Hey, kid. C’mere. You ready to really fly high? You ready to take your vacation to the super fantastic extreme? To get your adrenaline pumping and your pleasure centers lit up like the Daytona International Speedway? Then it’s time to stop wasting away in Margaritaville and take one of these 13 volunteer vacations for people who are bad at relaxing. Not only do you get to explore exotic locales and meet interesting people, you get the unbridled thrill of pure, uncut, 100 percent organic, GMO-free altruism. Here’s where you go for this rush, if you think you’re ready.
Big Cat Conservation – Limpopo, South Africa
Whether you want to pursue a career in field research and conservation, or merely want to be surrounded by adorable kitties who can eat your face, this is the way to go. Instead of going on some safari to take pictures, you’ll get to be actively engaged with cheetahs, leopards, and lions, as well as megaherbivores like elephants and rhinos. You’ll learn how to track animal movements and live out in the wild like the first humans did: terrified of every sound because out there, you’re prey, marshmallow. It will humble you and alter your view of the world so dramatically, you’ll likely come back as a whole new person. Or stay, providing some hungry animal with sustenance.
Kinnikinnick Farm Two Day Farm Stay – Caledonia, IL
There’s a giant sand pile. There’s other stuff too, like donkeys, chickens, and pigs, but we didn’t want to bury the lead. Kinnikinnick will give you the experience of being on a real working farm, meaning you’ll get to say things like “tilling the back 40” and “we’re going to get some weather.” You’ll learn so much about agriculture that by the end of your stay you’ll be convinced that some slick, big city developer is about to take away the land your ancestors worked for generations. Luckily, it’s not all chores, as there’s plenty of time to get back to nature and meet some folks who are real salt of the Earth folksy, even if they could stand to wear more straw hats.
Volunteer Teaching – The Galapagos, Ecuador
You’ll get to feel like the best-spoken person in the room, and don’t really need to do anything but listen to yourself talk. Most of the teaching done here is to help the Ecuadorian people improve their conversational English, so that when they go on Twitter they can see how badly it’s being mangled by native speakers. There’s also the chance to do conservation work, help teach reading, or work with special needs individuals. There’s also rich beaches, ocean, and the chance to follow in Darwin’s footsteps, for those who either enjoy science or wish to debunk it.
Environmental Education Volunteering – Ubud, Bali
You can go to give kids information about sustainable living and how to use English goodly, but you’ll stay because there’s a monkey forest. During your volunteer hours you’ll be gaining insight into how to go green and even live off the grid, should you have post-apocalyptic survivalist interests. When you’re not helping make the world a healthier place, you’ll be exposed to a rich culture with loads of art and gorgeous temples to celebrate gods you’ve never heard of. There’s loads of tourism and a big expat community here, so if your own English needs work, there’s help available.
Sierra Club Wilderness Service – Wasatch Range, Utah
With this volunteer vacation you’ll get to roam one of the most exotic and mysterious places on Earth, known to the locals as Utah (pronounced YOO-taa). While there you’ll help maintain the gorgeous Wasatch Mountain Range, learn all about environmental conservation, and get to experience deep contempt for people who disrespect public lands. There’s plenty of hiking to be done, so you can feel like Sacagawea, Lewis, and/or Clark, but if hills aren’t really your thing, you can head into Salt Lake City or Logan for hard partying, Mormon style.
Community Development – Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
If you’ve ever wondered if you could have too many sandy beaches and surf, now’s the time to find out. Between catching enough UV radiation to power a small village and dipping your toes in water that frankly is a little too crystal clear, you’ll also be able to help the impoverished residents. Projects vary from pounding nails for housing to preserving the history of the indigenous peoples, so it’s as far from a spreadsheet as you can get without being on the moon.
Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary Volunteer – Dargaville, New Zealand
Instead of taking a Lord of the Rings tour, go to the land of Kiwis on your own adventure. You’ll get to trek into the rainforest and learn all about sustainable living and harmony with nature, where nature means a giant, terrifying tapestry of life. You’ll rub elbows with innumerable animals, and help protect nests from the various predators and pests that inhabit the area, which is sort of like battling the forces of Mordor. Best of all, since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, you’ll get to have your holidays in the summer.
Off Grid Living – Manitoba, Canada
There’s no better way to plan for the imminent collapse of society than by learning from people who are already prepared for doomsday. Though it’s a common misconception that all Canadians live in shacks without power in a vast wilderness, very few actually do. This retreat is run by a retired couple in Manitoba who teach organic gardening, woodworking, and how to operate a sustainable homestead using only solar power, the sweat of your brow, and whatever labor you can turn into a game and convince your kids to do. They not only offer lessons in survival, but in living vegan so that you don’t turn your furry pals into exploitable resources.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, Little Society Farm – Baraboo, WI
This is not only a volunteer vacation where you get to get your hands dirty learning no-till farming, planting trees, and caring for livestock, but you can also consider joining a farming collective. The goal is to create a farming community that generates income as well as providing enhanced nutrition to people who think Cheetos count as vegetables, and Oreos are a viable replacement for love. You’ll be living with the couple who is hoping to accomplish this, or pitching a tent in their yard if’n you fancy roughin’ it while you learn the home farming ropes.
Orangutan Sanctuary Assistant – Kalimantan Tengah, Indonesia
In the wild, Orangutans tend to be temperamental creatures with a lot of attitude. If you’re someone who thinks they should be taught better manners and start holding their pinky out during tea, this might be the right volunteer vacation for you. Here, you’ll be assisting injured, orphaned, or displaced orangutans in a sanctuary where they’re being healed and helped to live their best life. You’ll be instrumental in aiding these sometimes gentle, sometimes dangerous animals to recover, and have ample opportunity to make jokes about redheads who can’t speak to defend themselves.
Gila National Forest Trail Restoration Volunteer Vacation – Gila Wilderness, NM
If there’s one thing that can be said about people who live in New Mexico, it’s that they need all the help they can get. That’s because the heart of the southwest is a highly varied landscape that includes everything from serious deserts where you can die of thirst, if you survive the rattlesnakes, to lush forestland. You’ll be helping to rebuild a region that was damaged by flood. You’ll remove logs, lug rocks, and dress up the area to make it not only passable, but Instagram shareable and ready for other outdoor fanatics.
Coastal Conservation Expedition – Phang Nga, Thailand
Going to Phang Nga will offer the opportunity to help save the stunning land of this region, and correct everyone’s pronunciation of the name. You’ll learn about the ecosystem of Thailand, and how it plays a role in the greater scheme of life, which will enable you to gain valuable knowledge of biodiversity. You’ll work both above water and below to clean up pollution, survey birds and butterflies, and finally learn once and for all the difference between turtles and tortoises. Which will get you more dates than you might expect.