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

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  348 ratings  ·  70 reviews
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 live
Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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I will go ahead and admit right up front that I've never been a fan of memoirs/autobiographies/biographies. That is why it took me about two years to finally getting around to reading this book despite the fact it was written by someone I know. And maybe "know" is to strong a word. I've been acquainted with the Budds for years. When Ken worked with my husband, I would look forward to the tales Frank would bring home via Ken on his then fiancée's latest adventure at work. She worked in a hospital ...more
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 b ...more
This book is the author's story of coming to terms with his father's sudden untimely death. Yes, it is also about his coming to terms with the knowledge that he will never be a father (because his beloved wife, his high school sweetheart, doesn't want children), but that is somehow tied up in losing his father. Perhaps all of his adventures are a study in a father/son relationship. His father comes across as a kindly but hard-working guy, often absent from the family mentally because he was so c ...more
I wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this book. After the sudden death of his father and his own realization that he will never be a father himsekf. Ken Budd decides to take on international volunteering vacations as a way to give meaning to his life and allow him to make a lasting impression on the world. Budd's writing style is funny,descriptive and easy to read. His travels take him to New Orleans, China, Costa Rica, Equador, Bethlehem and Kenya where he does a variety of tasks from home renov ...more
I liked this book a lot.

After his dad passes away suddenly, Ken Budd faces an attack of "What have I done with my life to make a difference?". It's something those of us who lose parents or close loved ones often ask. Death has a funny way of clarifying and prioritizing things. Ken and his wife had decided that kids weren't in the equation, and that decision is now coming back and smacking him in the back of his head with uncertainty. He decides he wants to go to where help is needed and lend a
Having become more interested in "voluntourism" (the catchphrase annoys me, tho it is accurate) and recently signing up for my own jaunt around the world, I was interested in reading the author's perspective on the experience.

As with any kind of tour, a lot of the experience is about the people touring with you, so I enjoyed reading about the folk he volunteered with. And I appreciated his descriptions of the realities of this kind of experience: bug bites, lack of toilets/running water, custom
Apr 02, 2012 Nada rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: r-lt
Review first published on my blog:

The Voluntourist is subtitled "a six-country tale of love, loss, fatherhood, fate and singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem". This memoir really tells three stories. It is a look into the growing popularity of voluntourism. The book also is a travel journal, describing the places and people Ken Budd encounters on his journeys. Finally, this memoir is a personal journey as the author struggles to reconcile to his father's death an
A few years ago I spent four months living in an apartment in Ulan Bator, Mongolia with a friend fresh from Peace Corps. His friends numbered in the dozens and stayed on our couch, floor, everywhere, for weeks at a time. There I got a first hand account of the trials and tribulations of volunteering in a very foreign country. They told tales of terrible kids, tortures of the flesh, and then also went into great detail of the nightlife or lack of it, the food, the culture, much more in depth than ...more
Sam Sattler
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 push his yearning for children because he knew that his wife did not want a child. Budd did know 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 late
Lisa Niver
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
Adam Archer
I didnt like it.

I thought the premise was fascinating; a guy who is struggling with the loss of his father and the fact that he will never be a father himself (his wife does not want kids) and starts volunteering around the world. I have read a few other books about volunteering abroad and really enjoyed them (Leaving Microsoft to Change the World - The Heart and the Fist, etc). This book seemed right up my alley.

But as I sat here in Tanzania in my own two year volunteer trip, the book did not
The premise of taking time out of your upper-middle class American life and volunteering time in various 3rd world countries is a very interesting one. Since I am just about to go to Costa Rica (on vacation), I am re-reading that chapter for local color. We went to several places he did (Monteverde, Arenal, Cuidad Quesada)

The contrasts between his six volunteer stints are quite strong-post-Katrina clean-up in NOLA; Costa Rica; China; etc. Also, his experiences bring out the silly American trend
Sam Brown
This book is a good idea, and I love the travel and volunteer scheme. Unfortunately, I just could not bring myself to continue to read. I found that the lack of an engaging plot hurt, as well as the attitude of the author. I am sure that the writer is a wonderful person and really did care about his volunteer positions, however I found that he missed the point of his travels. He was always writing about the other people he was volunteering with, his dead dad, or his childless family. It came acr ...more
While not strictly about African travel, this is a great read about Ken Budd living through something of a mid-life crisis after his father's death and the realization that he would not become a father himself. He deals with these crises through volunteer travel (not a bad outlet!). He visits six different countries and does a different type of project in each, though more than one is focused on caring for children. Ken visited New Orleans to help with post-hurricane clean up, taught English in ...more
Decent introspective account of an American who is searching for a purpose to his life after the sudden loss of his father, and his wife's confirmation that she does not want to have children. Budd gives a candid insight to each volunteering opportunity that he tackles, and regularly questions how useful his input is, to ascertain is he really helping. It is balanced and doesn't over-dramatize events, and infused with humour and builds an entertaining account of the relationships he shares with ...more
The Volunteerist is another good read. A young man enters his thirties and like all thirty something's begins to look seriously at his life and his contribution to it he works. He sets off to make a difference. The book is about those travels around the world and like all people who venture into servitude finds out really quickly that giving is receiving units purest form. Message is simple in order to be fulfilled we must place others above ourselves.
This book was a slow read for me. I did like it but as I got closer to the end I noticed more mistakes. It was a little boring so maybe the author got bored of writing it and just wanted it to be over. Not sure. Still can't decide if his volunteering was based on the loss of his father, or the idea that he wasn't going to be a father himself, or if he was just being selfish. Was he going around the world because he wanted to help people or because he wanted to help himself? He didn't seem to be ...more
This book had a really interesting premise to me, a man coming to grips with two losses in his life setting out to discover something about himself, and hopefully in the process help out others.

