Vacationing like Brangelina

Does volunteer tourism give people a chance to change the world? Or are they just overpriced guilt trips?

Sarah McCall / Globe Aware

Volunteers with the group Globe Aware dig a trench to lay a water pipe in Costa Rica.

Getting in touch with your inner Angelina Jolie is easier than it used to be. The so-called voluntourism industry, which sends travelers around the globe for a mix of volunteer work and sightseeing, is generating almost as much praise and criticism as the goodwill ambassador herself. Are volunteer vacations--which have become so mainstream that CheapTickets recently started letting online customers book volunteer activities along with their vacations--merely overpriced guilt trips with an impact as fleeting as the feel-good factor? Or do they offer individuals a real chance to change the world, one summer jaunt at a time?

Voluntourism trips are shorter,...

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