About The Voluntourist

When my father collapsed in 2005, I was already questioning my life. My 40th birthday was looming. It seemed that I’d never be a father myself. And then my dad, the best man I’ve ever known, died suddenly from a heart attack.

My life took on a new urgency. I compared our achievements—Dad rose from poverty, he influenced the lives of countless colleagues and friends—and I found myself lacking. I wondered: What is my purpose? What am I doing that matters?

Then an opportunity arose to volunteer in New Orleans nine months after Hurricane Katrina. I signed up. A few months later, I worked at an elementary school in Costa Rica, teaching English for two weeks with my wife. I volunteered in four more countries from May 2009 to January 2010, working at a special needs school in China, collecting data for climate change researchers in Ecuador, assisting refugees in Palestine, and helping out at a children’s home in Kenya.

The Voluntourist tells the story of my life-changing journey: an honest, funny, enlightening attempt at fighting grief with generosity, and determining if we live better when we live for others—even if it’s only two weeks at a time.

Reviews & Praise

  • Gold Prize, Society of American Travel Writers, Lowell Thomas Awards, for the Kenya essay “Holding Elijah”
  • Gold Prize, North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) Awards, for the China essay “Special Needs”
  • Silver Prize, Nautilus Book Awards
  • Silver Prize, NATJA Awards, book category
  • Nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Awards and named one of nine essential books to read before volunteering abroad by GoOverseas.com

“In this 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

“This is an extremely funny book… One of the best-written travel memoirs this reviewer has read in a long time.” —Library Journal

“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

“Heart-warming…tempered with exactly the right amount of acerbic wit…Unless you’re comfortable laughing loudly in public, you won’t want to read this on your daily commute.” —Verge Magazine

“Readers of this unique travel memoir will undoubtedly be inspired to take a [volunteer trip] of their own.” —Booklist

“With a self-deprecating silliness and a refreshing blend of honesty and humor, Ken touches on the basic anxieties and vulnerabilities that render us human.” —GoOverseas.com

“It’s like Mother Teresa meets Groucho Marx.” —Fritz Hauck, host of Not Just Sports, WCSS-AM Albany NY

“Incredibly funny. And deeply moving.” —The Record

The Voluntourist is an entertaining, thought-provoking read…rich in detail and big on insight. Budd’s descriptions of cross-cultural misunderstandings had me laughing out loud.” —The Nelson Mail, New Zealand

The Voluntourist is flat-out fabulous!” —Dr. Zara Larsen, host of Circles of Change, 104.1 FM Tucson, Arizona

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

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

“An inspirational travelogue bursting with humor and unfailing honesty.” —The Welland Tribune, Canada

“This is a book that will change your life.” —West Metro Mommy

“What he gives us is an honest, uncensored view into one man’s journey to not only accepting the hand that life has dealt him, but embracing it.” —A Life Sustained

“Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.” —One Practical Woman

“This book was absorbing and fascinating and extremely well-written. I think anyone who enjoys reading memoirs will love it. I also endorse this title as a great choice for book clubs and reading circles; no doubt the conversations that ensue will be both thought-provoking and passionate.” —BrodartVibe’s Blog

“Any reader who has a notion to do volunteer work will definitely be inspired by the honest and amusing storytelling of The Voluntourist. Grade: A.” —Campus Circle

“Well written, inspiring and honest, this travelogue/memoir is filled with humor and humanity.” —BookNAround

“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… Budd’s evolution to a person who really appreciates what he has is worth reading.” —WanderingEducators.com

“A great read… funny and touching.” —Africa Adventure Consultants

“[A] solid introduction to the world of volunteer tourism.” —Kirkus

The Voluntourist is a great read for anyone who enjoys travel memoir, and who is [looking for] different ways to give back.” —5MinutesforBooks.com

“I found [Ken’s] story engaging, compelling, heartbreaking, and uplifting. I laughed out loud at certain parts and cried at others (the relationship between the grandfather and grandson in China is so beautiful). I would highly recommend this book.” —Mental Debitage

“Ken is kind with his descriptions of himself and others, while maintaining humor and realism, which makes this book very readable.” —Sampling It All