‘Responsible travel’ means assessing our impact on the environment and local cultures and economies – and acting to make that impact as positive as possible. Lonely Planet
Many people yearn to get off the tourist trail and really explore a country but also want to travel responsibly.
In Thailand there are plenty of options for responsible travel. You can book a homestay in a remote community, or go on an eco-adventure, where you can combine sporting thrills with getting up close and personal with the natural beauty of mountains, rivers and sea.
Other people feel they want to give something back while they’re travelling and volunteer in schools, teaching English, or help with community development projects, and even assisting with wildlife conservation.
Many Gap Year students see volunteering as a way of travelling responsibly combined with the chance to help local communities and gain valuable work experience in the process.
Tackled in the right way, this should turn out to be a win-win for all concerned: a life-changing experience for the volunteer and something of real and lasting value to the local community.
If you want to volunteer in Thailand the key is to do your research: choose the right organisation, the right project and location, and have realistic expectations.
There are many charities you can volunteer with, or you can choose to volunteer for specific projects through organisations such as STA Travel, G Adventures, people and places, and One World Travel 356.
The volunteering experience
Rebecca Enright, a British traveller and blogger is about to set off on a two-year adventure visiting 20 countries. You can follow her adventures at www.backpackerbecki.com.
Becki has previously volunteered in Madagascar and northern Thailand and on her new travels will be volunteering as a teaching assistant in Cambodia.
As Becki says on her blog:
Volunteering shouldn’t be something you do just because it’s the ‘done thing’ to do as a backpacker, or because you added it to your bucket list and you can easily cross it off.
Things to think about before you volunteer
If you’re thinking about volunteering, do read Becki’s blog post here. Her top three tips for volunteering include:
- Choose something close to your heart, such as working with animals, construction or teaching. Don’t just choose something based on price or because it seems easy.
- Try to check out a charity in operation first hand, so you know how the charity works, know if the type of volunteer work suits you, and feel confident that the charity is one you want to support.
- If you are using an organised tour for certain parts of your travels, look at ones which combine general sightseeing with volunteer stints.
It’s also useful to read other people’s experiences as volunteers. The people and places website has lots of good information, including feedback from volunteers.
Chance to win a volunteering holiday on Koh Phra Thong
Having given you a little insight into volunteering, here’s news of a special promotion.
Thailand Reunited has teamed up with EVA Air and STA Travel to offer one lucky person the chance to win a place on a community tourism project on Koh Phra Thong – a beautiful island in the Andaman Sea, in southern Thailand.
Every year STA Travel sends about 120 young people aged between 18 and 35 to Thailand on 7-day trips with the focus on volunteering in local communities, working in schools, at an elephant conservation centre in northern Thailand, and on Koh Phra Thong.
Many communities on the island are still recovering from the devastating tsunami of 2004.
Find out more about STA Travel’s approach to volunteering and responsible travel via their Planeterra programme.
You can enter the competition by visiting the Thailand Reunited app on our Facebook page – good luck!
If you’ve volunteered in Thailand do comment below, let us know what you did and what sort of experience you’ve had.