Volunteering for Nature

The American Hiking Society maintains a year-round schedule of volunteer vacations in the United States. You can get your exercise and some campfire s'mores while helping preserve wildlife, collecting garbage, maintaining trails, building bridges or creating new shelters [source: AHC].

Volunteer Vacations in the U.S.

A trendy buzzword that's been popping up all over lately is staycation. A staycation is a vacation where you stay at home. The idea is that you save money while enjoying your time off from work. But all too often, having a week off work with nothing to do can lead to anxiety about what you could be doing in the office. You can easily avoid feeling guilty or twitchy by rolling up your sleeves for some good old-fashioned volunteer work.

If you want to volunteer within your own community, you can reach out to the school systems, senior centers, parks services, libraries or medical facilities. You can also team up with established volunteering organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity or the American Red Cross. Check your local newspaper for upcoming events that could use a pair of extra hands. You can also use volunteering search engines online to find out where the needs are greatest. Think about what you enjoy the most, and go find an opportunity to share your skills. For example, if you enjoy reading, you could volunteer to record audio books and other written materials for the blind or those with reading disabilities [source: RFBD].

If you're itching to get out of town, you can spend your vacation time helping communities hit by natural disasters. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, more than 1 million volunteers headed to the Gulf Coast region to help clean up and rebuild the communities devastated by the gruesome storm [source: Lopez]. Pick your destination, and contact the tourist association, city government or local newspaper to learn about volunteering needs in the region.

Want to head south of the border? Read on to learn about volunteer vacations in Latin America.