For a travel experience that might really change your life, volunteer for a work camp.
These camps offer volunteers a chance to join local people in projects focusing on archaeology, art and culture, the environment, agriculture, renovation and construction and work with kids, the elderly and the disabled.
For Brenda Dean, answering an ad five years ago led her to go to work for the non-profit organization that put together such volunteer projects.
She answered the ad, from the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) in New York, that sought volunteers for environmental, archaeological and social work camps.
"I was assigned to La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands," she says. "It's a volcanic mountain rising majestically out of the clear blue sea and capped by sub-tropical forests under a waterfall of clouds. These beautiful surroundings were the perfect packaging for an adventure that changed my life."
For three weeks, Dean worked alongside other Americans, an Englishman, several Spaniards and island residents to restore the house where Columbus lived while preparing for his voyages and to examine 15th-century church records for details about Columbus' life.
The volunteers also hiked over the island's terraced mountains to record family histories, and they helped to prevent plant disease from spreading through the forests.
She was so impressed by the experience that Dean now works for CIEE, where she runs occasional seminars on volunteer travel.
CIEE, with a membership of more than 200 educational institutes, sponsors camps in the United States and helps place American volunteers in projects run by affiliated organizations in nations ranging from Algeria and Argentina to Indonesia, Japan and republics of the former Soviet Union.
CIEE and affiliate organizations are members of UNESCO's Coordinating Committee on International Voluntary Service.
Typically, CIEE's camps run from June to September, and each lasts two to four weeks. Teams vary from 10 to 20 per camp. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and in good health. No special skills are required beyond language proficiency for some projects. The work schedule is usually 30-40 hours a week.
CIEE charges $135 for placement in one project, $100 for each additional project. Volunteers pay round-trip travel expenses between home and work camp and for travel and health insurance. There may be additional fees for projects in Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Slovenia, the Ukraine and Ghana.
The 1993 edition of CIEE's International Workcamps Directory lists more than 600 projects worldwide, including:
Excavating an ancient Byzantine city. A 16-day project near Bukuvo, a town in the Karachaevo-Tcherkessky Republic in the North Caucasus. A $130 fee covers travel from Moscow to the site, tent accommodations, meals and excursions to nearby places of interest.
Refugee center in England. A 21-day project upgrading facilities and organizing social programs with refugees from Vietnam, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Croatia, in Haslemere (five miles south of London, 20 miles from the Sussex coast). Accommodations in a large Victorian house. $75 additional fee.
CIEE also publishes Volunteer!, a comprehensive guide to voluntary service offered by about 100 organizations, with short and long-term (six months or longer) projects.
For a copy of the International Workcamps Directory, send a $10 check or money order to CIEE, International Volunteer Service Dept., 205 E 42nd St., New York, NY 10017.
For a copy of Volunteer!, send an $8.95 check or money order to CIEE, ISS Dept., 205 E 42nd St., New York, NY 10017.