Voluntourism for thrill-seekers

With the global economy in the toilet and natural disasters suggesting the Apocalypse is nigh, voluntourism is reaching record levels. Whether for philanthropic, educational, or financial reasons, travelers are looking for more from a vacation than just lolling on a beach, sucking down fruity cocktails, and managing hangovers.

The newest wave in experiential travel offers challenges greater than building flush toilets in a Rajasthani village, or reading to blind kids in Romanian orphanges. Today’s voluntourist can choose from a range of options that will challenge them both physically and mentally, while still providing that warm, fuzzy feeling brought on by doing something good for Mother Earth. Check out Gadling’s top picks for 2010:Ever yearned to play castaway on a South Seas isle? Now you can, with Albatross Adventures’ “Guano Mining in Micronesia” package. By day, harvest valuable seabird guano- used for commercial fertilizer and gunpowder-while your nights are spent eating seafood fresh from the surrounding waters, consuming kava with locals, and sleeping under the stars and coconut palms (assuming your atoll has trees). Also new from Albatross: “Mexico City Sewer Refurbishment.”

If habitat restoration is more your thing, you’ll want to join forces with the “Clean-up Gore Corps,” a U.S.-based non-profit specializing in “Cambodian Landmine Sweeps” and “Area 51 Revitilization” vacations. Experienced adventure travelers will enjoy “volunterrorism” tours of duty to Axis of Evil countries, and other politically unstable nations. Help Myanmar youth learn assault rifle skills, or teach spelunking to Afghani teens. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child, and your efforts, no matter how small, can make a difference.

Voluntourism in the medical field is also on the rise, which is the inspiration behind Red Cross Tours new “Thailand Blood Drive” trips. Since the recent Red Shirt protests, there is a dire shortage of spare blood, as well as medical supplies and trained phlebotomists in this HIV-stricken nation, and your skills can save lives. Also popular: “Surrogacy for Thai Sex Workers.” Use your uterus to foster hope, in a place where there is none.

For more information on adventure voluntourism, contact the National Organization for Worldwide Assistance: You (NOWAY), at www.noway.org.