Volunteering is a big part in helping me sustain a travel lifestyle. During the 14 months that I was in South America, I managed to do 7 volunteer gigs. And each time offered a different experience that I wouldn’t get if I was on the road endlessly, jumping from one hostel to another, and taking bus rides after bus rides.
There is so much more to volunteering than just having a bed to sleep in and food for my belly.
With that being said, here are my top 3 reasons why I chose to do volunteer work:
- To save money
- To force myself to interact with other people
- To learn more about the local culture and people
Reason #1 is a no-brainer.
So moving to #2, I am typically a shy individual, someone who wouldn’t initiate a conversation, and spends most of her time alone. With so many people you meet on the road, it’s impossible not to talk to any one of them and with volunteering, in hostels most especially, I had to let go of my ‘shy’ trait because one of the main tasks when volunteering in a hostel was to attend to the guests’ inquiries.
More so, teaching English to kids and families I live with, together with interacting with other volunteers, also forced me out of that zone for obvious reasons. What you will gain out of this are guests and volunteers becoming your good friends even long after you’ve parted ways.
As for #3 – volunteering would normally require you to stay at one place for a minimum of 2 weeks and spending 2 weeks, compared to 3 days, in a city makes so much difference. For one, you wouldn’t rush doing all the touristy stuff because you have the time and no schedule to deal with. How liberating is that? Second, staying with a local family will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local culture, cuisine and lifestyle. It can’t get more authentic than that. And as bonus, you’ll get to improve your skills with the local language and explore places that can’t be found in guidebooks and travel forums.
Going beyond these 3 reasons, doing volunteering work is a humbling experience. It will push you beyond limits and further away from your comfort zone. Your educational background and social status don’t matter at all because what’s important is your attitude, patience and perseverance.