Volunteer Travel has gotten so big that there are whole companies devoted to it. You can travel to build schools in poverty areas, to be an intern for an environmental project, or to donate your expertise to an NGO (non governmental organization).
Additionally, a big trend in travel today is to make an impact on an issue that one is passionate about. Some are traveling to volunteer for a nonprofit project, or to protest a social justice issue.
Kit Karzen is a photojournalist who has traveled to North Dakota to lend support to, and to document, the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.
The Oceti Sakowin Camp represents a first of its kind historic gathering of Indigenous Nations. The most recent such assembly of Tribes occurred when the Great Sioux Nation gathered before the Battle at the Little Big Horn.
While there are different facets to the Dakota Access Pipeline project, the fight is increasingly coming down to the fight between good and evil. The Indigenous People on the side of good, and protection of the environment, and the US Government on the side of evil, protecting the oil corporations and banks that are intent on pushing this unapproved project though despite the cost to human life, and the water that flows through that land. The whole history of the Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance and the struggle can be found here.
Many people have been inspired to "Stand with Standing Rock;" from celebrities and political leaders, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, to ordinary people.
Additionally, because of the mainstream media "black out" of the events that are unfolding, and the lack of ACCURATE reporting of those events, there are citizen and independent journalists who are also risking their lives to bring the truth to the people through social media and independent news outlets.
When I say "risking their lives," I'm not being hyperbolic. Already a horse has been killed, hundreds have been hospitalized, many with critical injuries. Sophia Wilansky had most of her arm blown off, muscle and tissue down to the bone (they may have saved it, though Doctors say she will have only 10-20% function in it, and it could still be lost).
Police deny it was their concussion grenade that was responsible, however Kit had this story to tell about deliberate police targeting...
"I had just gotten back to the front lines after the medics treated me for getting tear gassed...the first time. As I'm framing up a shot of the riot police lineup through my viewfinder, I hear a loud pop in the distance. The woman standing beside me, probably half my size, goes down hard. I thought she slipped on the ice (the pavement had frozen by that point due to hours of being sprayed by law enforcement's water cannon in 20 degree weather).
Another photographer asked if I was alright. I told him what happened, and he wasn't surprised. He revealed that press working alongside the 'Water Protectors' have been targeted by law enforcement since day one of the movement. They'll arrest you, "lose your memory card" in jail processing, and your story's gone. Or the quick version, try taking me out with a 40mm sponge round from a riot gun.
A cop who'd rather see me be knocked unconscious than to publish a story - I'll be honest, it shook me to my core. The only problem for him, it just validated how important this story really is. And because of that, I'll continue telling it to the best of my ability."
Other travelers heading to Standing Rock include a group of as many as 2000 Veterans, organized by Wes Clark, Jr. and timed to arrive before the "eviction date" imposed by the US Army and announced, ironically, the day after Thanksgiving (what better way to celebrate that holiday than with the US tradition of forcing the Native Americans off their land and threatening their lives?).