LGBTQ+ Voluntourism Options
Photo: © HANDS UP HOLIDAYS
VOLUNTOURISM, A FAIRLY NEW TERM, refers to tourism that includes a volunteer or philanthropic component. Its popularity continues to grow thanks to heightened awareness about environmental issues. LGBTQ+ travelers are among those who find an increasingly diverse array of options, making it easy to take part in gay-friendly, eco-friendly, volunteer-oriented vacations that prove both enjoyable and rewarding.
REI Adventures, a company that promotes inclusivity and supports events like the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit, offers a series of volunteer vacations in a number of far-reaching destinations. Participants can help repair and maintain trails in places like Yosemite, Alaska and Patagonia; assist with archaeological restoration and the removal of invasive species at Machu Picchu; and work to preserve sea turtles in the Galápagos Islands. REI reports registration surged some 40 percent over the past year.
Hands Up Holidays offers what it calls “luxury voluntourism” options in several destinations popular with LGBTQ+ travelers. In New Zealand, for example, visitors work with penguin conservation programs; in Thailand, groups work to protect elephants and their habitats; and in San Francisco, participants help to restore native plant and animal habitats.
The state of California, in fact, offers a surprising number of voluntourism options in or near gay-popular vacation destinations. At Catalina Island, travelers can join voluntourism programs with the Catalina Conservancy, which offers everything from one-day to week-long experiences that include beach cleanups and native planting initiatives. Scuba divers can even join an unde rwater cleanup that removes trash from Avalon Harbor.
Travelers looking to combine volunteer activities with pampering might consider heading to Miami Beach, where The Palms Hotel & Spa has a two-night Do Good, Feel Good offer. The program includes participation in beach cleanups in partnership with International Coastal Cleanup, an organization that collects millions of pounds of trash every year with the help of nearly 800,000 volunteers. The hotel offer also includes a daily breakfast buffet, a stand-up paddleboarding lesson and a $50 per-person credit at the Aveda spa. After all, there’s no reason you shouldn’t feel good after you do good.