Tuesday, June 19, 2007


By Corinne Asturias , VP, Consumer Strategist, Boomers and Sustainable Living

Ah, summer. The time of year you either start counting down the days to a vacation or start realizing that you've blown it by not planning one. And while the do-nothing allure of lollygagging on a chaise endures, we're finding that a hot ticket for growing numbers of travelers is going somewhere to do some good. We're not talking hard labor at the ends of the earth.

Today's giving adventures strike a happy balance between work and play. Volunteer vacations by the Sierra Club reward those who restore Native American ruins with chef-prepared meals and "secret" hikes. CharityGuide.org links volunteers to beautiful places: saving Manatees in Honduras, caring for elephants in Thailand or building a school in Tanzania. The appeal is native for gap-year Millennials and high schoolers looking for service credit. But don't underestimate the draw for seasoned Xer, Boomer and Mature travelers: They've glimpsed reality before boarding their planes home, and they want to preserve the specialness of the places they've loved.

How much lounging by a pool does a person really need, anyway?So if you're going snorkeling in Belize, why not spend a few days helping to count bottlenose dolphins? If Africa has always beckoned, why not work on a black rhino conservancy in Zimbabwe? Trip costs aren't cheap, but they usually include lodging, meals and guides, not to mention a cushion of safety and structure. But the real value for Gross National HappinessSM seekers? They take home a souvenir for their soul, instead of for the shelf, and how can you put a price on that?