Volunteer vacations

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					healthy living enlightened traveler

        Volunteer vacations
                                                                                 It’s past midnight on
                                                                                 a moonlit beach in
                                                                                 northwestern Costa
                                                                                 Rica, and a leather-
                                                                                 back turtle nearly
                                                                                 seven feet long slowly
                                                                                 emerges from the
                                                                                 Pacific Ocean. The six
                                                                                 volunteers who have
                                                                                 been waiting for this
See another side of a destination when you donate your time to a worthy cause.   moment pause in
                                                                                 amazement and then
                               By Pam Grout | Photography Douglas Merriam
                                                                                 go to work.
                                                                                   The volunteers, all
                                                                                 members of an Earth-
                                                                                 watch Expedition, are
                                                                                 here to assist research
                                                                                 biologists in their
                                                                                 quest to aid the endan-
                                                                                 gered leatherbacks,
                                                                                 who return here each
                                                                                 year to lay their eggs.
                                                                                 This year marks the
                                                                                 19th anniversary of the
                                                                                 program. From their
                                                                                 base at the Goldring
                                                                                 Marine Biology Field
                                                                                 Station in Las Baulas
                                                                                 National Park, volun-
                                                                                 teers and Earthwatch
                                                                                 biologists patrol the
                                                                                 beach, relocate threat-
                                                                                 ened nests, record suc-
                                                                                 cess rates, and protect
                                                                                 the palm-size hatch-
                                                                                 lings as they scramble
                                                                                 into the sea starting in
                                                                                   There are fewer than
                                                                                 25,000 leatherbacks
                                                                                 worldwide, and they
                                                                                 are near extinction in
                                                                                 the Pacific. “This nest-
                                                                                 ing spot is crucial for
                                                                                 their Pacific popula-
                                                                                 tion,” says Frank Pala-
                                                                                 dino, PhD, the project’s
                                                                                 principal investigator
                                                                                 and a biology professor
                                                                                 at Indiana-Purdue Uni-
                                                                                 versity. “The work we
                                                                                 do here makes a differ-
                                                                                 ence to keep these ani-
                                                                                 mals around as long
                                                                                 as possible.”

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                          For the next three issues,
                          Cooking Light will explore
                         the benefits of travel for life
                        enrichment—trips to inspiring
                         places that help you explore
                            your passions and enjoy
                           interesting new settings.

                             Coming up:
                        May: Fitness-based vacations
                         June: Learning experiences
                           July: Historical retreats

The volunteers
on an Earthwatch
Expedition spend
their vacations
enjoying activities
from counting sea
turtle hatchlings
(left) to learning to
surf along Costa
Rica’s Pacific coast.
healthy living enlightened traveler

