Change Your View and Other Lives Too With Volunteer Vacations

482902_10200536274353607_1093409579_nYour next getaway could change more than your view. More travelers are finding a way to help others while exploring experiences and cultures through volunteer vacations. Social impact travel is growing in popularity for individuals seeking unique experiences and real connections with locals as they explore new communities. This type of vacation may be described as a cultural exchange, service adventure or educational tourism.

Volunteer vacations can also strengthen family bonds while working together to help others. Volunteer get away programs may offer opportunities to spend meaningful time as a team while learning new skills.

Travel adventures for a cause can involve some tropical paradises or exotic scenery, but require more planning than your typical vacation advises travel expert and author of Voluntourist, Ken Budd: “Taking a volunteer trip isn’t like spontaneously going to the beach. It requires a lot of homework and research. You want to find organizations that are meeting a legitimate need, and projects that need volunteer labor; not projects created to give volunteers something to do.”

Fall_Park_sheltephoto-1465940617394-6c04e5525665Finding a great volunteer vacation opportunity starts with being realistic about your desire and abilities for the adventure. Taking a good look at what you’d like to get out of the trip will decrease your chances of disappointment.

Think about what areas and subjects are important to you: Do you want to study climate change in Alaska, volcanic activity on a tropical island or preserve the campground where you vacationed as a child? Budd suggests you ask questions about a volunteer vacation adventure before packing your bags.

  • What is the volunteer work?

 

  • Who will benefit?

 

  • Who runs the volunteer programs?

 

  • Where does the money from program fees go?

 

  • May I contact previous volunteers about their experiences?

 

hotel.jpgMany volunteer vacation organizations will ask you to submit to a background check, particularly if you’re working with children. Others will want you to provide references or to write an essay on why you want to volunteer. When organizations don’t require some kind of registration that should be a warning sign.

There are many volunteer vacation opportunities close to home.  For example, public conservation trips combine service and vacation locations. These popular options combine living in national or state parks with service projects.Fall_lake_photo-1444492827838-96343b09c9af

The National Park Service offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals or groups to work behind the scenes or in front line positions at park locations throughout the United States, including the territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. There are artist-in-residence programs at some parks for visual artists, writers, musicians, and other creative media.

Some volunteer adventures travel on the rails as Amtrak and the National Park Service are partners in an initiative to educate travelers on the heritage and natural resources of a specific region while traveling by rail. In 2017, there were 600 Trails & Rails volunteer guides who gave 43,000 hours of time to the program.

banner on VC2-croppedWildlife refuges are another popular option to volunteer and get away within the United States. Volunteer opportunities may be found at more than 500 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges and hatcheries. Volunteer conservation opportunities may include activities like wildlife photography, trail work, counting butterflies, banding birds, maintaining gardens and sprucing up buildings.

Volunteer vacationers often get access to parts of wildlife preserves and parks not open to the public. There is always have free time to enjoy the beautiful public lands they’re helping.

Whether your volunteer tourism takes you across your nation or around the world, it can change more than your view and teach you a lot about people and the places they call home.

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How to Unleash the Positive Power of Pets on the Job with Tips to Prepare for Taking Fido to Work

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Ways to Make Take Your Dog To Work Day® a Success

Businesses across the United States are planning to make a ‘pawsitive’ change with canine co-workers. Friday, June 22, 2018 is Take Your Dog To Work Day (TYDTWDay®), the 20th annual observation of a fun opportunity for dog owners created by Pet Sitters International (PSI).

IMG_hr82mvMore American firms are opening their doors to pets at work. The number of companies allowing pets in the workplace is on the rise according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Researchers found support among the American workforce for pets on the job:

55 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace leads to a more creative environment

50 million believe having pets in workplace helps co-workers get along better

38 million believe having pets in workplace creates a more productive work environment

37 million believe having pets in workplace helps improve relationships between managers and staff

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Pets in the workplace can improve productivity

Are you planning on taking your dog to work for the first time? Make sure your office environment is safe. Remove poisonous plants and pesticides, hide electrical cords and wires and secure toxic items such as permanent markers. Any office items in question should be placed out of reach.

Make sure your dog is fit for work. Even dogs don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Be sure your dog’s shots are current. Make plans to have your dog bathed and groomed before accompanying you to work. Be mindful of your dog’s “work readiness.” You know your dog’s demeanor, so if he is aggressive or overly shy, it’s best to leave him at home. Consider how your dog has behaved in the past around strangers before making the decision to bring him. If your dog has shown fear, irritability or aggression, or if your dog has never met strangers, the workplace is not the best place for him.

Petatwork_Participant_at_Pet Sitters International NCHave a doggie bag. Include food, treats, bowls, toys, leash, paper towels, clean-up bags and pet-safe disinfectant. If you are routinely in and out of your work space, consider bringing a baby gate for your doorway or a portable kennel for your dog’s comfort and your peace of mind.

Plan your pet’s feeding times carefully. During an important sales call is probably not the best time for a bathroom break. Plan your dog’s feeding time around your work schedule and be sure to choose an appropriate area for your dog to relieve himself afterward.

Avoid forcing co-workers to interact with your dog. Dog lovers will make themselves known. Sally from accounting and Joe in human resources may not want to play fetch or offer belly rubs, so be mindful of fellow employees’ time and space. To avoid pet accidents, monitor the amount of treats your pet is being given from your co-workers. Remember that chocolate, candy and other people food should not be shared with dogs and that not all non-dog owners will be aware that these items can be very toxic to your pooch.

