By Sheryl Kayne
I always loved to travel but hated being an ordinary kind of tourist, staying in hotels for a few nights and buzzing through major sights at the speed of Superwoman. I wanted to experience the phenomenal difference between visiting a location for a time-limited vacation and integrating myself into the community as someone who belonged there. I needed to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste where I went, really getting to know the people and place. At the time, I didn’t know that what I wanted to experience was Immersion Travel.
What makes Immersion Travel different is that it means taking an active part—working, volunteering, advocating, playing or learning—where you visit in order to learn about the culture, traditions, and characteristics of each particular place, just like a local. Immersion Travel add-ons are often free and unexpected. In Stehekin, Washington I spotted a wedding invitation on a community bulletin board inviting everyone to attend. I purchased a vase, picked wildflowers, helped serve the champagne and wedding cake, and made new forever friends.
While researching to find Volunteer Vacations Across America, I was surprised to find very little information. Convinced that Americans need not cross oceans to volunteer, I put together more than 200 trips volunteering with people, communities, wildlife, the environment, and national treasures. Consider working to save the Right Whales off of the coast of Florida or returning the wolf to its natural environment in the Grand Canyon, or encouraging new ways of conservation, or discovering new energy sources. What touches your heart? What’s important to you and what do you really care about?
Accommodations provided range from rustic to modern conveniences. Volunteers pay for your own travel expenses and some of these opportunities are free (Elephant Sanctuary, Hohenwald, TN), almost free (Continental Divide Trail, $19), to others for over $100 a day, contributing to scientific research, and can be fully or partially tax deductible. Volunteer Vacations reward the traveler and the host through mutual growth, understanding, and experience -- improving the quality of life for everyone. There’s nothing better than connecting with people you ordinarily would not have met unless you consciously decided to share your time in a most meaningful way, giving back. Enjoying Immersion Travel and Volunteer Vacations right here in the USA makes it easy to revisit and stay in touch.
Sheryl Kayne worked as oral interpreter in Denali National Park, a breakfast/lunch cook on a horse ranch, and an advocate for the manatees in Florida, among her many exciting Immersion and Volunteer travels. Feel free to contact her at info@SherylKayne.com, www.SherylKayne.com, Facebook/SherylKayneWrites, and Twitter@SherylKayne