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40 Trips To Change Your World

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Photo: Courtesy of Alaska Wildland

Sustainable travel. Ecotourism. Fund-raising expeditions. Educational tours. Voluntourism.

The lexicon of travel is expanding as quickly as the world is shrinking. For many, it is no longer enough to return home with a Turkish carpet or tales of an exquisite atoll. Travelers still want to explore Chile or the Loire in style, but they also want a deeper experience, and one that doesn’t leave a footprint, carbon or otherwise. In the post-9/11 world, travelers want to make transformations of their own.

A range of organizations are answering that need, including luxury outfitters like Butterfield & Robinson, environmental watchdogs such as the Sierra Club, and new groups like Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), which places volunteers in 12 countries. As with other vacation packages, there is staff to take care of the details—arranging airport transfers, setting up accommodations (a converted riad, a Maori lodge, a stateroom on an Amazon sloop), and coordinating work assignments.

Whatever these trips might cost, all of them give back—to the travelers themselves as well as to the communities they visit. Debby and Tom Glassanos of Pleasanton, California, spent three weeks in Morocco with CCS where Tom, a Silicon Valley executive, worked with local women to increase their computer skills. Now, long after the couple’s return to the United States, he continues to share his expertise with his old students in a stream of e-mail exchanges. And interior designer Joe Naham and his partner, Jeffrey Fields, carried away from their trip to Costa Rica a lasting impression of the camaraderie that can develop between "voluntour" travelers of disparate backgrounds. Their group—including a financier, a CNN anchor, and a coffeehouse owner—discovered shared interests along with the new bond of their shared experience abroad.

Volunteers also describe the rewards of contributing beyond writing a check, although the dollars these programs provide to communities and causes are significant and often crucial. The itineraries that follow have the potential to make a difference in both your world, and the world.

— Ann Armbruster, Christine Adjudua, Jennifer Bain, Geraldine Campbell, Ilan Greenberg, Julia Houlihan, Jessica Merril, Suzanne Mozes, Benjamin Skinner, Bree Sposato, Wing Sze Tang, and Jennifer Welbel

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