The Traveler’s Double Standard
At first, our tours looked a lot like that first bike ride, with foreigners coming in to "serve" people in places they knew very little about. I slowly stopped believing in our "voluntourism" offerings and began to see that young people didn't need more fabricated opportunities to "serve" but rather opportunities to learn how to better contribute their time and money in the future.
As our world becomes smaller and smaller with globalization, questioning our practices abroad becomes ever more important. This is the correct approach for anyone trying to get their feet wet, whether at a new job or doing any sort of service work:
We need to focus on learning first - not just encouraging jumping in. Like the legal intern delivering coffee and learning what it takes to be a good lawyer, their most significant impact in the role is not achieved in a short time, but rather in avoiding being too much of a distraction in the short-term and learning how to have a real impact in the long run.