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Girl on the Go Guest Blogger: Voluntourism


From a young age Joanna Brooke was fascinated by travel. She loved everything new that came with it. From meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, exploring unknown cities and beaches, and tasting what the world had to offer... she fell in love. Because of her passion, Seven Hills Global, a premier travel concierge service, was born.

I've asked Joanna to become a regular contributor to Girl on the Go because when we met, there was an immediate connection on many levels. We've known each other for a little under five months now but she's responsible for planning one of my most challenging solo trips and we've experienced an unforgettable weekend together in New Orleans. She's an extraordinary human being and possesses a knowledge and passion for travel that is contagious.

Today's story is on voluntourism, something Joanna and I have been exploring and contemplating doing together in the near future.

By Joanna Brooke

It was a trip of a lifetime—18 days in South Africa during the World Cup in 2010.  It proved to be one of the most incredible adventures I’ve ever experienced.  Between the excitement of safari and great white shark cage diving, the sites of Cape Town, the noise of the games, and the incredible people, I left wanting to be immersed in the culture.  I saw everything but felt like there was more that I needed to do and be a part of.

I vowed that one day I would come back to “help” this country that has fought so hard for its freedom.  The question I plagued myself with was: how?  How can one person like me make any difference?  It wasn’t until recently that I found the answer.

There is an up and coming type of travel called “voluntourism” which combines tourism with philanthropy and/or volunteering.  It’s a unique approach where firsthand personal experiences will change the way you see the world and also the way the world sees you.

I am excited that I sent one of my clients on a volunteer vacation to Peru in December.  She had very specific requirements and it wasn’t easy finding a company that fit exactly what she was looking for; but we did eventually find the perfect match through Global Volunteers (Road Moneys was a close runner up).

There are many categories to consider (and questions to ask) when booking this type of travel.  Below is a list of considerations and tips, and remember, the more you ask, the better your journey will be.

Comfort level:
• Camping vs. Hotel:  Are you comfortable camping and if you require a hotel, is there a specific caliber or rating you require?
•  Shared Rooms:  If traveling on your own, are you okay sharing a room with someone you don’t know?  No problem if that answer is “NO” as most companies are accommodating and understand the need for privacy.

•  Trips can last from 1 week to 3 months.  What fits your schedule best?

Activity Level:
•  Be sure to ask what types of activities are included as you don’t want to involve yourself in a program that is too vigorous (or not vigorous enough).

•  My favorite question!  Where do you want to go? Is there a place you’ve never been or a country that moved you so much that you need to go back?

•  Most voluntourism dates are set in stone, so check the timing to make sure it works with your schedule. Try to be as flexible as you can to make sure you find the type of trip that works best for you.

Types of Volunteering:
•  There are many options that range from working with animals (land or sea), building homes and wells, to teaching or coaching children.  What do you feel most passionate about?

Type of Traveler:
•  It’s important for you to feel comfortable so find programs that are best for you by telling the organization the “type” of traveler you are.   Choose from the following categories:  solo, group, couples, or family.

Once you have all those questions answered you will be on your way to finding the perfect voluntourism trip!

As for me, I'm still figuring out which volunteer program(s) will best fit my passions and realistically, my time off.  Ideally I'd like to combine my love of the ocean (and the animals that call it home) with helping the children of South Africa.  If I can help with marine research while leaving a lasting impression on at least one child, I will feel fulfilled.  It may only be 2 weeks of my life, but the connection and memories will last a lifetime.

Signing Off Researching Ways to Pay It Forward,
Renee & Joanna 

Joanna Brooke is the Founder and CEO of Seven Hills Premiere Travel Concierge.  She specializes in travel solutions, and works with each individual client to find travel programs that work best for them.  Joanna never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up, but knew she had to do something that allowed her to follow her passion; travel.

Prior to starting Seven Hills, Joanna served in a variety of hospitality and marketing roles for consulting agencies; hosting clients all over the country and world.  As Joanna continued with her career she realized that research, preparation, and customer services is vital for success.  To this day, she travels with that theory in mind. As you can guess, Joanna spends her free time traveling, researching,  and spends much of her time cooking for friends and family.  You can reach Joanna at and visit Seven Hills at


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