We all know that it’s good to volunteer – we've heard why it makes a difference to the world, builds character, teaches you new skills and looks good on your CV. But how does it enhance your overall travel experience? Here are five reasons you should give volunteering a go during your year out, which you might not have thought about before…
Because it can be really fun
Seems pretty simple right? But while people talk about the huge difference volunteering can make to a community (which it can) and how good it can look on your CV, they seem to forget that actually – volunteering can be really, really good fun too. Of course, your heart should always be in the right place and you shouldn't sign up to volunteer on a whim - but you should never look at a volunteering placement as some kind of penance, like eating salad just because it’s good for you. Caring about something, and working with a group of like-minded people, can equal a really good time.
Because it slows you down
“Whoosh!” Did you hear that noise? It was the sound of a backpacker, trying to cram as much of the world in before they have to get back to reality. The thing is, there’s no experience that competes with the feeling of being grounded in one place but it’s also so tempting to see as much as you can when you travel. Which is where volunteering comes in; volunteering isn’t just about committing your effort to a cause – it’s a commitment of time too. So, even if you want to run off somewhere, you can’t!
Because you see more than tourist attractions
It’s difficult to get past the rosy glow of travel. Sure, zip lines and dolphins, mountains and curries – they’re a great side to explore. But they’re just one part of the picture. Volunteering gets travellers past the surface veneer because it forces you to deal with the problems of an area. But far from horrify you, a rounded picture actually just makes it much more likely you’ll remember – and love - a destination long after you’ve returned home.
Because you get the chance to live locally
There’s a big difference between the person watching and the person doing. Yes, being a traveller is fantastic, but if you ever get an opportunity to stray from the hostel path – you should take it. Not all volunteering placements offer that kind of an experience, but those that do house you with local families or having you working alongside local people, are well worth taking up. You’ll discover things about a community that not even the very best guide books could tell you.
Because it breaks down the language barrier
You want to go to South America, but you failed your Spanish GCSE? Some volunteering placements can feel like a great way to visit a country, and get to know the local people, without having to worry about being fluent. Of course, we do encourage trying to learn as much of a language as you can when you travel. But the good news? Six months volunteering in a destination is probably one of the best ways to pick up some local phrases!