Inspired by yesterday’s post, I went searching for other great online resources for aspiring volunteers. I’ve written about online portals before: organizations that collect volunteering resources to match volunteers with opportunities. VolunteerMatch is one example, but there are many popping up all over the online superhighway. These organizations are wonderfully helpful. They make the vastness of the information digestible and help overwhelmed volunteers take control of their planning. They provide question-based search tools, helping users whittle down their options. They even provide detailed information about travel options, accommodations, and tourist spots in the volunteer’s chosen country. The one thing they don’t provide, however, is brand recognition. It’s not their fault—this industry is so new and many of these companies are only a few years old—but when an unknown entity is doing your vetting, it’s hard to feel 100% confident about the information you’re getting.
Enter: Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet has been around for 30 years, my entire lifetime. It was founded by a husband and wife team, two intrepid travelers who decided to spend their honeymoon trekking across all of Europe and Asia on land. Their friends didn’t think it was possible. Indeed, it took several months and all the money they could scrape together, but the cost of living was much cheaper overseas, and they made it. The experience was worth every last cent. Inspired by all of the incredible people they met and places they visited, Tony and Maureen Wheeler sat down to write their very first travel guide: Across Asia on the Cheap. The guide was a smashing success! Soon after its publication, Lonely Planet was born.
Even if you’ve never left your home state, you’ve likely heard of Lonely Planet. It has a stellar reputation for helping travelers find great, authentic experiences—from accommodations to restaurants to hikes through the deep wilderness. They are known for their conversational travel writing and rating systems. Now Lonely Planet is also offering an online guide for Volunteers. They’ve turned their adventure seeking travel writers loose on the volunteer landscape to compile a list of Lonely Planet approved resources. They only recommend a few specific volunteer organizations (i-to-i, 2WayDevelopment, and Intervol). Most of their recommendations are for information portals, including several of our favorites like Voluntourism.org, Make Poverty History, and Transitions Abroad. These are all incredibly well put-together websites with first-class information for making practical travel arrangements and for learning more about the academic side of volunteering.
I hope Lonely Planet expands their volunteer portal to include more specific opportunities. In the meantime, this is a great list to get you started.