are wrong! It involves substantial work as well. Voluntourists have a fixed schedule for the weekdays, similar to that of the conventional volunteers. However, they don't need to be experts in the field where they choose to work. 

For example, most voluntourism programs involve working with children at an orphanage or teaching at a kindergarten school which is mostly playful activities that don't require any special degree. The only requirements are to be open minded and to be able to share joy and love. 

On the other hand, volunteers joining a project needs to have a certain degree of qualification to carry out their tasks properly. Like medical or pre-med students joining healthcare volunteering in India needs to have a proper knowledge of medicines and also learn about the medical system in India. Work, in this case, is more rigorous, offering better scopes of learning and growth.


Group bonding

group volunteering abroad

Both the programs would provide the opportunity to meet new people and make friends from all across the world, but the intensity of the bonding will vary. 

In the case of a conventional volunteer project, you'll definitely meet the locals and spend time with them, know them better and help them overcome their problems. There will be other fellow mates with you from other parts of the world, but probably they'll have a different project. During weekdays, different programs will get over at different times as per schedule, and it might happen many a time that you'll have to explore the nearby places, shopping areas/ markets or eating joints all by yourself.

On the other hand, a voluntourism project will have a bunch of people doing the same work, living at the same place, traveling and exploring everything together! This would be a chance to bond better with your fellow mates. You won't have to feel alone at any point of time, because of the compact itinerary.


Costs involved

When one plans a trip, the cost of it is always a concern. For students, backpackers and gap year travelers, it is always beneficial to go for budget-friendly tours. 

In a case of conventional volunteering, you can come with your college group or may be with your family. In that way, you can work unitedly, help each other grow while contributing towards the growth of the host community. You can also travel during the weekends with your group/ family, but you need to do a proper research about the places that you shouldn't miss out while you are there at a particular destination. Like, it would be really sad if you come to volunteer in India and miss you seeing the Taj Mahal, or you go to Peru for volunteering and don't visit the Machu Picchu!

For the ones joining any voluntourism project, the traveling itinerary is pre-set and you need not worry about where to travel. Rest assured, you'll visit all the best places along with your fellow mates and explore the place thoroughly - not to miss out anything worth visiting! 

Note: In most developing countries, the tourist places have too many touts and influencing guides who might try to charge a high price for taking you around. Be careful and don't fall prey to them! If you are planning a tour all by yourself, during your volunteering trip, then make sure to contact your country coordinator and seek assistance.

This concern won't arise if you choose the voluntourism project. Also, this would be much cheaper compared to your self-planned ventures.

Voluntourism essentially combines an exotic vacation with a seemingly altruistic volunteer work, to give you a real picture of the underprivileged ones in that particular country. Volunteering, on the other hand, is more serious philanthropic work of engagement with the host community.

While both have it's pros and cons, it depends completely on the choice of the participant. If you are more keen on traveling and exploring then you should definitely opt for the adventurous voluntourism programs, and if you want to indulge yourself to stretch your limits and polish your skills, then go for a volunteer project that suits your interests and aligns with your area/ field of education.

You shall gain the best experience from your journey - no matter which one you choose!

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