The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook

Volunteer Traveler's Handbook image

The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook uses storytelling, research, and practical information to guide travelers to an ethical volunteer experience. The book grew from the lessons I learned while traveling, and it fills a gap in the industry by providing easy-to-understand advice and guidance that grounds travelers and helps them understand the effects of international volunteering and how they can best create a positive impact on the communities they visit as they travel.

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“Packed with advice and real-world volunteering experiences you simply won’t find elsewhere … a lively and top recommendation sure to appeal.”

— Midwest Book Review

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**Available in paperback and e-versions, click any logo to purchase online. **

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What is the book about?

Anyone thinking of volunteering in another country should read this book.” — Marilyn Terrell, Chief Researcher at National Geographic Traveler

The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook guides new and veteran travelers through the challenges of finding, vetting, and choosing their ideal volunteer experience. The book’s practical advice is interwoven with first-person narrative, stories from a wide range of volunteers, beautiful photography, and expert interviews to help interested volunteers find meaningful ways to give back to communities all over the world-through volunteering, but also through social enterprises and supporting sustainable tourism practices.

The book gives advice beyond merely where to volunteer, it delves deep into the industry and answers the questions I had never thought to ask before I volunteered. Among other topics, the book covers:

  • the psychology and ethics of volunteering.
  • volunteer stories from a diverse range of volunteers (solo, family, senior, professional, etc.).
  • practical strategies for finding and vetting volunteer organizations.
  • tips to adjust to life as a volunteer.
  • traveling advice covering safety, packing, food, and cultural immersion.
  • resource lists of international volunteering opportunities to begin your research.

Check out the the book’s table of contents, a sample chapter and more reviews and read on for the backstory and more about other titles in the Traveler’s Handbook series.


In an informal and engaging style, the author encourages readers to think about why they want to be an international volunteer, explores the challenges of choosing a volunteer experience, and details living in a foreign country. A great beginning guide for those just starting to think about volunteering internationally.”

— Booklist Magazine

The story behind The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook

 My volunteer travel journey started in 2008 when I left on what would become an open-ended journey around the world. Before leaving to travel, service was an occasional part of my life—I volunteered regularly in my university years but I allowed my focus on service to dwindle during my years living in Los Angeles as an actress.

After two years in Los Angeles, I wanted to change my life to embrace a different dream, one I had always nurtured but had never expressed. I decided to pack up my life and travel around the world for a year with the intention of volunteering and giving back to communities along the way, while recording the entire journey on this site, A Little Adrift.

Over the course of my trip, research, word-of-mouth, and on-the-ground discoveries led me to a range of volunteer experiences in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Nepal, Guatemala, and several other countries. Each experience was unique, and through each I learned more important lessons.

Lessons about how to identify projects that resonated with my volunteer goals, while also supporting the organization’s needs. I go into a lot more of the back story on the writing on this book is in this post.

As I traveled more and more, I saw a gap in the volunteer industry, and launched my passion project: a community-sourced database of independent volunteer opportunities, philanthropic businesses, and social enterprises located all over the world. GrassrootsVolunteering.org is a free, open, and dynamic source of information for volunteers.

The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook is an extension of my work on Grassroots Volunteering, and looks closely at each aspect of the volunteer industry that every socially responsible traveler should understand. It’s the missing pieces, the questions you never thought to ask. My sole goal with this book is to give you, the volunteer traveler, the tools you need to make positive choices as you travel the world. 

I wish I’d had this handbook when I volunteered! Shannon asks all the right questions and offers practical advice from her own globetrotting experiences.”

— Ken Budd, Author of the memoir The Voluntourist

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Many thanks for your support!

Since I launched this site in 2008, I have grown to value and appreciate the community of travelers who find their way here. Thank you for your ongoing support.

I would love to hear from you if you have a question, or join the community and conversation by signing up for the A Little Adrift Newsletter. If you like the book or know someone who might, simply sharing this page on Facebook, Twitter, or email would spread the positive message about responsible international travel!

If you’d like to purchase The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, click the logos below to purchase in paperback and e-versions:

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Also, I believe in an open web and a sharing economy—if you purchase an e-version of my book and switch e-readers in the future, just shoot me an email with your receipt and I’ll send you the book in any format you need. :)

Many thanks,

~Shannon