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July 08, 2009

Volunteer with Roadmonkey in Vietnam

The Roadmonkey expedition atop Kilimanjaro
last month.

by Brook Wilkinson

I've been following the blog over on Roadmonkey's site for the last few weeks, rooting for their expedition to make it to the top of Kilimanjaro (and vicariously reliving my own climb up Africa's highest peak back in 2003). They all made it to the summit in late June, and are now building a clean-water system and painting classrooms at a school in Tanzania.

"Adventure philanthropy": That's the idea behind Roadmonkey, a new tour operator that combines physical feats with volunteer work. The company was launched last year by New York Times correspondent Paul von Zielbauer, who leads all the trips himself. Perhaps in 10 years he'll be taking tourists back to his favorite spots in Baghdad--where he traveled on assignment for the paper in 2007--but for now he's sticking to less war-torn destinations: Tanzania and Vietnam. The next expedition is a two-week bike trip in Vietnam, set to begin on October 31.

Roadmonkey claims that what sets them apart from other voluntourism operations is that they directly involve local community members. That's an important factor (though not a unique one--Journeys Within, for instance, with whom I volunteered in Cambodia, has locals running their charity programs). If you'd like to get something more out of your next vacation by giving voluntourism a shot, check out Roadmonkey's upcoming Vietnam bike trip. Just make sure your butt is ready for 9 days in the saddle.

Further reading:
* Responsible Traveler: Making a difference
* Connecting for Good: Join Condé Nast Traveler and Ashoka in this international competition for the best ideas on how to encourage citizens everywhere to travel more


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