Ever wondered of travelling not for the sole purpose of vacationing or social media but to transform and create an impact? This 2020, apart from exploring a new location and enjoying its scenic beauty, volunteer for some good Samaritan act and help bring a change. By Tanvi Jain

There are hundreds of activities across the globe one can volunteer for and help make a difference in the lives of people, while on a trip. From learning to cook a local cuisine to teaching kids, or lending a helping hand in conserving flora and fauna — your good karma can prove beneficial not only to people around you but can bring about a huge transformation in your personal life as well. 

1. Thailand 

One can have a transformational travel experience in Thailand just by doing something as simple as taking a city tour with the locals with so much to learn about the culture and get the local flavour of the placeTemple hopping is one such activity, which along with worshiping also offers a learning experience about the spiritual, emotional and even economic pulse of the people. You can even volunteer to be a monk and teach kids. Thai architecture and markets come with their own stories and history. The elephant village on the outskirts of Surin is one very small place where life of villagers revolves around elephants. You can volunteer to wash, feed or just walk with the elephants. Elephant village also has options of volunteer house, a basic accommodation unlike fancy hotels where you can wake up to the sight of a baby elephant cuddling with his mother. Learn to cook Thai cuisine with the locals and volunteer to prepare a full meal for everybody.  

2. Laos 

A Southeast Asian country known for its mountainous terrain, Laos is one place worth travelling to, especially for its French colonial architecture, hill tribe settlements and Buddhist monasteries. Travel to Laos and volunteer for various horticulture activities at its beautiful Kuang Si Butterfly Park, a nature lovers’ paradise. You can also teach English to the children of Don Khamao island as the demand for this language is very high there. As a volunteer you can stay in local homestays and experience the local life. Another important activity worth volunteering for is to help restore the garden of small villages in Ban Chiang, an archaeological site recognised under the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

3. Lobitos, Peru 

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Lobitos 👊🏼

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An abandoned ghost town in the northern reaches of Peru, Lobitos is home to some of the best waves in Peru. If you are looking for a unique surfing and cultural adventure, the shores of Lobitos are waiting for you. The town has a very small community of local surfers and fishermen, trying to rebuild the place out of the ruins of once booming oil town in Peruvian military base. It’s an ideal place for a transformational experience as surfers can enroll in various programmes for water conservation and social entrepreneurship. One can also volunteer to teach English. A way of connecting with the locals is to share meals and lodging with them at a homestay or other similar accommodations. 

 4. The Appalachian Trail, United States 

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1 year ago today I was hiking deep in the heart of Maine on #theappalachiantrail . I like looking back at these old pictures. I try to remember the woman I was at that time and then I think about how much that woman has changed and grown since then. Without passing judgment on my younger self, I wish I could tell her some of the lessons I have learned since completing the trail and having gone through the many changes and challenges that have crumbled before me since my re-entry to society. . I would tell that woman: “Slow down. It’s ok to be slow. You are strong and brave. Hold onto your identity by remembering to put yourself and your own hopes and dreams first sometimes. Check in with yourself more often and don’t lose sight of those dreams. Be proud of yourself every day. It’s ok to take a rest day. Give yourself grace. Be confident in yourself for you are stronger than you think you are.” – love, future me . . . #thruhike #thruhiker #hikemaine #georgiatomaine #trailandkale #appalachiantrail #whiteblaze #veganhiker #hikingadventure #plantpoweredathlete #choosemountainswomen #mountaingirl #womanwhoexplore #appalachianhikers #trektheAT #shehikes #hikergirl #hikerchick #hikemore #hikingvibes #gohike #hikingadventure #hiketheworld #mainewoods #sheexplores

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The trail spans to 14 states from Georgia to Maine and is approximately 3,524 km long. Hikers from across the globe embark upon this journey for once in a lifetime experience and their stories motivate others to take up this long trail. One can also volunteer to be a part of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which works upon making these journeys possible. Hikers can volunteer to be teachers and help protect the land while enjoying the experience. Other volunteer activities that help keep the trail alive include clearing fallen trees, cutting back overgrown vegetation from the sides of the trail, and repainting trail markers.

Related: Mariellen Ward: The 59-Year-Old Travel Blogger On Being Relevant In The Age of Millennials