Have an exit strategy. Although most dogs enjoy being with owners at work, your pet may not. Should your dog become overly boisterous, agitated or withdrawn, consider taking him home or plan in advance for your professional pet sitter to offer a midday check-in visit. Never, under any circumstance, leave your pet alone in a vehicle while you work!09_tydtwday_hitachi_data_systems___staff

Publicizing your company’s participation in Take Your Dog to Work Day with local media and on social media platforms can generate some positive buzz for your business. Consider making the day a fund-raising opportunity for an area non-profit benefiting pet ownership.

“While TYDTWDay offers a fun opportunity to have dogs at work, its purpose since the inaugural celebration has always been to encourage pet adoptions,” explained Beth Stultz, PSI vice-president and TYDTWDay spokesperson.  “We hear from participating companies that partner with local shelters or rescue groups to allow them to bring in adoptable pets, host benefit luncheons or charity auctions, or plan contests such as dog-owner lookalike competitions to raise money for local pet-related organizations.”

Businesses interested in participating in TYDTWDay® can download PSI’s free 2018 Take Your Dog To Work Day® Toolkit at petsit.com/toolkit.

2018-TYDTWDay-Steps to follow before you take your dog to work

Social Media Savvy Seniors and Boomers Busy Online

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People are discussing photos they share on Pinterest, the blog on their travels or the app they are using to track their fitness and exercise schedule.  These conversations on technology are not restricted to the local social media clubs; they are hot topics for senior services communities like Laclede Groves near Saint Louis and coffee shops where baby boomers meet.

Social media savvy seniors and boomers are busy online.

Vibrant seniors and boomers are blogging and using Facebook, Twitter and Skype to keep up with families and friends. Social media savvy seniors and boomers may also be boosting brain power new research suggests.

Vibrant seniors and boomers are blogging and using Facebook, Twitter and Skype to keep up with families and friends.  Social media savvy seniors and boomers may not be the first to try the newest app or gadget; but are eager to adopt them once the technology is mainstream.  Older users on social media are active to discuss and share travel, health, hobbies or search for products, values, and discounts.  The social and digital contribution of these connected seniors is impressive! Baby Boomers are 80 million strong and growing.

In just five years, 50% of the US population will be 50+ projects Nielsen Research. (August 2012)

US Boomers’ Internet usage now is impressive:

– 33% of all online users

– 33% of all social media and Twitter

– 33% are heavy internet users.

Currently, there are about 21 million online seniors (those aged over 65 years old) in the United States according to Forrester Research, (June 2012).

Forrester finds 49% of digital seniors in the US are using Facebook.

– 91% of online seniors use email

– 59% have purchased products online in past three months

– 46% send/receive photos by email

– 44% play solo games online

– 24% sign up for coupons/freebies.

Staying connected online and through social media may be a great way for seniors to stay healthy. One recent study shows social media can give older adults a brain boost.  Researchers at the University of Arizona taught some seniors, over 65, how to use Facebook and then put them through cognitive and memory tests.  The new Facebook users fared 25 percent better on the tests than seniors who did not use the social network.

Boomers were raised in front of the TV and have always embraced media and technology. The size of the screens is now shrinking as they continue to grow with a constantly changing tech landscape that could help keep them young and connected for socializing, shopping and entertaining themselves on social media.

To see some of these savvy seniors in action on Facebook, I suggest you visit the Lutheran Senior Services page on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/LutheranSeniorServices.

Love to Connect Online & Social Media: But What About Privacy?

I was working on an article last week about unusual marketing in public restrooms. I posed the question to my Facebook friends asking the most unexpected place they’ve found an ad. It was an immediate and varied response including some perspectives and experiences I was able to use in the article.

I am new to Facebook, but I am eager to share by participating in conversations online, getting opinions, sharing experiences and catching up with people who are very important to me—but I don’t see on a regular basis. This has been a great joy connecting with people where miles and time have come between us. I have been surprised at how the joy and satisfaction of these relationships springs to life online.

The biggest surprise has been the new and rich ideas I am enjoying as a result of my new and what some might call, “friendsters” I’m meeting online. I am discovering new ideas and perspectives as I share my experiences and ask questions. For instance, a new Facebook friend who has a cleaning business focused on public buildings has a perspective on what many business owners do wrong to turn off people who visit their facilities. I know I have in the past made some judgments about a business based on a visit to their restroom. It isn’t just cleanliness, but strong air freshener or even questionable colors, in a restroom can change the way visitors view a business.

At a time when we are all trying to do more with less to succeed in a down economy, I realize great ideas can come from anywhere. I’m excited to connect and talk with close friends and

those I don’t know well, but are willing to share their thoughts and perspectives with me. My employer, SBTV.com has an online community especially for small business owners, self-employed, and aspiring entrepreneurs where you can connect, blog, podcast, and find resources online to grow and promote your business.

With all the ways to collaborate and collaborate online, more of us are sharing our lives with people who are further removed from our daily lives. I was wondering about the loss of privacy as we reach out into the world to connect and share. What do you think? Do you manage your social media to protect your privacy? Or are you bravely entering the wide new world of social media with abandon? Please let me know what you think and what you are doing. I’d also love to hear some of the memorable conversations or ideas you’ve learned or come across via social media.