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

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  484 ratings  ·  85 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  484 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Start your review of The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
To quote directly from the book: “A bit melodramatic, perhaps “.
Lisa Niver
May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
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
Sam Sattler
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, travel
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
Mar 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: r-other
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
Adam Archer
Nov 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
May 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
2.5 stars
I did read the entire book and the writing flowed smoothly for me. I was interested in the topic and appreciated Budd's descriptions of the volunteer experiences in six countries. However, the portions where he dwelt on his reasons for doing this bogged down in self-pity with no sense that he was going to put effort into resolving his issues. That he would refer to his methods (or lack thereof) of communication with his wife as just the way their marriage worked was beyond frustrating.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it did not like 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
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this read. The brief synopsis is the author (in his early 40s) is faced with the sudden death of his father which makes him consider whether he is living a meaningful life. The author is struggling as well with the fact that his wife doesn’t want kids and he is coming to terms with the fact that he won’t be an author.

What I loved:
I really enjoyed his descriptions of the projects: the work (often tedious), the environment, and the relationships he formed with the other volunteer
Alaina Robinson
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good read if you have a heart for the world and also see yourself as not identified by a nationality or specific label, but as just a person in a world of many different people. In his own way, Ken takes you to six different counties with him, and you go along for the ride. It is a little long, but that is the nature of his story. We don't change or discover ourselves or the world quickly. It is long. It takes time. ...more
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kate Hanssen
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Great Story about a man who volunteers most of the year and has a very understanding wife that doesn't want kids - making the voluntourist a very easy career choice.

I truly enjoyed some of the storys.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Meh. Just a bit too self absorbed for my taste.
Judy Baker
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
I couldn’t finish’s them book. I didn’t find it engaging and it didn’t seem as if he was volunteering for the right reasons/getting anything out of it. Not my cup of tea.
Jan 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Ken Budd wants to live a life that matters. His father, he felt, had been a person who mattered, and Budd wants to emulate him, even though he lacks the practical skills of his now deceased father. He decides to test the waters as a volunteer cleaning up after the mess left in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. This first trip inspires him to go much further afield, firstly to Costa Rica, and then, over a period of just nine months, to China, Ecuador, Palestine and Kenya. On some of these trips h ...more
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
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
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sam Brown
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
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
Mar 12, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 28, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I chose to read the book The Voluntourist because I am currently doing a passion project and my passion is voluntourism. The author Ken Budd attempts to find a purpose in his life by volunteering out of the country to help those who need help. When I was reading the book I really got a feel about being a volunteer. He was descriptive about his trips to Costa Rica, China, New Orleans, Kenya, Ecuador and Palestine which helped me understand why people want to volunteer and help others. I admire ho ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, nonfiction
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
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