Holidays That Help Others

Holidays That Help Others


Free Tours
Centro, San Miguel
Tue and Thu, 9:30am
The Gazebo in the Jardin

By Kathleen Bennett

I overheard three friends discussing their recent travels: one had boarded a luxury ocean liner for a cruise of the Greek Islands, another had bicycled the California coast, and the third had spent three weeks helping in a Cambodian orphanage. Was one person’s vacation more meaningful than the other’s? Individuals have different desires and needs. The old saying, “One person’s trash is another’s treasure”can be applied to travel styles. What fulfills one person’s needs for time away from his or her daily routine may, in fact, be boring and tiresome to others.

Many travelers, however, seem to be leaning more often toward my third friend’s model combining travel with meeting critical needs in other countries. Such holidays have been dubbed “Travel with a Purpose” or “Volunteer Vacations.” Volunteer adventures are not always as unselfish as they may seem. For example, I would be less than honest if I said that serving two years in the US Peace Corps in Poland was motivated entirely by my desire to train English teachers. Since childhood, I was curious about what life was like for people living under Soviet rule. While volunteering in Poland, interacting with students, teachers, and new friends, my understanding of life in Poland grew immeasurably.

Genuine altruism benefits the recipient and can change lives in profound ways, but it is likely that those who give selflessly reap as many rewards. If you have never combined travel with a focus on giving time, money, knowledge, or experience to others, there are ample short and long term opportunities found through a little research. A simple way to help others while traveling is to look for tours staffed by volunteers who donate proceeds toward improving the lives of others. Free tours of San Miguel de Allende’s Historic Centro were organized to provide the opportunity for participants to help children continue their education. All proceeds go to scholarships for children in San Miguel. These two and a half hour walking tours depart from the gazebo in the Jardin at 9:30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Reviews and registration are available at

If traveling to distant places is not one’s passion, there are a multitude of opportunities to help others at home: support scholarships for children, contribute to a homeless shelter, adopt a dog or cat, offer free tutoring to students from nearby schools, deliver meals, contribute to projects sponsored by your church or synagogue, or pay living wages to your help. Those are just a few ideas. The opportunities to help others are endless as are the needs.

As for who benefits the most—the recipients or those who cared enough to help? We already know the answer.