Preparing for a Volunteer Vacation in Cozumel, Mexico–Feb. 23, 2010

Volunteers enjoyed a great dinner and orientation meeting at April's. The real work begins early tomorrow. Rain or shine.

We’ve all been here before. And we love it. But nine travelers and eight locals are about to experience the island of Cozumel in a different way.

For the next week, we will be participating in voluntourism. Nope, I didn’t make that word up. I found it on Google. It’s a term for a global volunteer vacation. And what better way to justify leaving your normal routine behind to do some good in the world? A volunteer vacation has an added advantage of experiencing people, places and challenges that you might not encounter otherwise.

The volunteers in our group who live on the island, already know that the sun will shine ferociously one minute and sheets of rain can pummel you a moment later. And they also understand that thousands visitors arriving daily on cruise ships will never leave the tourist zone. They won’t meet families struggling to feed themselves or children who don’t have the luxury of accommodations for disabilities.

So for the next week, this group of locals—Karen, April, Steve, Ray and Sandy, Terry and Doug—will probably put in more time than they had ever planned to provide logistical (and moral?) support while working alongside the rest of the group. They’ll be our guides to seeing Cozumel in a new way. I’ll share some of that with you in this daily blog.

The travelers in our group come from Iowa, Nebraska and Texas. We’re pleased there’s no snow here. But we all started sweating the moment we deplaned.

Karen, Larry, Ilene and Hoyt led the charge with advance planning and gathering supplies. Gary got to work early this morning and Byron, Ilene, LaFonda and Hoyt arrived this afternoon. Julie and Jay will join us in a couple of days.

We seem to mirror the “shift in priorities” noted in a national study from Harris Interactive and on New Year’s Resolutions. Results showed that in 2010, priorities included developing closer ties with friends and family (25%), traveling more (18%) and giving more time and/or money to charity (16%). If all goes as planned, we’ll work on all three during this trip.

In addition to that work, there are pages and pages of project plans that we hope will come to fruition. Previous trips to Cozumel have allowed us to practice hammock-swinging, scuba diving and eating of tacos, so…we may have to stretch our skill set a bit on this trip. Stay tuned.—Phyllis

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