                                                Get away while giving back                     tions off the beaten path; a structured
Volunteers spend sunny days patrolling
                                                Volunteer vacations provide a chance to        itinerary and support help provide a safe
the beach for nesting spots or measuring
                                                lend a hand while experiencing a place         yet flexible way to see a remote destina-
tide lines (bottom right) to help protect the
                                                in a unique and satisfying way. “These         tion. Some trips are led by scientists,
hatchlings of nearly 100 endangered sea
                                                trips let volunteers express their individ-    teachers, and environmentalists who
turtles that lay their eggs here every year.
                                                ual desire to ‘do something’ for wild          have transformed their passions into
                                                places and feel a deep sense of accom-         full-time jobs, which provides a unique
                                                plishment,” says Susan Estes, a program        window of discovery. How else could you
                                                director and leader for Sierra Club volun-     find yourself in a remote Greek village
                                                teer vacations since 1989.                     teaching English language skills to chil-
                                                  And they’re growing in popularity.           dren or cupping a tiny turtle in your
                                                Nearly a quarter of Americans are inter-       palm and carrying it to the ocean?
                                                ested in taking a volunteer vacation,           “Many travelers want more than
                                                according to the Travel Industry Associa-      canned tours,” says Sally Brown, a
                                                tion of America. The trips are often affili-   former flight attendant who, in 1998,
                                                ated with charitable groups and may be         started Ambassadors for Children, a
                                                as close as a local state park, where you      nonprofit that provides humanitarian
                                                might clear a hiking trail of brush and        aid to children in 20 locations around
                                                litter, or as exotic as Mongolia, where        the world through service trips. “People
                                                you can help track populations of endan-       want their time to count for something,”
                                                gered wild horses. (Learn about three          Brown says. “And in my heart, I believe
                                                more volunteer-vacation opportunities          that even in these short-term vacations,
                                                on page 74, or search clearing-house Web       one person can make a difference.”
                                                sites like or Idealist        Often the people most changed, she says,
                                                .org or check with charities to which you      are the volunteers. “The trips alter peo-
                                                make donations). The costs of most trips       ple’s perception of the world, which
                                                are at least partially tax-deductible and      suddenly becomes more complicated,
                                                include lodging, meals, and cultural           diverse, and interesting than they
                                                activities. The type of work you do is up      thought,” Brown says.
                                                to you, although each trip has unique            Stephen Fulmer, who attended Earth-
                                                requirements and some may be more              watch’s Costa Rica trip, agrees. “The
                                                strenuous than others.                         experience stays with you, and you get
                                                  Many volunteer vacations are in loca-        to enjoy it with people from all over the
                                                                                                       world who’ve come together for
                                                                                                       the same cause,” he says.
                                                                                                       Details: The Costa Rica trip is one
                                                                                                       of more than 100 volunteer vaca-
                                                                                                       tions offered by Earthwatch.
Accommodations at the research station                                                                 Each pairs you with university-
include nearly all the amenities of a hotel:                                                           affiliated scientists who are per-
a swimming pool, air-conditioned rooms,                                                                forming research or conservation
and oceanfront views.                                                                                  projects. Cost for the 10-day
                                                                                                       Earthwatch Costa Rican Turtle
                                                                                                       Project is $2,846 and includes
                                                                                                       supplementary travel medical
                                                                                                       insurance (800-776-0188, www
                                                                                                       Quick tip: Check with your
                                                                                                       insurance provider to be sure
                                                                                                       you’re covered for medical and/or
                                                                                                       evacuation insurance outside
                                                                                                       the country. If not, consider
                                                                                                       supplemental travel insurance
                                                                                                       from groups such as Insuremy

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healthy living enlightened traveler

                                         Take a day trip
                                         Only 90 minutes from the beaches of Las
                                         Baulas, Buena Vista Mountain Lodge offers
                                         horseback rides past three waterfalls and
                                         five thermal mud pools. There’s also a 1,375-
                                         foot natural waterslide and an aerial treetop
                                         trail with 16 hanging bridges joined by a zip
                                         line that provides a closer look at the howler
                                         monkeys, exotic tree frogs, and hundreds
                                         of birds that live in the shadow of Volcan
                                         Rincon de la Vieja, an active volcano. Enjoy
                                         all these features with a day-long combo
                                         package for $80, including lunch (011-506-

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                                enlightened traveler healthy living

Costa Rica
If you need a civilization check after helping protect sea turtle hatchlings,
the laid-back surf town of Tamarindo is a short trek away. It has a collection
of eclectic restaurants, from Panaderia de Paris, a French bakery with fresh-
baked pastries (top row, right), to La Laguna del Cocodrilo, where Chef Dylan
Montaño serves tamarind, scallop, and artichoke salad (third row, right). Stay
active with an afternoon surf lesson at the Iguana Surf School (second row,
right), a waterfall-filled hike, or a scenic horseback ride.

