Photo (cc) by Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezaire
It’s springtime, classes are done and college students are traveling all over the place to get a little rest and relaxation in before next semester. A popular spot of course: the beaches in Florida.
So, for some spring breakers, the vacation is about soaking up the sun by day and going wild by night. But, what if you want to do a little more with your time away from class? There’s plenty of options out there. For example, working with animals like monkeys, tigers and birds at the Peace River Refuge in Zolfo Springs, Florida.
Carley Westfall of SMU calls it a volunteer vacation. “I like to get the fresh air, I like to be in nature. Personally, I feel quite peaceful around animals. I feel kind of like I rejuvenate myself when I’m around ’em, you know? It’s good for the soul.”
Westfall uses her time off not to relax, but to help people, animals or the environment. And for those who do it, what it lacks in relaxation, it makes up for in satisfaction and adventure.
”You can sort of see that you’re helping out here. Every little thing that you do sort of helps the sanctuary.” she adds.
Want to see her working with the animals? Check out this story we did at the refuge. The monkey alone makes the video worth watching!
There are dozens of places to take a volunteer vacation. You can work with scientists to solve environmental problems at Earth Watch, volunteer abroad and build houses for poor people in Chile, or find other opportunities using Transitions Abroad. Want to assist in conservation projects and humanitarian efforts? Check out GVI USA.
While destination hot spots like Florida and Mexico won’t really miss a student or two, a wild animal refuge certainly would.
“We’re very dependent on the volunteers. We don’t have paid staff.” said Lisa Stoner who serves as Vice President of the refuge. “Volunteers are extremely important, they’re critical to our operation.”
Cost and benefits
Volunteer vacations range in price from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the trip and if you need to travel. Best part? Some, even all of the trip may be tax deductible. I’ll bet your friends won’t be bragging about that.