How to Give Back whilst Travelling
Some of our most memorable experiences abroad have been while volunteering. From medical service trips and summer camps for kids with disabilities, to just a day trip to a remote village in Africa to donate some clothes and toys, Leah and I have always made an effort to incorporate volunteering in our travel plans. Not only does giving back allow you to leave your mark on the country you are visiting, but it makes for a much better travel experience! Here’s why:
- You will gain a more authentic experience of the culture.
On our latest volunteer trip to the small city of Chimborazo, Ecuador, we stayed in a small cultural center for the local indigenous population. As we strolled out of our small cabin each morning, we were greeted by three friendly llamas and the most spectacular view of the city. After an authentic Ecuadorian breakfast with the friendliest locals, we were ready to spend the day visiting schools and helping run rural clinics with the local healthcare team. Not only did volunteering take us to this truly unique place located high in the Andes Mountains, untouched by tourism, but it also introduced us to so many fascinating people and a culture I never knew existed. Every meal came with a new an exotic fruit the locals wanted me to try and with every conversation I gained better insight into the true culture of Ecuador. We would have never visited the amazing city of Chimborazo and would have missed out on one of the most immersive cultural experiences we have ever had. And if you are as shy like me, you will be blown away how easy it is to form connections with other volunteers and locals, especially if they know you are here as a volunteer. Remember, a smile is universal!
- You will get the best recommendations of places from people that have lived there.
As you interact with the locals or more established volunteers, they will just naturally start suggesting places and restaurants you should visit, and they will always be amazing! They’ll also give you the best tips for what to pack, what time to go, and so on. To be honest, I don’t do much research on things to do when I am volunteering because I know I will have more than enough suggestions from the people I meet. It is always fun to tag along with other volunteers for the weekend… which brings me to my next point…
- You will make instant travel buddies with the other volunteers.
Whether you’re in a group or alone, volunteering will introduce you to like-minded travelers like yourselves. During meals, you have fun planning your weekend trips and bouncing ideas off each other. It is also a lot of fun traveling with someone who you’ve just recently met, as you can spend the bus or train rides just talking and learning more about each other. You will be surprised how quickly you can become close to others while traveling. Especially when you do something like volunteer together, it will always put you in a good mood and where you will naturally start to connect with others.
- You will be in the best mood all trip.
It’s no secret that doing things for others just feels great. Instead of feeling like a tourist, you’ll feel more connected to the country and culture, knowing that you left a positive mark. And when you finally get to go traveling, you’ll be glowing with happiness. Not to mention, volunteering abroad is a productive way to build up a resume for young travelers!
These are just a few of the many benefits to including volunteering, but what’s the best what to do it? There are many ways to do it. From month-long trips to single day excursions, it’s completely up to you! Most volunteer programs are extremely flexible and are honestly just grateful that you are donating your time. Like everything with traveling, do your research to find the best programs and to have the best experiences! There are so many to choose from, so pick whichever sparks your interest. And remember, volunteering isn’t always an option, and it’s okay to have some personal time during a trip. But if it is an option, I promise you won’t regret giving back while you kick back!
Matt from Leah & Matt