Avoid 'Voluntourism' As Much As Possible

Avoid 'Voluntourism' As Much As Possible

"Voluntourism" has become more and more popular these days with the appeal of travel.


For both high school and university level students in the United States, travel is a common desire. We crave to see the countries we've read about in school, seen on TV, and coveted on social media. One increasingly popular way that we can fulfill the wish to see the world is through volunteering abroad. Our human curiosity to learn about ourselves and the world has led us to a tourist-service hybrid coined "voluntourism." This new concept has inspired a series of ethical questions you might ask yourself if you're a student looking to go on a service trip abroad.

This term "voluntourism" opens the discussion for what your motivations are to volunteer abroad as well as the way in which you are volunteering abroad. Voluntourism, much like standard tourism, is critiqued of disrupting local economies, being unsustainable in nature, and reinforcing stereotypes. It's also gotten a bad reputation of being shallow — that people volunteer abroad so that they can post a picture of themselves on social media instead of actually learning from or positively impacting the host community.

While international volunteering is historically related to spreading religious beliefs and/or helping with disaster relief, it is now a growing sector within the tourism industry. Volunteering overseas used to mean staying in an underdeveloped community for the full duration of the stay and returning volunteers would say how they didn't get to visit the popular tourist attractions. Because of the technological advancements and increased leisure time of the 21st century, volunteering abroad can range in duration anywhere from a week or a few days to months while before volunteering abroad was more of a long term commitment.

Roughly, the cost to volunteer abroad for two weeks ranges from $200 - $3,000, often not including airfare to the country. Usually, these program fees cover basic housing costs, project supplies, and sometimes meals. Organizations create travel packages that include volunteering experience abroad sometimes in addition to sight-seeing and other activities in the country that are not specifically related to the project.

On a study abroad trip to India, I got to experience voluntourism first-hand. Although I am grateful for the opportunity to have had this enhancement to my studies, I recognize that despite the fact that I visited a non-profit while I was in the country, the majority of my trip was spent visiting sites like the Taj Mahal and the Amer Fort. Upon my arrival back in the United States, I boasted about how I got to work with children in a small village in Rajasthan even though I was only there for a day and a half. As I continue to study the work of non-profit organizations, I am in a constant battle with myself. I, like many others, have the travel-bug. I also desperately want to serve the world. So how do I not fall into the voluntourism trap?

I've come up with a few ideas to combat becoming this stereotype. I want to make sure I understand the impact I'm making. If I am volunteering abroad, no matter what duration of time I am staying, I should know the organization's mission and vision as well as some of its history. If it is a grassroots organization or it is run by the local community, it is more likely to address problems in ways that fit the community's needs.

While being a voluntourist, respecting the people you meet without belittling them and exploiting them is one of the most important things. While they might be fascinated by the camera and pose, for your work to be validated do you really need to post about it on Instagram? Just consider your motivations and intentions when you arrive in any new place. Lastly, be realistic. The work I did serving in India for a day and a half is not the same as if I had spent a few months volunteering on the same site. That does not mean that the work I did was worthless, but I have come to recognize that I probably have had more lasting internal change by volunteering than those I served.

Don't be discouraged though! Seeking a volunteer experience abroad is an opportunity that I would always recommend. Just be smart and respectful when traveling anywhere and be mindful of your impact.

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.

Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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9 Things To Do In Nashville If You Have No Idea What To Do

Trust me, I was just as lost as you are.


Nashville is a great place packed full of lots of really cool smaller great places that all offer their own unique take on the city. If you're like me, though, and have a hard time ~planning ahead~, then this list is exactly what you need. I went around and got lost and tried all the coolest hidden gems in Nashville so you don't have to. Here are some of my faves.

1. Milk & Honey Nashville

Located in the Gulch, Milk & Honey is the coffee shop/cafe from my dreams. It's decorated perfectly for any cute insta story and y'all when I say their coffee is amazing I mean it. Try it. It's so worth it, and pretty easy to find, too! You can browse their menus here.

2. Frothy Monkey Coffee Shop

While we're on the topic of coffee shops, Frothy Monkey is a MUST try. Trust me, I've drunk A LOT of coffee in my lifetime, and theirs is up in the top 10 of the best. They have other good things too, but if you're a coffee person like me, this place is heaven, I promise. It's right off 12th Avenue and within walking distance of lots of other funky little shops.

3. Two Old Hippies

This is the coolest little shop you will ever go into. Tucked away in the Gulch, it's within walking distance of Milk & Honey, so stop by after you grab a coffee and browse. They have everything from handmade clothes to cool books to refrigerator magnets. This is one of my all time favorites and I know you'll love it too.

4. Baked on 8th


I fell in love the second I saw the cute sign. Baked on 8th has a great atmosphere and even better little pastries, cookies, and cakes. Their cookies were so good it took every ounce of self-control I had to not go back and order 2 dozen. 12/10 would recommend if you're into Instagrammable locations and bomb sugar-filled desserts.

5. Burger Republic

I get it, you've gotta eat more than just cookies and coffee. As far as restaurants go, this place is home to the best burger I've ever eaten, plus the atmosphere is pretty laid back and great, and it's an awesome place to go and watch pretty much any sporting event happening anywhere relatively close to Nashville. Browse the menu so you can know exactly what to order before you even get there here.

6. Fido

In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm a HUGE fan of coffee shops and cafes. Fido was the most perfect little spot. It boasts about its gourmet coffee and great food, and rightfully so. It's also got the coolest funky vibe that makes you just want to sit and stay all day, and it's in a great location and decently close to Vanderbilt.

7. Go see some murals

Nashville is FULL of these bad boys. I know y'all have all seen the countless pictures of those people with big butterfly wings. Well, there's more and they're all around the city and on the side of pretty much every building. It's cliche, but tbh it's also kind of a must do while you're there.

8. Walk around Centennial Park and the Parthenon

This is a really nice place to visit if you're looking to spend a couple of hours away from the concrete of the city, and the Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the one in Greece.

9. Ride one of those little scooters around and explore


I'm not gonna lie to y'all. I did not ride the scooters. They seem kind of dangerous and I know without a doubt that if I tried to get on one it would not end well for me, the scooter, or anyone within a 3-mile radius. With that being said, though, I did see a lot of people riding them and it looked pretty fun, plus it's a great way to see the city without walking too much. So if you just want to explore, hop on one of these bad boys and pray.

Nashville is a great city full of tons of tourist attractions and amazing musical history, but if you find yourself stuck with nothing to do for a couple of hours before your next walking tour, you're sure to find something on this list that you'll love. So, you're welcome.

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