Tired of vacations where you abandon your green lifestyle in exchange for a week of over-indulgence? Does the idea of a vacation that promotes ample opportunity to give back to the planet plus provide free food and accommodations sound appealing? The American Hiking Society has your solution: Volunteer Vacations.
Volunteer Vacations is a non-profit organization offering trail building projects on America’s public lands. Crews consisting of 6 to 15 physically fit volunteers age 18 to 80, rehabilitate hiking trails. While expected to work toward the project goals during the morning and afternoon hours you will have your evenings and nights for personal exploration. To review the available assignments go to: www.americanhiking.org and select volunteer vacations.
The site offers an interactive map to select the state/region of your desired destination inside the United States (including the Virgin Islands and Alaska!) You can choose the desired difficulty from easy-moderate to extreme-strenuous. Next, select your preferences for accommodations, whether a primitive camp site, dormitory or cabin. Enter the dates you are traveling and your options quickly appear. If you’re undecided you can select ‘view all vacations’ for a complete listing.
Be sure to thoroughly read the assignment as it will tell you pertinent information such as: if there is airport transportation available; bathroom accommodations; what to bring; temperatures to expect; how many miles to showers; and details of the assignment. Some duties involve hauling stones, clearing invasive weeds, erosion repair, and a whole host of environment friendly tasks. A description of the area and available personal discovery times is provided on each assignment.
Once making your assignment selection you will be prompted to complete registration which may be done online, downloaded and mailed to: AHS Volunteer Vacations, 1422 Fenwick Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20910 or call toll free at (301) 565-6704 ext. 206. The registration form seems straightforward, requesting identification, contact information, experience, and assignment preferences. Registration fees vary from $175 to $275, depending upon membership and trip status. Of course the flight is at your expense and you need to provide your own personal gear and equipment. Your food and lodging will be completely paid. That’s quite a bargain to spend a week in some of the most beautiful sites in our country.
Now for those with outdoor leadership experience, you can apply to become a Crew Leader. You will work with the host to organize events and work teams, coordinate meals and handle communications with the American Hiking Volunteer Programs Manager. There are several incentives for becoming a Crew Leader: 1. your registration fee is waived, 2. First pick of assignments, 3. Industry gear and goodies, 4. Training materials and resources, and 5. The experience and friendships.
Whether you long to hike the Grand Canyon, Alaska or even the Virgin Islands, Volunteer Vacations is your ideal green vacation. You’ll return inspired from accomplishing a worthwhile project and know your vacation wasn’t grandiose, over-indulgent or hard on the pocket book.