The unexpected death of his father is the catalyst to his journey, and it plays a part throughout his story. Sometimes, though, I felt like his flashback stories about his father had no relevance to the story at hand. They seemed sometimes just sort of thrown in and I often felt they detracted, rather tha
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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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 Englis ...more
After the death of his father and his grief at not being a father, Ken Budd goes on a self-discovery jaunt of six countries as a volun-tourist. He embraces experiences such as rebuilding homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, teaching English in Costa Rica and helping in a Kenyan orphanage.

Unlike Eat,Pray, Love, Budd explores his ideas, his craving to make a difference and live a fulfilled life while spinning a candidly entertaining tale. A storyteller with brutal humour, open-mindedness
A witty and sometimes heartbreaking memoir of a man in search of meaning after the sudden death of his father and realization that he and his wife would remain intentionally childless. Ken Budd skillfully weaves the themes of meaning and loss in a painfully and joyfully honest account of a round the world series of volunteer trips in which he encounters the deep needs of our world and comes to the realization that the life he left is the one he most desires.

Budd's writing make the trip worth ta
Jessica (Chronicles of a Book Nerd)
As I read about Ken's travels, I could not help drawing parallels between the lessons he learned while traveling and many of the things I have learned from my own travels. His stories are full of humor, honesty, and the truth that we are not as different from each other as we would like to believe. I appreciated his candor and honesty. This wasn't a quick read for me. I found lines that caused me to stop and ponder. I definitely felt inspired to undertake my own voluntourism trip, as I think man ...more
Rick Pozeg
An eye-opener for sure. It is a memoir about seeing the world through the eyes of other people. It is about reconciling and dealing with death of a loved one. It is about doing good in the world; being a vessel. It is a book that amalgamates vacation with a mission of stewardship because it is innate in all of us, we just need to dig it out. There are so many challenges and obstacles that come with travelling to foreign lands and volunteering that Ken Budd has elucidated so clearly and comeical ...more
I love how honest Ken is in this story. He never says he's perfect and often times questions if what he's doing makes a difference. His doubts as a husband and the emotions he endures after not having children lead to a vulnerability you rarely see in 21st century male writers. Loved it.
It's hard to say that I didn't like a book about volunteering but what can I say. I didn't like Ken Budd's writing style at all. I really don't need to know what one does every minute of the day. He gave the reader play by play of every day during his voluntourism projects and the flashbacks in the middle of his storytelling were obstructive to the flow. Also, I get that we as human beings often find ourselves "doing good for others" for selfish reasons sometimes but the real motives for Mr. Bud ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Karla rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
After Ken Budd's father suddenly dies, he begins to question his own life and the fact that he will never have children (his wife doesn't want children). Budd embarks on a series of volunteer trips. While on these trips he comes to grip with what the meaning of his life is going to be without children. An interesting look at voluntourism - what it actually means to those who are helped, how it changes the person volunteering. The tales of Budd's father that he shares often seem to have nothing t ...more
Tim Cowley
Really enjoyed the wit and humor that went along with Ken in his travels overseas. His introspection into his past, present and future life situations helped to glue his numerous trips together. I love reading travelogues and found myself wishing, however, that there was twice the number of trips and half the amount of writing about each trip. But it is what it is and I would recommend this to others who enjoy travelogues, short-term volunteer trips, or in general Americans who want to know a bi ...more
It is hard to write about life-changing events and purposes without seeming sentimental or nostalgic or sappy. Ken Budd balances his journey here well with his amazing sense of humor and wit. I find myself laughing and then crying while reading one page. This is a really interesting look both at volunteering in different parts of the world and learning about the way that others live and immersing in a culture and also examining some deep life questions about love and death and fatherhood. I real ...more
I really enjoyed this book. As someone who truly enjoys reading about travel, this was a must read and I wasn't disappointed (for the most part). The author takes you to the places he has volunteered in and tells a vivid and mesmerising story about each experience. My only complaint (and why I didn't give it a 5) was his story about volunteering in Palestine. In this chapter I felt the author became preachy about the situation there.
Otherwise, if you like travel literature, give this one a look.
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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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