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by Allison Aboud Holzer

I will admit that this next Bliss Tip is not something I have tried myself, but have always wanted to do… take a Volunteercation!

The idea of combining vacation and volunteerism isn’t that new. Aristotle said that being umbria2007-162good or virtuous in a passive way isn’t enough. We must act on or express our virtues in everyday life in order to feel truly happy. While churches and other community organizations have opportunities to volunteer, taking a trip in order to do so offers a unique kind of experience. Traveling provides a chance to bond with family or friends while exploring a new region, culture or language. Volunteering while traveling creates a different kind of intensive experience. Cross Cultural Solutions is one organization that provides week long intensive volunteercations they call Insights. Read the response of one CCS volunteer: “My experience was phenomenal; truly, there are no words that give justice to what I had experienced and how it all changed me! I am sincerely grateful for having had the incredible opportunity to participate in the service projects.”

Research supports volunteering as beneficial to well-being, but only if the intention is genuine. A large-scale study by Hunter showed that elderly volunteers experienced boosts in well-being and decreases in depression symptoms, but not young volunteers. The young people were encouraged to volunteer by parents and teachers as a way to boost their resume while the elderly group volunteered because they genuinely wanted to help others!

If you authentically feel like you want to help others and want to do so as a vacation with family or friends, there are many options to do so. Some organizations like Cross Cultural Solutions and Global Volunteers provide volunteer vacation packages. Or, you can be more creative by setting up your own opportunity. Search volunteer opportunities through Idealist based on location and set up your own experience.

Whatever option you choose, first check your intentions and expectations. If you volunteer for self-serving reasons, your sense of well-being may not gain the same boost as when you volunteer altruistically. In both cases, though, the recipients of your generosity will benefit!

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Post, Stephen G. (2005). “Altruism and Happiness: It’s Good to Be Good.” International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12:2, 66–77.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Hunter, K. I., & Linn, M.W. (1980–1981). International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 12, 205–213.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Musick, M. A., & Wilson, J. (2003). “Volunteering and depression: The role of psychological and social resources in different age groups.” Social Science & Medicine, 56, 259–269.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Krueger, R. F., Hicks, B. M., & McGue, M. (2001). “Altruism and antisocial behavior: Independent tendencies, unique personality correlates, distinct etiologies.” Psychological Science, 12, 397–402.

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