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Volunteer travel

Get away from it all and help others, too? 'Voluntourism' grows as a travel option.

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Here's a great travel fantasy: Watch giraffes galloping across the savanna, spot elephants on their migratory path, and then snooze in a hammock under a baobab tree.

Or, instead of being catered to on a luxury safari, you can read to nursing-home residents in inner-city Philadelphia, help build a schoolhouse in Zambia, or plant trees to stop erosion along Big Darby Creek in Ohio.

In growing numbers, travelers are choosing the latter examples as a way to learn more about various cultures and to help people in a deeper way than just buying their souvenirs. On volunteer vacations, they work hard, laugh a lot, and live an adventure that can't be duplicated.

The menu of volunteer vacations is lengthy and diverse, covering environmental, scientific, educational, and social-service expeditions both in the United States and abroad. It can be a week insulating a home in Kentucky, two weeks rescuing leatherback turtle eggs in St. Croix, or a weekend registering voters in San Antonio.

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