Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Giving Your Most Valuable Gift

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Giving Your Most Valuable Gift

Article excerpt

When we travel we want to enter a fantasy world of adventure and stimulation--a suspension of reality. We work hard all year for our usually two short weeks of vacation with the burning need to seriously chill. So why would people choose to donate some or all of their holiday time volunteering? Simply because a volunteer trip excels at achieving exactly what we expect of a vacation: It has the capacity to both recharge and transform us.

The recent tragedy in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast has brought out the best in many Americans who have given generously of their time and money helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina. When will New Orleans recover its mantle as one of the gayest destinations in the world? We touch on the issue of the future of gay tourism in the region in Orientation. Katrina has highlighted the fact that we live in a small modern world, closely interconnected by commerce and personal interaction. The same generosity and energy that has spilled forward in the wake of Katrina can be creatively applied to our travels, as The Out Traveler has been showing in our ongoing series on volunteer vacations. Volunteering is more than just doing good for good's sake--it is stimulating, meaningful, and yes, fun and satisfying. Nonprofits report that the number of people who sign up for volunteer vacations is doubling every year. Most programs require no special training, just a curiosity about the world and a big heart. A basic fee for food and lodging is charged, but these trips are generally cheaper (from $200 to $1,000 per week) than the typical jaunt to Disney World. It's an unforgettable way of seeing the world that is proactive instead of passive, engaging rather than placating. …

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