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The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in discovering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.

Volume 6 Issue 2 Highlights


Supply Chain

PLAY it Forward Adventures

Whether you agree or disagree with the notion of integrating voluntary service and travel & tourism, you must admit it is resulting in some very unique social ventures. These social ventures are run by unique individuals as well, people like Jodi Nelson, Founder of PLAY it Forward Adventures. Incorporating her background with the visual arts, Jodi is introducing her VolunTourists to destinations via holistic, service/adventure-oriented engagements within the surrounding communities.

Background & History Of PLAY it Forward Adventures

PLAY it Forward Adventures is the brainchild of Jodi Nelson, a film/television producer with a passion for seeing the world. 

The concept of combining active outdoor adventure with volunteerism is based on my own personal travel experiences. After traveling for many years as a child and teenager, I began visiting developing countries through my early and mid 20’s. Oftentimes it was difficult to see the poverty and illness that came with volunteer vacationing and I’d return home depressed and lonely having no one to process my experience with. In my late 20’s I discovered my passion for being active and participating in such outdoor activities as hiking, biking, kayaking and swimming. Soon thereafter I discovered I could incorporate my outdoor adventures into my international travels by way of group travel and 2-week “active vacations”. I switched my focus to active vacations and hiked, kayaked and white water rafted my way through South America. Not wanting to give up all the benefits of volunteering in local communities, I found myself torn each time I wanted to travel. Do I take an active vacation or a service trip to satisfy my sense of adventure?

When I was living in Los Angeles at the age of 30, I decided to hire a coach to help me figure out my future. PLAY it Forward is the result of my work with Amy Applebaum after a three month intensive Bootcamp for Your Mind.  My primary assignment was to resume my scheduled back-to-back travels: an active trip to Argentina immediately followed by a service trip to Kenya. We had been working on a business plan for an adventure travel company, but I hadn’t arrived at my differentiator before I left. It was during the last week in Kenya that it came to me. The medical clinic was built and there was nothing left to do so a Maasai warrior took three of us on a day long hike to visit his family’s shamba. While trekking through the plains to arrive at the most cultural site of the week, and with Kilimanjaro as our backdrop, it occurred to me that people shouldn’t have to choose between active/cultural vacationing and service based adventures.  With so many destinations to explore in the world, most adventure seekers will only visit a country one time in their life.  Why not provide a more all-encompassing experience that combines outdoor adventures, culture and giving back so travelers get to have it all in once?

That was the day that PLAY it Forward was born. I returned to LA, to my coach, and to my life; packed up my bags and returned home to Minnesota. PLAY it Forward is based in St. Paul, Minnesota where a team of world travelers is dedicated to providing all-encompassing travel experiences that empower people and enrich lives. I’m now the producer of amazing life-changing adventures as well as PLAY it Forward Pictures… and have never looked back.

Philosophy & Vision

"Giving back to locals in the places we play” and using our slogan “Adventure Travel with a Moral Compass” are the two philosophies PLAY it Forward adheres to.  We believe travelers miss the most important piece of travel, the cultural exchange, when they don’t give back in countries they visit.  Volunteering is the best way to see the day-to-day life of local people to gain a better understanding of how others live within our world. Creating a give/take vacation experience is a more responsible way to see the world and many travelers agree it’s also more fulfilling.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” PLAY it Forward Adventures are purposefully designed to push people outside their comfort zone: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We believe the formula for doing this is in international adventures that combine 2/3 active adventure with 1/3 giving back to locals in a tangible way. Our tours leave adventurers feeling invigorated, inspired and most importantly empowered.

Possible Voluntary Service Activities In Which Voluntourists Would Participate

The voluntary service projects PLAY it Forward offers are always tangible in nature and can be completed in the time that we are there.  Projects will always “improve the quality of life” and will be chosen by the community based on their immediate needs.  Examples of projects PLAY it Forward participates in include:  Guatemala – building homes for local families, Tanzania – building goat sheds for local families, Machu Picchu – rebuilding a community destroyed by 2010 mudslides, Amazon Jungle – implementing sanitation systems in small Amazonian communities, Nepal – constructing sewing rooms at rehab centers for women rescued from the sex trade.

Possible Touristic Activities In Which Voluntourists Would Participate

PLAY it Forward is an eco-friendly company dedicated to preserving the natural environment.  We also believe that immersing yourself in a countries natural landscape is a great way to create spontaneous interactions with the local people.  Transportation on foot, by bike or by boat is preferred over seeing a country from the backseat of a car.  Our active adventures include such activities as hiking, biking, kayaking and mountain trekking.  Some of the sites you see by way of being active include a local women’s coop in Guatemala, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, weaving communities in the Andes Mountains, and hill people in the Himalayas of Nepal. 

Sample Itineraries

PIF – Guatemala:  this 10-day adventure includes hiking, biking, kayaking, yoga and 2.5 days of constructing a home for a Guatemalan or Mayan family.

PIF – Kilimanjaro:  this 15-day adventure includes 2 days of safari at Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, 3 days of building goat sheds in a local community, and a 7-day climb of the Machame Route of Kilimanjaro.

PIF – Machu Picchu:  this 10-day adventure includes 3 days of service in the village of Taray, 3 days trekking in the Andes Mountains and a day at magnificent Machu Picchu.

PIF – Nepal:  this 16-day adventure includes 5 days of constructing a sewing room for women rescued from the sex trade and a 9-day Annapurna Base Camp Trek.

PIF – Peru Amazon: this 8-day adventure includes 2 days of implementing a sanitation system in a local community and jungle activities such as piranha fishing, dolphin watching, hiking/ziplining, and wildlife excursions.

Contact information ee

PLAY it Forward Adventures
PO Box 14126, St. Paul, MN 55114


TWITTER:  pifadventures

You Tube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/PIFAdventures1

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=19465796899&ref=ts

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