JOB OFFER A:
Fast-paced firm will take your money to drag you through a dozen destinations in 10-14 days. Some days and/or nights will be spent in transit. Food and drink provided at set intervals primarily from approved sources only. Hangovers, sunburn, and exhaustion possible if not extremely likely. Limited options for independent travel or exploration. Local contacts limited; most social interaction will be with People Like You from Back Home. Cost to you: About $200 a day, including airfare, meals, accommodations, tourist-stop souvenir purchases.
JOB OFFER B:
Spend two weeks or more in one or two locations. Simple accommodations provided; work alongside dedicated local experts and other volunteers from various countries. Learn useful skills in the fields of conservation, instruction, and social work. Feelings of unity, satisfaction, and compassion likely if not unavoidable. Lasting friendships possible; also enhanced job and/or career skills. Opportunity to compare sunrises and sunsets from same location each day. Limited options for independent travel or exploration. Cost to you: About $75 a day, including airfare, meals, accommodations, shopping at places where locals buy and sell. While not for everyone, using your vacation to help others while experiencing a far away country in a deeper way than any tour can make possible is an increasingly attractive option.
You get to really experience a part of Greek life while assisting in a worthy cause. Your vacation costs are, in most but not all cases, greatly reduced from what you would normally pay to spend a similar amount of time in Greece. Instead of feeling like one number in a tour group, you will be an individual who is part of a focused team.
You're actually working; your time is not your own; your freedom is limited; someone more experienced will probably notice and comment if you really mess a project up. Some aspects of volunteering may entail unusual risks (disease, turtle or wild animal bites, falls), and you will be responsible in virtually all cases to provide your own insurance, which should ideally include a medical evacuation option in the event of serious injury. Food is often not covered, but you will be purchasing it where the locals do, and costs should be very low.
And be sure to compare opportunities - some volunteer opportunity "administration fees" would cover a very indulgent week elsewhere in Greece, and you wouldn't have to set the alarm every morning.
Bear in mind that, whatever the location or type of work, the accommodations will probably be shared, and you should expect that they will be more on the level of a hostel or a very basic rented room rather than a tourist hotel of any description or star rating. If you do find yourself in better lodging, you probably have paid for it with a bigger program fee. In many cases, you will need to bring your own bedding and/or tent and camping supplies.
Generally, sponsors of real volunteer opportunities will be upfront with you regarding anything you need and problems you could encounter; they want their volunteers to be prepared to do meaningful work, not spend their time recoiling in shock at a toilet without a commode. The whiny or clueless are better off at home or at the everything-included resort up the coast.
Text Copyright 2001 by deTraci Regula. Photo of wild vixen used by permission from Paul Miotti, Lesbian Wildlife Hospital. All rights reserved.