Traditionally, vacations are thought to be leisure or recreational adventures. We often envision the extremes from floating beach or poolside to hair-raising roller coaster rides, or Broadway plays to repelling rock faces. The pace of our most meaningful adventures have always been self-subscribed, because vacation after all is not, by definition, an adventure. It is the departure of our normal lives, the vacating of work or school to go and do or just be somewhere else.
More and more the vacating of normal lives leads us to seek out of our box experiences. Whether it is immersion in a new culture or setting out on an uncharted road trip, the idea of vacations has truly evolved to mean whatever makes us whole, rebalanced, and appreciative of what we left behind. It is truly a temporary break from our regularly scheduled programs.
For generations, destinations like Panama City have cornered the market on memorable vacations. Our community molds the moments our visiting friends will cherish forever. Like the first time a family member experiences oysters at Hunt’s, or reeling in a snapper “this big” out of the Gulf of Mexico, or even tapping your foot and singing along with the Ukulele Orchestra of St. Andrews. Most recently added to that infinite list of memories are those that came and continue to come to volunteer. Since October 10, 2018, we’ve been graced with tourists with a purpose. From day trippers to those with extended stays, we have been fortunate to meet these new and returning friends on the front lines of our recovery.
Voluntourism is not new. Annually 1.6 million people volunteer on vacation and spend about $2 billion in their travels. Not only do they come to physically help, they also put their dollars into our economy and we appreciate them. Below is a very incomplete list of volunteer organizations and opportunities in Panama City post-hurricane. If you happen to be vacationing in the area, Operation Clean Sweep hosted by the City of Panama City is a great way to volunteer a few hours during your trip.