Lounging on the shores of Lake Michigan, hitting the pavement with my new bike and taking a hike through a wet forest were just some of the things I did on my short vacation in Northern Michigan to visit friends and family.
It's my week off from volunteering and a bit of time off from work. I've enjoyed a few days without a computer and cell phone. It was a busy four-day weekend, and though I'm back to being a cubicle rat, it's only a short week. The time away was needed, but I can't lie, I'm already looking forward to a full week in August.
While I was taking advantage of the northern wooded landscape, many vacationers took time off to help others on volunteer vacations. Some go with churches on two-week mission trips, while others sign up with companies or touring businesses.
Type "volunteer vacations" in Google, and nearly a half-million websites pop up. Volunteer vacations, or service trips, almost always cost money. Volunteers can sign up for a couple of weeks to a couple of months either in the U.S. or abroad. Whether it's teaching English, building schools or gardening, there seems to be options for just about everyone.
I've heard and read positive and negative comments about volunteer vacations. Some think companies don't really aim to help the people, but rather push their own agendas while collecting tourist dollars. Others chime in that giving up two weeks is just a way to feel like a "do gooder." Yet, others have personally told me how enriched they feel by going on such trips.
I've written stories on high school students who gave up spring break to make a difference — one group that went to New Orleans after the hurricanes. I am thoroughly impressed when teenagers choose to do something constructive with their time off, rather than partying in Palm Springs. My generation may get flack for being technology obsessed and self-absorbed, but there's a large portion making the world a better place.
I've often thought that taking a service trip vacation would be a good option for my husband, but as of now, I don't get a lot of time off of work to do this, and we don't have the funding either. But hopefully, in the future, we will be able to see a different part of the world while making it a little bit better.