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The Voluntourist [Kindle Edition]

Ken Budd
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews


“One of the best-written travel memoirs...this book spins a compelling yarn, linking six varied experiences into a cohesive narrative. Recommended for anyone who has been, or is interested in becoming, a ‘voluntourist.’ ” (Library Journal)

“Readers of this unique travel memoir will undoubtedly be inspired to take a voluntour of their own, and the author includes helpful tips on how to do just that.” (Booklist)

“A solid introduction to the world of volunteer tourism and a pleasant diversion for those who don’t mind a wandering road.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“In his sincere and subtly written memoir, Budd gracefully--and often humorously--records how he changes ‘emotionally, physically, spiritually’ as he travels to work with ‘people with real problems and different perspectives.’” (Publishers Weekly)

“Heart-warming...tempered with exactly the right amount of acerbic wit...Unless you’re comfortable laughing loudly in publis, you don’t want to read this on your daily commute.” (Vertge Magazine)

“For those of you who haven’t read Ken’s book yet, get your copy NOW! It’s really that good.” (Jae-Ha Kim, syndicated travel columnist, Chicago Tribune)

“Funny, touching, insightful and compelling.” (The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy)

“Lively...Entertaining...The author’s intelligence and autobiographical honesty engage the reader...Budd is a skilled writer with a good ear for dialogue.” (

From the Back Cover

n. 1. A guy who attempts to save the world in an attempt to save himself.
2. Someone who can only do it two weeks at a time.

When Ken Budd was thirty-nine, his father collapsed after eighteen holes of golf. Ken and his wife raced to the hospital—but it was too late. In the weeks that followed, as grieving friends revealed how his father had changed their lives, Ken started questioning his own life—and admitting, after years of denial, that he and his wife would never have children.

And then, still struggling with grief—his grief at losing his father, his grief at not being a father—Ken received an e-mail with the subject line: "Katrina Relief Volunteer Opportunities." He signed up. He went to New Orleans. And he kept volunteering: Costa Rica, to teach English; China, to work with special-needs children; Ecuador, to study climate change; the West Bank, to assist refugees; Kenya, to care for orphans. His goal: to find purpose by helping others, one trip at a time.

Wry, funny, and heartbreakingly honest, The Voluntourist will linger in your mind long after you've turned the last page.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1543 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00BR1CMTI
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 8, 2012)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006IY9G4S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,848 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding yourself through Volunteering May 9, 2012
The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem by Ken Budd starts with the line, "I want to live a life that matters," and so he does. Inspired by the need to deal with the loss of his father, he searches for answers, but this quest requires a passport and patience. Patience to wait in line at customs, for airplanes, for young children in China and Costa Rica, for Ecuadorian birds to fly in the cloud forest, and for all things in Palestine.

During his journey, he states, "I'm not only working for free, I'm paying for the privilege." From his first moments scraping paint and mold in the lower Ninth in New Orleans, he bemoans, "How can I live up to my father's life when I'll never be a father myself?" This juxtaposition of trying to have a life with meaning, and involvement with children as a route to that meaning, are essential parts of his journey and inner monologue. Clearly enamored of his father's life and how he managed his life and work, Budd states "It's not even dying that bothers me. It's dying without making a difference in the world. Without doing a damn thing that matters." Most people want to make a difference but they have no idea where to start. Budd's book points out that you can start anywhere on the map and even with only two weeks at a time. He is a fantastic role model for getting out there and making a difference. And his father's death is a reminder that we all have only a limited time -- at the end of our lives no one sits and thinks, "I wish I spent more time at the office."

