Volunteering offers tourists a feel-good vacation

Volunteering at Bali Children's Project.

Story highlights

  • Go Eat Give has volunteered more 2,000 hours of service in more than 20 countries
  • Founder wants to raise awareness of different cultures, give back to communities
  • She finds on her travels that spending time and talking to people are greatly appreciated

Sucheta Rawal is founder of Go Eat Give, a nonprofit organization that encourages people to learn about different cultures through travel, food and community service. For information or to make a donation, visit www.goeatgive.org.

(CNN)How often have you been on vacation and barely left your resort? It's all too easy to stick to the tourist trail when you have little time available and are in unfamiliar surroundings.

I love traveling, but after visiting more than 30 countries, I found myself feeling like I'd missed out on experiencing the real places. It seemed like most people see the same sights, take the same pictures and come away with more or less the same experience. I wanted to have a more authentic experience.
Only after I got off the beaten tourist path did I realize how people truly lived, what they believed in and how rich their cultures were. The experience led me to volunteer in countries such as Russia, Morocco, Nepal, Spain, Indonesia and Cuba; I worked at places such as women's empowerment centers, orphanages, farms, day care centers and facilities for the elderly. I taught English, women's rights, proper nutrition, art, crafts and sports. Sometimes I found that just spending time and talking to people was appreciated, such as elderly women in Yaroslavl, Russia, who have few visitors and who interrogated me as if I were their granddaughter.
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