I love reading Ben Groundwater's articles on his blog at smh.com.au and this one i especially loved so i am sharing
you can read all his blogs at The Backpacker Why travel doesn't have to be selfish
Travel, when you think about it, is a largely selfish pursuit. It's all about me, me, me. Places I can go to, people I can meet, things I can see, food I can try, seats I can get upgraded ...
And you'd be lying if you said it wasn't fun. Selfish it may be, but travel can be an incredible, life-changing experience - just ask all your friends who have to hear your stories about it.
But lately, an increasing number of travellers are looking for something more, a way to spend those hard-earned bucks on more than just pina coladas and foot rubs. That something has been awkwardly dubbed "voluntourism" - or, doing volunteer work while travelling.
It's a novel concept, and, to those whose idea of travel is a secluded resort and a day spa, a somewhat frightening one. But given the explosion in travel organisations offering the voluntourism option, it's certainly catching on.
The idea is simple: as a traveller from the first world, you're usually in a far more privileged position than those who live in the countries you're visiting. But, rather than just comfort yourself with the knowledge that "my tourist dollars are helping their economy", why not do something tangible to help out?
You might not want to do it for your whole holiday - everyone deserves a bit of R&R - but it's a great idea for at least a few days.
Fly out tomorrow, and you could help build a school in Cambodia. Teach English classes in Costa Rica. Care for orphaned lion cubs in Zimbabwe. Dig wells in Tanzania. Clear explosives in Laos. Coach cricket in India. Administer medical aid in Ghana. Lend a hand in Haiti. The list is endless - there are certainly enough problems to go around.
Obviously, there's still an element of selfishness even to those noble volunteers. You do these things because it makes you feel good, not just because you're a kind, giving soul.
But there's something about getting down a dirty and lending a hand that lifts the voluntourism experience above the average travel lark. For starters, you're making a real, tangible difference to the world around you, and if that's not more of a thrill than doing shots of sambuca at a backpacker bar, then ... well, just stay at the backpacker bar.
Then there are the people you meet along the way. Granted, it might just be a couple of dread-locked Yanks from Amnesty International, but it probably won't be. Stepping away from the tourist trail opens up a whole new world to most people - particularly the chance to mix with locals who have nothing to do with the tourist industry.
You'll also gain a far better understanding of the country you're visiting than you would from the usual hotel/hostel-museum-gallery-bar route. And you can even take part in work you never thought you'd have the chance to try (as someone with all the DIY skills of Edward Scissorhands, I never thought I'd find myself painting a school in Kenya), and come home knowing that for years in the future, someone will be enjoying the fruits of your labour.
The down side to all this good will, however, is that voluntourism is actually quite expensive. Most companies that organise volunteer trips will charge you plenty for the experience - often far more than it would cost you to just visit those countries on your own.
There are often points when you're slaving away in the sun digging a seemingly pointless hole and thinking to yourself, "wait a minute, I paid someone to do this?"
It's true, you did. But it's got to be more fulfilling than lying on a beach for a week, right?Have you ever done volunteer work overseas? Did you enjoy it? If you haven't tried it, is it something you'd consider next time?