His expeditions out of his normal routine help him to elucidate his grief. He takes the time to mourn his father and to look at his life while also mourning that he will not be a father.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book May 29, 2012
By mmilloy
Oddly, when I picked up this book I wasn't so much intrigued by all the volunteering Ken did around the world as I was the inspiration for it--the epiphany that your life may not be mattering all that much and the proverbial search to figure out what to do. Yet as I read it, I quickly got sucked into the delightfully funny--and honest--way Ken spins the tale of his heady travels. A superb storyteller, he gives us a peek into six wildly different cultures (with all the attendant social and political dramas), and into the quirky, fascinating world of volunteering (with all its personality dramas!), even as he takes us on his own emotional journey in search of himself. The mashup makes this a page-turner in ways I never would have expected. A must-read for anybody who's wondering if they're doing justice to the 650,000 hours Ken says we get in a lifetime--if we're lucky. Loved it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Honest May 28, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The bookshelves are packed with memoirs, but this one, written by a "regular guy" and not a celebrity, is refreshing and truly memorable. In this book, Budd writes about the death of his father, his struggle coming to terms with the fact that he will likely never be a father himself, and his subsequent attempts to find purpose in his life by helping others. Budd describes the various trips he takes -- to New Orleans, Costa Rica, Kenya, Palestine, China, and Ecuador -- in vivid and lively detail. But the real strength of the book is the author's voice -- candid, humorous, humble, never whiny or preachy. You don't need to be a parent or even a wannabe parent to appreciate this book. If you have ever questioned your purpose in life or have questioned the path you are taking, you will love tagging along on Budd's journey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, Great life lessons June 18, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent...the odd part is, I only bought this one because it was cheap, and I needed an extra book for a trip. Great read, and brings home some important concepts that we all fortunate we are in the country, how lucky we are to have people who love us, and how resillent people can be when times get tough. Read the book, and apply the lessons to our own lives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, well written June 26, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book didn't inspire me to become a voluntourist, but it did remind me how lucky I am to be a father. Well written, easy to read, very enlightening, and most impressive of all - brutely honest guy stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound and entertaining read July 20, 2012
The Voluntourist is a touching tale of honest self-examination. Memoir can be difficult, because while our lives are important to us, it is challenging to write about our lives in a way that will connect with others. Will readers be able to relate to the experiences I've had? Will they care?

In this case, the answer is yes. Ken shares very openly about his life, his struggles, his weaknesses, doubts and questions. He tells beautiful stories of his attempts to make a difference in the world. While he experiences things that most others never do, he shares those experiences in a way that draws the reader in.

His imagery is simple--in a good way. No excessive descriptions, just enough to help the reader get a good feel for the places and people he encounters. The focus is on the people with who Ken works, and how they touch his life.

We feel Ken's joy in the relationships he builds as he travels the world, doing volunteer work in Costa Rica, New Orleans, China, Ecuador, Palestine, and Kenya. We also feel his heartbreak over losing his father, and over his growing understanding and acceptance that he will likely never be a father.

The power of the book is Ken's journey to see life through the lens of his father, who died too young. Examining his father's life, and his own, leads him on to a spiritual journey that is uniquely his, yet one that almost anyone can relate to.

There are many beautiful scenes, especially of Ken and the children he works with and comes to love. Especially powerful is an awkward yet beautifully touching story of how Ken, who does not typically pray, goes into a church and prays for the people in his life.

Ken doesn't try too hard to teach any lessons.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Vountourist - A Book with Substance!
It was everything I enjoy in a good book: a excellent writing, humor, compassion, and true adventure in today's world. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars The Voluntourist
This book was an interesting account of six various volunteer experiences done by the author. He shared some great advice about getting the right fit with reputable sponsors. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Kathleen M. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Giving Back
I really enjoyed this book. When you meet Ken, he is a son, a husband and a man who would like to have children. This book follows his life of travel and volunteering. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Tee Bee
3.0 out of 5 stars It is waiting on my bookshelf to be picked up and started.
Since I haven't started this book yet, I don't know what kind of a read it will be, but I'll definitely get to it soon, now that I've finished some library books.
Published on March 5, 2013 by Joan M. Weisensel
3.0 out of 5 stars Eat, Love, Pray it's not
Although taking on the volunteer work in other countries is an amazing thing to do, felt the book was missing something. Read more
Published on February 3, 2013 by Anachen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
The book was very interesting. The author had a great sense of humor that combined well with the more serious mission that he was on by volunteering all over the world. Read more
Published on June 10, 2012 by mcgil
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel with Voluntourist
Reminiscent of Bill Bryson, Ken Budd takes his readers on a tour of New Orleans, Costa Rica, China, Ecuador, the West Bank, and Kenya. Read more
Published on May 29, 2012 by afeldman
4.0 out of 5 stars Different kind of travel memoir
Ken Budd is trying to come to terms with the reality that he desperately wants children and his wife, just as firmly, does not. Read more
Published on May 27, 2012 by Debnance at Readerbuzz
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More About the Author

Ken Budd is an award-winning writer and editor whose writing credits include Smithsonian, Stuff, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine, McSweeney's, Modern Humorist, and, Worldview, the magazine of the Peace Corps. Ken lives in Burke, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife.

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