The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in dis-covering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.
Wisdom & Insight
We have entered, or are nearing, the 3rd Century of the "Industrial Age" in some parts of the Developed World. Labor is no longer simply a function of the human body. What does this mean for VolunTourism? Well, it means EVERYTHING!
Having recently spent a couple of days in the Blackstone River Valley, the Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, it seems an auspicious time to share with you a most important consideration in the development of your VolunTourism programming architecture.
The "Developed" societies of the world, those with the financial flexibility to both travel and engage in philanthropic activity, have moved from agrarian-based economies and modalities to an industrialized model, and are, at present, rapidly introducing the "idea-generating" economies of the future.
"Moving at the speed of thought" and relying primarily on the muscle known as the brain, we are crafting, on a broader and broader scale, a "Mind-Labor" Society. With the brain now carrying the bulk of the labor-load, the body is no longer the direct instrument of financial sustenance. The body is now supplanted as the primary vehicle and relegated to its less-than-stellar position of "mule for the mind".
The body spends its hours transporting the thinking apparatus from place to place and, if it is uniquely fortunate, receives its reward of of proper nutrition, exercise, and access to varying degrees of comforts supplied to it for the purposes of rest and relaxation.
These "mind-labor" human beings are accumulating greater and greater wealth-bases and are seeking outlets for expenditure that will prove satisfactory to the continuation of the evolutionary process of mind development while simultaneously, if at all possible, appealing to the physical form. Experience is what is being sought and both tourism and voluntary service play roles in stimulating and exercising both mind and body.
What many budding enthusiasts, and even a few veterans, within the VolunTourism Community may not realize is that your programs MUST account for the shift to the "Mind-Labor" population. You cannot expect to engage people in 100% body-labor activity for six to eight hours a day over the course of a multi-day itinerary. You will have "tired" people on your hands and a less-than-optimal experience for your VolunTourists. By the time these individuals tray to engage in the all-important "tourism" elements of your itinerary they are fatigued, less tolerant, and likely to miss many of the significant, yet subtle, features of the destination around them.
Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT
Create balance in your programming architecture. Realize that body-labor and/or mind-labor are best performed in the morning hours. Temperatures, humidity, insects, and other challenges are more tolerable in the morning. Reserve afternoons for education and engagement with the history, geography, arts, and culture of the destination. You and your VolunTourists will gratefully appreciate both the routine and the balance. Bodies and minds will have the greatest chance of fluidly adapting to "their" new experience and environment.
"Know Thyself" must be expanded to "Know Thy VolunTourist." You, as an individual, may be able to slug cement for days on end, but that doesn't mean that a middle-aged bank executive is ready, although they may be willing, to do the same.
Pace Your VolunTourists!
In particular, if you are able to work with local community residents in conducting your volunteer projects, tell your VolunTourists to watch how the people in the communities work. In many instances, they are still engaged as members of the "Body-Labor" Society. They know how to keep the body strong and healthy to work for six straight days for many, many hours at a time under difficult conditions. Observe how these individuals move their bodies, rehydrate their bodies, take breaks and rest their bodies, etc. Utilize the methods that they teach you.
Balance is the key word for the longevity of your VolunTourists and, in turn, your VolunTourism operation. Provide participants with an experience that challenges, yet honors the nature of their beings. This will signify your understanding of the details that oftentimes are overlooked by those who may be thinking, "there's always someone else."
Look around you folks, VolunTourism is growing. There are more opportunities available on a daily basis. At some point the "pool" of potential VolunTourists will begin to shrink. How well you design your program to incorporate elements like this may well prove to be the linchpin of sustainability for your operations.
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