The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem

The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem

by Ken Budd


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Ken Budd’s The Voluntourist is a remarkable memoir about losing your father, accepting your fate, and finding your destiny by volunteering around the world for numerous worthy causes: Hurricane Katrina disaster relief in New Orleans, helping special needs children in China, studying climate change in Ecuador, lending a hand—and a heart—at a Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East, to name but a few. Ken's emotional journey is as inspiring and affecting as those chronicled in Little Princes and Three Cups of Tea. At once a true story of powerful family bonds, of sacrifice, of self-discovery, The Voluntourist is an all-too-human, real-life hero whom you will not soon forget.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061946462
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/08/2012
Edition description: Original
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 1,238,385
Product dimensions: 5.34(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

KEN BUDD is an award-winning writer and editor whose writing credits include Smithsonian, the Washington Post, McSweeney’s, Stuff, Washingtonian, Modern Humorist, Opium, and Worldview. Ken lives in Burke, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife.

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The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
SherylHendrix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ken Budd's book is a series of vignettes describing his volunteer experiences in six different countries, prompted largely by a mid-life crisis that finds him both missing his own recently deceased father and mourning the fact that he will never be a father. I selected this book because it seemed that it would have all the elements I love in a book - cross-cultural experiences, compelling inner conflict that resolves itself through selfless giving, and spiritual insight. Strangely I found it somewhat fractured, interesting at points and fairly boring at others, and lacking in what I would consider a satisfactory resolution to Ken's real-life crisis. I believe writing the book was cathartic for him, and for that I appreciate it; however, I believe his writing the book was probably more important than my reading it. It had its moments, but for the most part I found it strangely unsatisfying.
kristenl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Following the death of his father, Ken Budd realized how much he respected his father and the life that he lived. Wanting to be like his father and realizing that he would never have children of his own, Ken became a voluntourist. He helped rebuild in New Orleans after Katrina, taught English in Costa Rica, helped at a school for autisitic and disabled students in China, researched climate change in Ecuador, helped with Palestinian projects in Bethlehem, and helped at an orphange in Kenya. The book concludes with his advice for those seeking their own voluntourism experiences.I wanted to like this book, but I didn't. The author never seems to find the meaning in his voluntourism experiences that he seems to be seeking. In the first four voluntourism experiences and much of the fifth, he spends more time describing other volunteers and his interactions with them than he does the people and projects that he is working on. His descriptions of his experiences are needlessly crass.I felt that I learned more about the Palestinina-Israeli conflict from the section on Bethlehem, and the final section on Budd's work at the Kenyan orphanage was more interesting, but not enough for me to recommend the book. The most valuable part of the book was the section of advice for others seeking to become voluntourists.
bibliophileofalls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book, The Voluntourist, shed light on many aspects of what it means to volunteer in a third-world country. Although the author's motives were many and varied and fairly atypical, they were believable. He obviously was trying to compensate for a less than ideal relationship with his father, a man now elevated to near sainthood. He also felt some remorse and great sadness at the lack of children with his beloved wife, a deep emotional issue that is fairly often expressed from a woman's vantage point but not generally explored from a man's point of view. That was very moving and deeply emotional. The book brought out the many ordinary comforts we rarely sufficiently appreciate, as the living conditions on the author's trips to were third-world countries were often very crude and lacking most everything we take for granted. The tasks that were assigned to Ken were often very basic and elementary. (Scrub a floor, walk with a toddler, etc.) Another point that was revealed, although not explored in depth, was whether the voluntourists were "creating a dependency or building a self-sustaining program".The Voluntourist was somewhat too long for many readers and not very compelling, but still held my interest and gave me good reliable information about volunteering in a forthright and many times amusing manner.
staciec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read this book because I've always been interested in the nuances of "voluntourism," since there are clearly some pros and some cons to the practice. I think Ken Budd did a good job showing this tension, showing the value of the trips he talks about while also highlighting the selfish reasons for the trips and the varied ways he *didn't* help. I'm not sure he comes to a neat and tidy purpose for his life at the end of his story, but it did give me something to think about for future travels. Although I enjoyed the his story and style of prose, I felt that he could have gotten the same point across with the same feeling with fewer words. I occasionally got lost in the substories about friends or fellow volunteers.
