I am not a big fan of Frommer's but the topic of this book intrigued me so I decided to give it a shot. I was a bit skeptical at the start, as a few of the first suggested activities felt more like "eco-tourism" (with the emphasis on TOURISM) than grandiose ways to save the world. Not that there is anything wrong with eco-tourism, but at least as I think of it, I see it as more the avoidance of a negative (i.e. "leave no footprint behind!") rather than the creation of a positive as this book claimed in the introductory notes was its mission. However, as I continued to read, I became more and more interested and amazed by the suggested activities, and convinced that yes indeed, these are places and actions where one really CAN make a difference in the world.
I love travel, but had never thought of doing many of things suggested in this book, largely because I had thought of them requiring a larger time commitment than most of us would consider reasonable. That is, most people can't take a year or two off to save the whales or feed the starving in India without serious negative consequences for their own life or career. As idealistic as many of us are, pragmatic constraints often come to bear. But one of the things the reader will quickly note about this book is that many of the suggested activities have a duration of a week or two, which is often a much more manageable amount of time. Many of the activities cost a good deal of money to engage in ($100+/day), which on the one hand goes to a good cause, but on the other can quickly make a large dent in ones savings given that travel to many of these locales is not cheap in itself. But many are not so expensive, and others are "free" in return for a hard day's work, meaning that one could live for several weeks or several months in an exotic locale for nothing more than the price of a plane ticket.
This book is nicely organized as well: not by location, as one might expect from a travel guide, but by theme (animal welfare, teaching children, etc.) which is helpful. If you are like me, you will find yourself naturally gravitating toward certain types of activities more than others, which means that some chapters will be more engaging that others on a personal level. Of course, this book is only a starting point, but that is the point: to raise awareness and spark the imagination. After reading this book, if you are left thinking "wouldn't it be great to do (activity X) in (country Y)?" chances are you can find a way to do this, through a short look around the internet or at the web sites of the specific organizations mentioned here even if it's not specifically mentioned in the book.
"Making a difference" is a noble cause, but it can sometimes sound too overwhelming to be attainable by the common man or woman without oodles of disposable time or money. Yet, this book provides a large number of specific ways in which making a difference really is possible. And of course, although this book focuses mostly on exotic locales, many ways of making a difference can be done right in one's own community. I went into this book slightly skeptical, but emerged thinking of ways I too could make a difference either through one of the programs mentioned in this book or through other means. Much of travel is done to benefit one's own wants and needs. This book does not criticize that perspective, but points out a way in which travel can help others as well.