This is Julie Honnert. She lives in Ohio but manages to squeeze a couple weeks vacation every year to come to Hawai'i. That's not so unusual. Many visitors fall in love with Hawai'i and return year after year and, like Julie, the first thing they do upon arriving is hit the beach. There's something about the feel of bits of sand between your toes and the lull of the surf tickling the shores that soothes people's hardworking souls. I understand. Thing is, when Julie hits the beach, she isn't just sitting. Or sunbathing. Or reading a book. She's volunteering. Julie the Volunteer helps protect and monitor the critically-endangered Hawaiian monk seals on behalf of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui on Kaua'i. For Julie, visiting Hawai'i and volunteering to help an endangered species merged two lifelong dreams.
I wrote about Julie's volunteer service on behalf of the monk seals for OutriggerHawaii.com here.
Turns out, Julie is a bit of a pioneer. The percentage of travelers planning to volunteer while on their vacation jumped from 6 percent to 11, from 2007 to 2008, according to travel Web site Travelocity. Other research puts the number much higher. According to a UC San Diego survey that polled more than 1,400 U.S. adults, about 40 percent of Americans say they're willing to spend several weeks on vacation that involve volunteer service. According to Bob Benson, director of the Center for Global Volunteer Service at UC San Diego Extension, "More and more people in all stages of life are thinking about becoming 'voluntourists'. People are looking to spend their vacations and retirement in meaningful ways that make contributions to others."
Whatever the number, I think the trend is positive, and it hasn't gone unnoticed. Conde Nast Traveler has written about voluntourism. So has Forbes Traveler and Time. Last fall, I wrote about celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary by helping rid Honokowai Valley on Maui of invasive species.
If Hawai'i happens to be one of your favorite places—and you wouldn't be reading this blog if it wasn't—the good news is there are plenty of ways to volunteer your time and engery here, from half-day beach clean-ups to week-long adventures. Here's a few. I'll continue to add to this list, as I find more, so you might want to bookmark this page and check back periodically. If you know of other volunteer opportunities good for visitors, please share. And if you've volunteered on vacation here in Hawai'i, please tell us about it—just make a comment.
Ways to Volunteer on Vacation:
Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
Haleakala National Park
Hawaii Wildlife Center
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui
The Kohala Center
Koke'e State Park
Manoa Cliff Trail Project
Hawaiian Islands Coastal Land Trust
Maui Cultural Lands
National Marine Fisheries Service
National Tropical Botanical Garden
The Nature Conservancy
North Shore Beach Clean-up
Pacific Whale Foundation
Reef Check Hawai'i
Volcanoes National Park
The Wild Dolphin Foundation