THE BLOG
08/26/2013 02:31 pm ET | Updated Oct 26, 2013

Traveling on Thanksgiving - But Not to Grandma's

It's getting to be the end of August, and thus the end of summer. It's that time of year when people are breaking out the boots, jeans, and flannel on "cool" 70 degree days in eager anticipation of fall weather. Nostalgic thoughts of Thanksgiving creep in, and plans start to be made for making the trip to relatives' homes in November. Memories start flooding back of succulent turkey and stuffing cooking in a beautiful kitchen while your family gathers around the dining room table like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Wait a minute...did that happen to anyone last year? Or any year for that matter? What if this year we called in a reality check, before it's too late and we've all committed to those outrageously expensive plane tickets for the most miserable travel day of the year? If your family celebrates Thanksgiving, odds are that at least three of the following five things applies to you:

  • You will quickly be reminded why you moved to the opposite coast for college. And never moved back.
  • You will spend eight hours cooking and two hours cleaning for a meal that takes approximately 45 minutes to consume.
  • You and your sister will start passive aggressively attacking each other within an hour of being reunited.
  • Your parents will ask when you are: getting married, having children, and/or finding a "real" job.
  • The holiday will mark the beginning of your "winter insulating layer," which you will not entirely manage to lose until the end of the following summer.

I am proposing a Thanksgiving revolution! Traveling over Christmastime has long been a peak time for vacationers, why not Thanksgiving? It's less expensive, less crowded, and you need the getaway just as much. This year instead of feeling guilty for how many slices of pecan pie we ate, let's demonstrate our thankfulness by exercising our bodies, seeing the world, and giving back to others in need.

Elevate Destinations is offering a Cycle & Service trip to India over the holiday that combines all of these elements, but there are also plenty of other options that would allow you to do something similar on a smaller scale. Here's a rundown of some ideas:

Cycle & Service to India: Spend two weeks cycling through the Indian countryside, including four days spent volunteering with local non-profits.

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Habitat for Humanity: One of the classic options when looking to volunteer domestically. You can select a build site near home, or in another state to turn it into a getaway.

Service in Haiti: Volunteer with the Edem Foundation on Ile a Vache in Haiti. There are tons of projects available here and the directors are careful to tailor them to the volunteers' strengths. Work with kids, help out in the office, assist with micro-finance projects with women's groups, and more.

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Weight Loss Spa: Do exactly the opposite of what everyone you know is doing and actively lose weight over Thanksgiving. These spas are effectively mini-versions of The Biggest Loser.

Closer to Home: One of the best sites for finding both short and long term volunteering commitments is Idealist.org. You'll be able to find various Thanksgiving related projects in your area as fall rolls in.