Voluntourism: Helpful or Hurtful?



Syndicated Post in Partnership with Hipmunk: This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on August 28, 2015. 

Jet to an exotic country. Get immersed in local customs. Help build a house or dig a well. Make buddies with fascinating people you’d never meet otherwise. A “voluntourism” trip seems like a great way to give back or improve the world in a small way. It can be, but you should ask a lot of questions before signing up and plunking down cash.

Over the last several years, this well-meaning market has grown quickly, with studies estimating 1.6 million volunteer tourists per year and growing. About 33 percent of volunteer travelers are between the ages of 20 and 40. Another 34 percent are slightly older, between 41 and 60. Overall, the travelers are more likely to be female. However, the impact of these trips is hard to quantify. A large majority of the tourists take them because they want to help alleviate poverty and find joy in the camaraderie.

Voluntourism: Helpful or Hurtful?

In a piece for the Guardian called “Beware the ‘Voluntourists’ Doing Good,” Ossob Mohamud writes that there are more effective ways to help the needy than take a trip. His concern is that very often the helpers come off as patronizing and condescending, with little understanding of the local culture and the people’s actual needs.

Other critics complain that high-paying volunteers take jobs away from local laborers. The engagement between volunteers and Cambodian orphans may seem endearing — until you discover some of these children have families, and are just being hired out to entertain big-hearted tourists with sob stories. In other reported cases, an orphanage may keep the conditions of an institution squalid to ply more money from tourists primed to donate. Even if the orphans do connect with the volunteers, they’re once again faced with feelings of abandonment when the tour is over.

Not all NGOs think voluntourism is bad. Chris Johnson, director of communications for the Fuller Center of Housing, is less concerned about a volunteer’s impetus for choosing to build homes for families in the mountains of Peru or Nepal “as long as the work gets done.” In a New York Times article, he explained that the families who benefit from the new residence probably don’t care if the builders are doing it for selfish reasons.

How Do You Know If Your Program Is Effective?

So, how do you know if the program you’re paying for is actually helping people? There are several important details to consider that will help uncover the impact of the tour, outlined by the editors of the site Ethical Volunteering.

1. Bigger Isn’t Always Better

While you might think the more you pay for a tour, the more impact it will have, amore expensive tour may have less impact because it has fewer connections to local organizations.

2. Watch out for Grand Promises

As much as you want to think you’re “changing the world,” the reality is you’re giving a small boost to an organization that needs a hand. Be mindful of marketing that promises more.

3. Don’t be swayed by pictures of children

It’s great to help children, but if you’re looking at a brochure that tugs at your heartstrings rather than demonstrates what impact you’re making, be wary.

4. Check if the organization screens volunteers

Is this organization of change hoping to capitalize on your skills, or does it just need your money? Take heed if it doesn’t care about what capabilities you have.

According to a study by the Adventure Travel Trade Organization, the most popular volunteer programs offer the opportunity to work with children, support education, protect the environment, create local jobs, and assist clean water projects.

While the popular voluntourism destinations are in Asia, Africa and Latin America, it’s also possible to assist NGOs in cities such as New Orleans and Orlando. Some hotels in Denver, like the Four Seasons Hotel Denver, have been known to offer a discount to guests willing to spend half a day working with charity.

Find a project that makes for a great experience while also positively impacting the world.

15 Little-known Places in New England Every Tourist Should Visit


Syndicated Post in Partnership with Hipmunk: This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on August 10, 2015. 
New England isn’t just Boston or Portland, Maine as some might think – but so many other places like Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. This beautiful area boasts pine trees, rocky beaches and the cold Atlantic Ocean, and so many other great places to visit and here are the top 10 little-known places in New England that you won’t want to miss.

1. Green Street Grill; Cambridge, Massachusetts

Nestled in Central Square between Harvard and M.I.T. is the Green Street Grill restaurant featuring delectable dishes like baby artichokes and gnocchi, its famed Wellfleet clam stew and traditional chicken schnitzel. Check out their website before your trip to Cambridge to see their full menu: Green Street Grill Dinner Menu

2. Adams National Historical Park; Boston, Massachusetts

Located in the South Boston neighborhood filled with classic Boston hotels, this New England historical park tells the story of the John Quincy Adams family and features two main sites to tour: the Old House, where four generations of the famous family called home, and the Stone Library. After the tour, relax at theSeaport Boston Hotel for a great view of the harbor.

3. Robert’s Maine Grill; Kittery, Maine

Lobster rolls are the quintessential New England food favorite, and Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery has been ranked as one of the best places to sample this delicious dish.

4. Nantucket Vineyard, Cisco Brewery and Triple Eight Distillery; Nantucket, Massachusetts

This combination winery, brewery and distillery in the quaint New England town of Nantucket features plenty of outside seating for sampling a glass of local wine or beer, and regularly has live bands playing for guests to enjoy. Check out their website here: Nantucket Vineyard .

5. Los Andes Restaurant; Providence, Rhode Island

Featuring Peruvian cuisine, Los Andes in the seaside city of Providence serves up local favorites like a ceviche martini, parrilada andina and paella.

6. Long Wharf Theatre; New Haven, Connecticut

This is a Tony Award-winning regional theater in the Connecticut town of New Haven, which has productions of both new and old plays, including “Macbeth,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “The Fantasticks.” Check out the Long Wharf Theatrewebsite for upcoming productions and other shows.

7. Stoneacre Pantry; Newport, Rhode Island

A favorite among locals, the Stoneacre Pantry in Newport features seasonal and locally grown dishes, including a delicious nettle risotto with wild mushrooms and Parmesan, roasted sea scallops, smoke-roasted chicken, and a wildly popular hazelnut-chocolate mousse with cocoa streusel and crème fraiche.

8. The Mark Twain House and Museum; Hartford, Connecticut

Visit the Connecticut city of Hartford and explore the restored home of famed writer Mark Twain.

9. Inn at the Oaks; Eastham, Massachusetts

This historic inn located in the quaint village of Eastham has been recently updated but still keeps its antique feel.

10. Larsen’s Fish Market; Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard

This lesser-known fish market and restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard offers delectable fresh seafood, including dishes like lobster rolls, clam chowder, stuffed quahogs and freshly steamed lobster. Check out their full menu here.

5 Ways to “Find Yourself” By Travelling The Globe


Syndicated Post in Partnership with Hipmunk: This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on August 18, 2015.    There are more benefits to travel than just having fun. If you’re trying to get in touch with your inner self, visiting other countries or just going outside of your comfort zone at […]

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5 Boutique Hotels for an Unforgettable Asheville, NC Stay


Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Photo by Steven Hirsch on Trover.  Asheville, North Carolina is the ultimate destination for a mountain getaway. The panoramic landscapes surrounding the city serve some of the most picturesque views in the entire state. It’s no surprise that the city attracts scores of outdoor enthusiasts every year, but Asheville is […]

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