What if next time you went on vacation you replenished your soul as well as your mind? Don’t call me a hippie – I’m serious. Volunteering is a marvelous way to show gratitude for nature and for life, and giving to others is one of the best ways to find fulfillment.
Plus, everything is better when it’s free (or at least cheap), am I right? Yes.
So let’s look at some cheap volunteer vacations.
Explore the wilderness and help build and repair trails or restore campsites at the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, which works with the U.S. Forest Service, in Montana. No experience is necessary for most of the projects (great news for me)! You can choose from three levels of difficulty and hike between 1 and 15 miles per day depending on the project. Volunteers of all ages are welcome. Check out the registration packets with further details here.
For another type of volunteer vacations in Montana, read this post.
Cheap volunteer vacations here include spending the summer building and improving the Colorado Trail for just $60 per week or $30 per weekend. The trail foundation organizes 15 volunteer trail efforts every summer in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and you get a discount if you help out with more than one effort. Register in advance here. They’ll tell you what to bring. P.S. Another way you can help is to adopt a trail.
Sail the Hudson River
If you like kids and sailing, you can go on volunteer vacations on the Sloop’s “floating classroom” from mid-April through October every year and lead small group activities. For a volunteer fee of $100 you’re in. The fee helps offset the cost of food, instruction, you get a volunteer t-shirt, and help fund the group’s Youth Internships. Caveat: You’ll be committing yourself to rustic conditions for at least a week on the boat and must be 16 or older. Check it out.
New York City
You read that correctly. For a minimum contribution of $450-500 you can spend three days in April, May, June, September, October, or November 2010 learning about small mammal or coyote populations in the urban parks of Manhattan and the Bronx. Talk about, uh, weird volunteer vacations. You can choose Van Cortlandt Park (small mammals and coyotes), Pelham Bay Park, (small mammals and coyotes), or Inwood Hill Park (small mammals). And your $500 will only get you lunch, so you better have some money saved up.
Take volunteer vacations at organic farms across the U.S. through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program. Pay a $20 annual fee and you get to peruse over 1,000 farms seeking volunteers on every corner of the country, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (go here for the Northeast). You work a half day for an organic farm, and the farm gives you room and board for the night in the family farmhouse or at a nearby cabin (how long you get to stay at each farm varies). Gorge yourself on organic goodness. Sweet.
For some more info on WWOOF projects, read this post.