Volunteer vacations are a unique and fulfilling way to travel—projects range from simple litter-picking in country parks to more complex building projects and highly-skilled support such as providing medical aid or technology training. As volunteers pay a fee for their trips, it is important to be careful when choosing projects to ensure that work being done is actually necessary and directly benefits the local communities. Although the concept of volunteer vacations in China is still relatively new, there is growing interest from independent travelers, schools, and companies wanting to "do something good."
China’s travel industry is growing at a phenomenal rate, particularly in rural areas where it is viewed as a quick way to promote economic growth. As travelers go further into China’s wild areas, it is important to remember to do so responsibly. Next time you take a family vacation, school trip, or company retreat why not consider choosing to support responsible travel in China? Creating enough demand will encourage the industry to grow and China’s beautiful landscapes and unique cultural heritage will remain wild, authentic, and awe-inspiring.
A common misconception is that sustainability means the sacrifice of certain comforts and conveniences. While some eco-lodges do offer a more rustic taste of simple village life, places like naked Retreats in Moganshan, just outside of Shanghai, and Crosswaters Ecolodge & Spa, two hours away from Hong Kong, are showing that high-end sustainable tourism is possible. Conveniently located right outside major cities, these beautiful retreats attract urbanites looking to escape the business of city life, reconnect with nature, and recharge their batteries.
Samantha Woods is the sustainability manager for WildChina, an award-winning travel company that provides distinctive, responsible travel experiences to all corners of China. WildChina’s signature community service trips for schools and new Sustainable Leadership Academy for businesses take travelers to experience China differently and create meaningful change in underserved rural communities.
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