Road Trip Through Texas and Do Good Along the Way
Escape to exciting destinations that are only a road trip away — or make it a staycation in Austin — while volunteering your time for worthy causes
By Emmy Bost
Photos courtesy of Travel Texas
Those looking to travel with a purpose can combine their passions for travel and doing good on their next Texas getaway. From protecting sea turtles in Corpus Christi to hanging with felines in Fredericksburg, there are a myriad of voluntourism opportunities across the state for every type of traveler.
The emerging travel trend of incorporating meaningful volunteer work into travel itineraries is a great way to immerse in and learn about a destination’s local community and culture, while experiencing its beauty. Here are 10 top-notch voluntourism opportunities across Texas.
Head to the Gulf Coast for your next voluntourism vacation. Between catching some waves and a tan, visitors to “The Gulf Coast Capital” can participate in beach cleanups in an effort to keep Gulf of Mexico beaches pristine. Held year round, beach cleanups are a fun and active way to collaborate with family, friends, colleagues and fellow beach-goers. Who knew a trip to the coast could mean doing good for the environment? Insider tip: Volunteering for a beach cleanup provides discounted hotel rates in Corpus Christi!
Next time you find yourself exploring Dallas’ thriving arts scene or discovering hidden-gem eateries and watering holes, head 15 minutes outside of town to Equest, an award-winning nonprofit known for their innovative equine-facilitated and horsemanship therapies for people with disabilities. Volunteers are always welcome to help out with barn maintenance, painting, refilling food buckets and, of course, tending to, grooming and spending time with horses. Green thumbs can even help out with grooming the lush Freedom Garden on Equest’s sweeping 300-acre property.
Loved for its surf and sunshine, South Padre Island is a perfect beach getaway for friends and families alike. In the heart of the island, visitors will find Friends of Animal Rescue, a no kill shelter that strives to find loving homes for each and every animal in its care. The shelter serves the Island community in many ways such as adopting out animals, caring for local wildlife and unclaimed pets and much more. Volunteers can contribute to their mission by assisting with dog walking, socializing cats, cleanup, sorting donations and special event coordination. Commemorate your seaside voluntourism vacation by heading back home with a new furry family member in tow.
Go Overseas is a global network of some 18,000 programs that aim to empower human connection through perspective-changing travel. Their robust virtual offerings allow volunteers to make an impact and connect with others from any point on the globe, whether you’re on a Texas road trip, staycation or international excursion. With a working computer and internet access, Go Overseas provides countless opportunities to volunteer with children, teach a language, offer marketing or web development skills, provide tele-healthcare and more.
Austin City Limits Music Festival and Austin Parks Foundation teamed up 15 years ago to enhance Austin’s renowned parks and green spaces and now you can join the charge. Enjoy a world-class music lineup at ACL while participating in eco-friendly volunteer work. ACL’s signature greening programs, Rock & Recycle, Divert It! and Water Refill Stations are prime opportunities for music and environment lovers to get to work by encouraging festival attendees to recycle, educate about composting and bring along reusable water bottles.
Amid glass bottom boat tours, beautiful landscapes and superior shopping, guests to San Marcos can tack shifts at the Hays County Food Bank onto their travel itinerary. The Hays County Food Bank aims to fight food insecurity by providing access to food and resources to those in need. Volunteers can join their local team to assist with food rescuing and processing, warehouse stocking and sorting, distribution to community members in need and other functions.
Discover Padre Island National Seashore’s wildlife in an entirely new way. Get up close and personal with sea turtles by patrolling the Corpus Christi seashore for nestling turtles, rescuing sick and injured turtles and more. The Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery offers classroom training, safety classes and conservation instruction for volunteers seeking long term stays in the nature-rich oceanfront destination.
Fredericksburg calls for hikes atop Enchanted Rock, Texas wine tasting and the Hill Country SPCA. The Hill Country SPCA seeks help from volunteers with customer service and front desk operations, dog walking and enrichment, cat care and special events. Spend your vacation loving on and playing with four-legged fur babies.
Whether you’re winding through Palo Duro Canyon State Park or hopping across ancient limestone rocks at Pedernales Falls State Park, there are plenty of opportunities to pair your outdoorsy escapades with Texas State Parks and Wildlife’s extensive selection of volunteer missions. For example, the environmental restoration and maintenance program is a great way to “get your hands dirty” by planting native species, removing invasive plants, maintaining trails and park grounds and more.
Calling all bookworms! The annual Texas Book Festival connects authors and readers through engaging experiences that celebrate the diversity of literacy, ideas and imagination. Perfect for volunteers wanting to bop around Texas’ capital city, the impactful weekend is set up in over 20 venues throughout Austin and brings together some 250 nationally and critically recognized authors, over 100 exhibitors, mouthwatering cuisine, family-friendly activities and countless opportunities to meet authors and fellow literature lovers. Volunteers can enjoy perks like a free volunteer shirt, free coffee and half off of delicious eats served up by local vendors.
Most volunteer programs require some sort of application process, so be sure to read before you go.