Athough people have been spending their vacations volunteering for many years it is now the thing to do. It's called "voluntourism" and so many people are doing it that the Los Angeles Times features an article about it in today's edition (link to article above).
Kim Yoshino's story quotes "voluntourists" who've provided everything from physical labor for victims of Katrina to one San Franciscan who went to Africa on safari and spent two days at three orphanages "where he played with children and dropped off suitcases full of clothing."
Even Orbitz and Cheap Tickets are getting into the act: teaming up with United Way to launch a website today that will link travelers with volunteer opportunities all over the world. And although it isn't required, they're only too happy to make the travel arrangements for you. But even more telling is that United Way is on MTV, MySpace, FaceBook, and YouTube; offering travelers a mixture of "a good time with good deeds."
Voluntourism is here to stay and people of all ages are interested in doing something for others while doing something for themselves. It's about time.