monzrocks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ken Budd's father dies abruptly, causing him to question what gives his own life meaning. He gets an email calling for volunteers to help out in New Orleans after Katrina. After that experience, he decides he will become a serial voluntourist, visiting several countries to help with a variety of projects: an orphanage in Kenya; studying climate change in Ecuador; a refugee camp in Palestine. It's an interesting read, although I felt the prose could have been tightened in some areas. He did a good job unifying all his experiences, an accomplishment given how different each one is. I had problems keeping track of the many characters introduced on each trip.This is definitely an armchair travel kind of a book. I didn't feel inspired to embark on my own voluntourist trip after finishing it though.
sarah-e on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book should appeal to potential voluntourists - it gives an honest and inspiring account of what those trips involve. Feeling like an outsider, getting sick, and facing armed soldiers at checkpoints goes right along with all the expected benefits of volunteering. The author seemed a little indifferent throughout the book, which I have grown to appreciate as an honest response to culture shock and extreme poverty. This is a complex story, as most would be. It isn't just about grief, or volunteering, or marriage, or comfort zones. It's about what happened to Ken Budd when he faced his future, and decided to step outside of himself to see if making a difference was possible. It's admirable and noble, if a little indifferent.
muddypaws845 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If I had to sum up this book in 1 word, it would be "inspiring." Ken Budd tells of volunteer stints from New Orleans to Kenya, with humility and humor. Seeking to make his life more meaningful, he provided help in some of the neediest areas in the world. Makes you want to stand up and do some good.
pwagner2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. Budd writes with a dry sense of humor which I enjoy. It got a little slow in places. For some reason I had trouble getting through the Palestine chapter. I don't understand the dynamics there which is my own fault. I recommend it.
acrowder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I thought the writing style, while informal, was very appropriate for the story that Budd told. I think this is a good resource for those interested in voluntourism as it both relates a real world experience and provides resources to plan a trip of your own. For those who like travel writing this is a good pick, for those looking for more of a memoir or a story of a personal journey the book is lacking. While Budd does give some insights into his frame of mind this is not the focus of the book.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After Ken Budd¿s father succumbed to a fatal heart attack suffered on the golf course, Budd took a long, hard look at his own life and decided that something was missing. His was a childless marriage, but Budd was reluctant to express his yearning for children because he already knew that his wife did not want a child. Budd knew that he wanted to live ¿a life that matters,¿ one in which his good deeds would live on long after he was gone - but he did not know where to begin.When, just a few months later, he received an email from his employer outlining opportunities for volunteers to help New Orleans residents clean up and rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Budd decided this was just the thing to turn his life in a new, more positive, direction. His two weeks in New Orleans, as described in The Voluntourist, would lead to five more ¿voluntourist¿ trips around the world, trips during which Budd and other travelers would pay for the opportunity to perform the most basic labor for people in desperate need of relief. After New Orleans, Budd would spend two weeks: in a Costa Rican school; in a Chinese school for mentally handicapped children; deep in the Ecuadorian jungle working with a conservationist group; observing daily life in Palestine through the eyes of ordinary Palestinian families; and working in a Kenyan orphanage. Along the way, Budd reminded himself to live (and to test himself) by a philosophical truth he picked up in Costa Rica from another ¿voluntourist¿ ¿ ¿you only learn about yourself when you¿re outside your comfort zone.¿ This would certainly be the case for Ken Budd.The Voluntourist tends to drift a little at times, resulting in a feeling of repetitiveness as Budd returns time and again to the personal issues he struggled with during this period in his life. Perhaps, this was done because Budd intends for his readers to watch his thinking evolve over time as he experiences the cultures of more countries and deals with numerous children - but it makes what is already destined to be long book (near 450 pages) longer than need be. That said, The Voluntourist will be of great interest to arm chair travelers because of how much time the author spends with ordinary working citizens of the places he visits. Budd is definitely not a tourist; he literally gets his hands dirty by being very willing to take on whatever task he is asked to perform. It takes Budd a while to figure out that he is not expected to perform miracles, or to make permanent changes in the lives of those he comes into contact with ¿ it is more about bringing some relief to people whose lives are harsher and more physically demanding than his own. In the process of doing this, he will achieve his heartfelt goal of living ¿a life that matters.¿Rated at: 3.5
