Celebrating friends and family on Valentine’s Day is just as important as honoring your significant other. Today, we’re acknowledging those adventurous pairs and passionate groups who choose to forgo the average lovey-dovey celebration with their beaus. Hundreds of platonic peeps – whether best friends, siblings, parent/child, or a mix & match of sorts – travel abroad together to strengthen their bonds through a love-filled mission.

We’re donning our rose-colored goggles for all of the travelers who choose to engage in a volunteer abroad project in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. Here’s how you can do the same:

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Connect with Your BFF

Boyfriends and girlfriends will come and go, but friends will last a lifetime. Why not celebrate your real-life partner with an unforgettable travel experience? On the outskirts of Cusco, Peru, you and your bestie can join a volunteer project that is sure to reignite your gratitude for the natural connection you share.

Volunteer with an Indigenous Community and disconnect from modern technology to bring you even closer to your best pal. Learn to appreciate a more simple, traditional way of life as you immerse yourself in ancient culture and language together. The traditional villages, located in the Andes mountains, depend on community organization to function. Everyone has an important role, and there are plenty of responsibilities to go around.

You and your BFF will work side by side as you help tend to the farm animals, prepare meals with other members of the community, assist with light maintenance and construction, learn traditional weaving, and help taking care of the kids in the community. Your help in these communities is invaluable as there are plenty of tasks that need to get done, and never too many hands on the field to help.

While in Peru, you and your “partner in crime” will get to explore the sacred city of Cusco and gaze lovingly at the massive world wonder of Machu Picchu; try to fit in a hike to one of the rainbow mountains, and visit the mysterious Moray Ruins. Your adventures will no doubt bring you closer and have you reliving those precious memories together for years to come.

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VOLUNTEER IN PERU

Preserve Mother Nature with your Family

Climate change is probably a hot topic in your kids’ school nowadays, no pun intended. Around the world, Greta Thunberg has inspired millions of teens to protest against apathetic governments by walking out of schools and taking this important message to the media. Many families have chosen to take it a step further by exploring more effective ways of letting Mother Earth know they care.

By enrolling in a Sea Turtle Conservation project, parents, teens, and siblings work together to make a direct impact on environmental sustainability. You and your relatives will be responsible for constructing and protecting hatcheries, data collection, beach maintenance, night patrols, and community outreach. Together, you can experience an arribada where thousands of baby sea turtles make their way to the ocean only to return the following year to nest on the same beaches you worked so hard to maintain.

Being in Costa Rica allows your family to bond not only with one another but also with the powerful force of nature. Costa Rica values its biodiversity and its progressive environmental protection laws help to conserve its abundant wildlife. That’s why you and your family can choose to visit several protected natural parks in the country, zipline through exotic cloud forests, join night hikes for rare nocturnal encounters, and swim in waterfalls surrounded by lush jungles.

As your trip comes to an end, you might realize that you’ve never felt a love as pure as that of which you encounter in the land of “pura vida”. Experiencing that magic surrounded by people you love is an incredible feeling you’ll never forget.

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VOLUNTEER IN COSTA RICA

Love Up on Pups Unconditionally

Some of us are closer to our four-legged friends than other human counterparts, and that’s perfectly fine. If you and your partner prefer to spend Valentine’s Day cuddling with pups, a volunteer trip to Guatemala will have you making puppy eyes far after the season ends. Join a dog shelter volunteer project where you can spend your days loving up on all the pups.

Spread your unconditional love by taking on tasks that make a previous street dog feel like part of your family; feed and provide water as needed, clean kennels, change blankets, run baths, style and groom, and manage playtime. However, the love may go much further than the dog shelter. Some volunteers can help support spay/neuter programs, educational outreach, and fundraising events.

When you’re all pupped out, you and your Valentine can choose to explore the charming city of Antigua. For a more extended vacation, you might travel to Semuc Champey and take a dip in the luscious limestone pools; visit Lake Atitlan for peace of mind, or heat things up with a hike up Pacaya Volcano. Gifting yourself memories with someone special by your side is self-love at its finest.

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VOLUNTEER IN GUATEMALA

Significant others are great but don’t forget to acknowledge family, friends, pets, and most importantly yourself. Create memories, give back, and experience the true meaning of love in all of its forms with a volunteer abroad project.

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