I didn’t travel much growing up, and in college when I had the opportunity to study abroad my junior year I instead opted to remain on campus to compete on the equestrian team. I did travel to Europe for spring break one year to visit a friend who was studying at university in Germany, but at the time I viewed that more as a week-long party rather than anything else (I have some very fond memories of a pub-crawl through Rome).
Fast forward to years out of college and living in Fort Lauderdale… and I started noticing what I believed to be a very strange phenomenon: many of my friends and colleagues traveled frequently. And not just trips to Tallahassee and Gainesville for football games, or to cities like New York and Chicago to see a show and have dinner, but trips all around the world and to places I had never considered wanting to visit. I didn’t get it. When I thought about how I wanted to spend my free time and money, this wasn’t it.
Fast forward a few more years and a trip to Ireland. I chose Ireland because I think the land is beautiful and I wanted to ride horses cross-country. I wish I could say I had a more profound reason than this, but it wouldn’t be true. But what IS true is that during this trip I learned traveling is so much more than just going to a destination. It is about meeting new people and appreciating difference. It is about exploring a new culture and everything that goes with it: food, music, art, literature, and history (and, let’s be honest here, wine and beer). It is also about becoming familiar with the challenges unique to a region and understanding what the people who live there are doing to address these challenges.
As a result of this trip (where, yes, I did also get to ride horses cross-country) I become inspired to travel more, and I also realized that I want to do more when I travel than be a tourist – I want to explore a location in a genuine way and do something meaningful to make a positive difference. I want to travel with purpose.
I started looking for organizations that offer the opportunity to travel and volunteer, and while there are many that exist, none of them met my unique needs for what I wanted in terms of time, destination, activity, focus, and cost.
I bet you can guess what happened next…
Jené Kapela, Founder and Chief Voluntourism Officer
Adventures in Voluntourism
(As a side note, one of the other things I learned on that trip to Ireland is that I should not attempt to drive in another country. As a result, all of our Adventures in Voluntourism trips utilize private transportation! Here is a great picture of a road sign I encountered. I’m not quite sure of the exact translation, but I’m pretty sure it meant the road ended and I was now on the sidewalk, because that’s where I found myself. Learn about our upcoming trips here – http://adventuresinvoluntourism.com/trips.)