                                                a pr i l 2 0 0 8 | cooking light 73
healthy living enlightened traveler

Change the world, one vacation at a time                                                                                or installing trimwork)
                                                                                                                        according to your skill
                                                              2,500 volunteers a year     culture. “The work we         and comfort level, and
                                                              in 20 countries. Ses-       do alongside the locals       you’ll receive training
                                                              sions last one to three     who are stewards of the       every step of the way.
                                                              weeks, and participants     ranch is the best way to      The setting: More than
                                                              can teach English in        understand and love           70,000 homes were de-
                                                              Asia, Europe, Africa,       what is special about         stroyed along the Gulf
                                                              and the United States.      Muleshoe,” says Susan         Coast during Hurricane
                                                              Trips start at $2,295 for   Estes, who is in her sixth    Katrina. Habitat for Hu-
                                                              one week (800-487-          year of leading this trip.    manity’s Global Village
                                                              1074,            The setting: Surrounded       Program is working to
                                                                by southeastern Arizo-        repair the damage to
                                                                                          na’s Galiuro Mountains,       this still-scenic area—
                                                              If you love the             Muleshoe Ranch is             they’ve already built
If you’re a                                                   great outdoors              49,120 acres of rugged        more than 1,000 homes
people person                                                 Care for wildlife on a      desert beauty with             here. You’ll stay with
Teach English in Greece                                       Sierra Club project at      miles of hiking trails that   other volunteers in
with Global Volunteers                                        Muleshoe Ranch              connect the Sonoran           Biloxi’s Yankee Stadium,
What you’ll do: Any na-                                       What you’ll do: The         and Chihuahuan des-           a dormitory run by the
tive English speaker can                                      Sierra Club hosts 80 to     erts. The area’s network      Salvation Army. All
help Greek students                                           90 annual volunteer         of streams and rivers         Global Village itinerar-
ages four to 17 gain a                                        service projects across     provides a rest stop for      ies balance work, rest,
better understanding of          painter; or enjoy a slow-    the country. On the         many of the United            and cultural activities
pronunciation, syntax,           paced meal of mous-          Muleshoe trip, you’ll       States’ migrating birds       each day. As part of the
and usage—no teaching            saka (eggplant with          participate in raptor       species.                      Gulf Coast program,
certificate or Greek              mincemeat and topped         nest surveys and help       Details: Unlike some          activities may include
vocabulary necessary.            with béchamel) in a          remove fencing from         Sierra Club service proj-      kayaking, fishing, Cajun
You’ll work alongside a          seaside taverna. In          the preserve’s days as a    ects where you camp           dancing lessons, or vis-
local teacher during the         addition to the experi-      ranch (access is impor-     under the stars, this trip    its to the Gulf Islands
school year or in spe-           ences—and pen pals—          tant for sustaining local   bunks volunteers in           National Seashore.
cialized summer camps,           you’ll bring home from       animal species). You’ll     Muleshoe Ranch’s cab-         Details: Price for a
teaching four hours              the trip, favorite souve-    work about six hours a      ins. Prices for Sierra        seven-day Global
daily, followed by class-        nirs include olive oil and   day, leaving plenty of      Club’s trips start at         Village trip to Biloxi,
preparation time. “The           feta cheese made on          time for relaxing in        $295. The seven-day           Mississippi is $1,000,

                                                                                                                                                    P H O T O G R A P H Y: C O U R T E S Y O F G L O B A L V O L U N T E E R S ; H A B I TAT F O R H U M A N I T Y
program has been so              the island, as well as       Muleshoe’s natural hot      Muleshoe trip is $750         including accommoda-
successful that we had           handmade linens from         springs and enjoying        (415-977-5522, www            tions, meals, trip insur-
80 children participate          local craftswomen.           evening programs               ance, activities, and a
when we began in                 The setting: Crete is the    about local history and                                   contribution to Habitat.
2005; last year, there           largest of the Greek                                       If you can                  Habitat for Humanity
were 320,” says Global           isles and a top tourist                                  put a hammer                  also offers Global Vil-
Volunteers staff mem-            destination. You’ll work                                 to nail                       lage trips overseas and
ber Judy Strobel.                with students in the city                                Build homes with Habi-        to Alaska, New Mexico,
   Afternoons and                of Gazi, on Crete’s                                      tat for Humanity’s            and South Dakota (800-
weekends allow free              northern coast, border-                                  Global Village Program        422-4828, www.habitat
time to explore nearby           ing the Aegean Sea.                                      What you’ll do: In a one-     .org/gv). a
historical sites, such as        Lodging is provided                                      to two-week session,
the excavated palace of          along the beach of                                       volunteers build houses       Pam Grout is the author
King Minos or the child-         neighboring Amoudara.                                    from the ground up.           of 14 books including 100
hood home of El Greco,           Details: Global Volun-                                   You’ll be matched to          Best Vacations to En-
the famed Greek                  teers places more than                                   tasks (such as painting       rich Your Life.

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