Vacation [def]: An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially when spent away from home or traveling.
You can probably picture the perfect vacation lying on a warm sunny beach gazing at the turquoise blue water watching dolphins frolicking in the ocean waves. You’re relaxed and peaceful without a care in the world.
For me it takes about an hour or so of this dull bliss before I start thinking, ‘Now what?’ The fantasy vacation of doing absolutely nothing feels more like a big bore; no lasting feeling of fulfillment or satisfaction at week’s end and no exciting tales to tell friends and family.
My most memorable holidays find me returning home energized with a delightful feeling of liveliness only gained through exertion and exercise (both mental and physical). What gets my adrenaline pumping and all cylinders moving in sync are the combination of anticipation and excitement while experiencing something new – mix in a little apprehension and it’s a win-win for any adventurer. When you move outside your normal routine into the world of the unknown, that’s where the magic lies. You discover new things, especially about yourself. Your childlike curiosity fills you with new energy and you become an explorer forging ahead while expecting amazing things to occur. That’s the kind of mind-bending vacation that makes us better in every single way.
Imagine this for a vacation … traveling to Scotland for an up close and personal experience of the culture, the history, the people, the food, the scenery, the beauty, as well as the challenges, the struggles, and the dependent lives of her people. While soaking up the rugged terrain, imagine that you are working side-by-side with dedicated Scottish folks who care about their environment with the end goal of a better world for everyone. You may be thinking, ‘That sounds too good to be true.’
It is that good; and then some. I know, because that is what I did last May, on a service trip with ConservationVIP Trip to Scotland.
Service [def]: the action of helping or doing work for someone; act of assistance, good turn, favor, kindness, helping hand
The ConservationVIP trip to Scotland is a must if you crave an out-of-the-ordinary recreational experience that truly makes an impact. It checks off all the boxes for the best travel break ever:
- Visit to a gorgeous country ✔
- Immerse yourself into the local culture ✔
- Experience living among others who are helping make a difference in the Caledonian Forest ✔
- Develop friendships with like minded people from across the globe ✔
- See remote parts of Scotland reserved for the bold ✔
- Make a tangible difference in one short week ✔
All the logistics were handled from day one by ConservationVIP. The itinerary includes very interesting experiences sites that are a ‘must see,’ including the Kelpies (enormous steel sculptures of two horse heads), Highland cattle with their shaggy faces and cute demeanor, local resident sheep with baby lambs in tow (in the springtime), and the stunning, isolated beauty of Glen Affric.
The initial meeting takes place in Edinburgh – an adventure fulfilled by simply traveling to this metropolitan and vibrant city. Whatever time you allot, you can be assured a cityscape of dramatic historical castles, local pubs and structures that delight. The travels then take you north to Inverness which lies along the shores of Loch Ness, then up to Dundreggan Estate; the launch pad for our week of learning about forest restoration, hiking among native Scots pine, aspen and birch, planting bare root seedlings, preparing garden beds for native plants and working side-by-side Trees for Life volunteers.
Back to my service trip in May … once we were comfortable in our home-away-from-home at Dundreggan, we quickly settled into a daily routine; breakfasts in the mornings, packing our lunches for the day, then heading out with our interpreters to learn our way through the Scottish Highlands. We all quickly realized that our purpose was much more impactful than just planting trees, we were gaining a deep understanding of this country’s history, tradition and resilience, giving us profound respect for our dedicated hosts.
Our small group of volunteers bonded over the removal of non-native trees, working shoulder to shoulder replanting seedlings and then on our final day taking these young plants out to the countryside to plant them amongst the newly established groves. This adventure brought us full circle as we followed the infantile seedlings from nursery to hillside, even marking the GPS location of our token final tree. What a transformative week!
Our need for adventure is a necessity and the thrill of travel and exploration dates back centuries to the earliest explorers. The desire for travel to unique destinations never dulls; the same for the desire to make a difference. The truly special aspect of the Scotland Highlands Volunteer Trip is you are giving of yourself and reaping all the rewards. You will feel proud and refreshed from your contribution, and best of all you’ll gain new friendships from all around the world. The Scottish Highlands Volunteer Trip is the ultimate way to give back – with your precious time – and you will be infinitely better from the venture.
Where will you go on your next vacation? Make it count by trading in the sun and sand for the wilds of Scotland to experience everything up close and personal.