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Many people look at their children as their legacy to the world. They are, after all, what so many of us leave behind after our deaths, the best parts of ourselves. But if someone chooses to remain childless, what remains after they are gone? How are they remembered and what is their legacy? Ken Budd tackles that question in his introspective, unusual, and wonderful travelogue.When his father dies of a heart attack unexpectedly, Budd sees first hand the many ways in which his father lived a good life, contributed to others' happiness, and made a difference in the world in so many small but significant ways. Losing his father makes Budd think about what he wants to do to live a life that matters. Unlike his own father, he himself will never be a father so he cannot strive to emulate his dad in that way but he can choose to give back for the goodness in his life and so he embarks on six "voluntouring" trips of around two weeks each in which he pays for the privilege of going to poor, troubled, or devastated places in this world to do whatever sort of work he can to contribute to bettering the lot of the people and the place.His drive to volunteer cleaning up in New Orleans post Katrina, to teach English in Costa Rica, to help care for and teach special needs kids in China, to count flora and fauna in a cloud forest in Ecuador as a part of a scientific global warming project, to help Palestinian refugees with menial work on the West Bank, and to care for orphans in Kenya in between stints in his regular working life comes as much from his realization that life is short and it is vital that we do the best we can with the time we are given as from his need to somehow process and grieve the fact that while he would very much like a child, his wife is certain that she does not and he must honor her feelings in this above his own.Each section of the book presents a different voluntourism experience and Budd deftly captures the uniqueness of each place, the resilience and hope of the people, and his own feelings facing each different situation and in coming to terms with his father's loss and the loss of his potential children. He captures the personalities of some of his fellow volunteers, sketching them briefly but managing to show their essence even in their short cameos. He describes the hard and dirty unskilled labor for which he, a writer and editor, is qualified and honestly presents the difficulty and frustrations of many of his volunteer jobs. But he also acknowledges that despite the deprivations, the occasionally uncomfortable living conditions, and the looming question of whether he is really making a difference, doing something good, or causing more harm, he is the one who has gained immeasurably through his varied experiences.Well written, inspiring and honest, this travelogue/memoir is filled with humor and humanity. It chronicles Budd's personal journey, his marriage, coming to terms with his grief, and stepping outside of his own comfort zone to grow into the sort of person he wants to be. You'll find politics, history, science, and so much more here. But mainly you'll find people going about their daily lives in the face all sorts of obstacles, pleased that others truly see them and thankful for the help they are given, even if sometimes that help causes them even more work. This is all about human connection and the small wonders that can occur when we just reach out one hand and make that connection. It would be tough to come away from this book without the wish to set out on your own voluntourism experience, to make your own difference in this world, to be a person who matters.
Lilac_Lily01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Voluntourist" is about the search for meaning and the author Ken Budd finds a unique way of creating meaning in his own life. He embarks on a journey around the world in order to help people who are less fortunate. This so called "voluntourism" helps to put his own problems into perspective. I truly enjoyed the author's style of writing and his sense of humor. Even though this is a book about some serious issues the author also finds ways to add some humor and this made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Overall, it's a great book which will make you reflect on life's deeper meaning. I highly recommend it!
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ken Budd is trying to come to terms with the reality that he desperately wants children and his wife, just as firmly, does not. His beloved father passes away and Budd realizes that there will be no children in his life to mourn his passing. He decides to use this passion to raise children to help others and volunteers for a series of trips to assist others. In the course of this book, he ventures to New Orleans after Katrina, China to work with special needs students, Costa Rica to teach English, Ecuador to explore the effect of global warming, the West Bank to help Palestinians, and Africa to work with orphans. In the process, Budd teaches us all that there are ways to effectively work through what appears to be a no-win situation. A different kind of travel memoir.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
3-2-Tango More than 1 year ago
Ken writes with amazing description and a great sense of humor that had me chuckling throughout the book as if I was reading a text message or e-mail from a good friend. His insights are well explained and objective. Without the notion to persuade, his thoughts have persuaded mine into putting forth a bit of effort if any at all to help keep our planet eco-friendly. He doesn't rant and I know I'm not going to become some hippie but I'd like to start contributing in my own possible way, something better than nothing. His book shows how travel and giving can help a person grow spiritually and emotionally. I look forward to purchasing a copy and hopefully have it signed for my kid sister who is to graduate this summer.