VOYAGE INTO VOLUNTOURISM
Change By Doing is one of our favorite travel blogs. Created by the author of Volunteer Vacations: Frommer’s 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference —Andrew Mersmann—this informative blog highlights the very best in Voluntourism. An award winning travel writer and editor Andrew has traversed the globe several times over. His passion is infectious and any adventurous traveler will be inspired by his posts. We were fortunate enough to catch up with the globe trotter this week to chat about his voyage into voluntourism.
Describe your blog in three words: Service, opportunities & inspiration.
What inspired you to create Change By Doing the blog?
Realizing my book on volunteer vacations was frozen in time from publication onward, I wanted a more agile way to discover and share volunteering opportunities around the world.
What do you love most about the blog?
My favorite experience is when readers let me know about a new volunteer experience or need that is entirely new to me. There are so many ways to get involved close to home or far away, and each one makes me want to do more.
What would be one of your most memorable travel moments?
Just last week I piloted a new volunteer program in Idaho, called “Rez Flicks”—putting camcorders in the hands of young people living on American Indian reservations, to document life through their eyes. One of my young filmmakers, who I had met the year before when he would not look out from under his bangs or take the headphones out of his ears, told his teacher after Day 3 that it had already changed his life. He said he felt like he could talk to anybody now, and proceeded to walk into the principal’s office to interview her, then followed up asking the superintendent of schools for an on-camera interview as well. He was unstoppable.
What advice would you give to those who would like to be a part of voluntourism?
Absolutely go for it—there is something that will inspire you no matter where you roam. Be smart about volunteering for organizations—try to work for projects that are initiated or requested from within the community they serve, and not from well-meaning but often misdirected outsiders. When you have an authentic experience working alongside members of the community you visit, you will leave a part of yourself there in a way other travel doesn’t afford.