Volunteering your way around the world

For many, the idea of long-term travel is much more than another one of those things to check off a “to-do” list before you die – it’s a horizon-expanding experience. It can also be a way to give back to the communities who are helping you expand those horizons of yours by being a volunteer.

Since volunteering usually takes place in blocks of a few months at a time, it could be a great way to acclimate from being “out of your element,” and into full-on immersion of an unfamiliar culture. To some, the idea of working for free (or even paying to volunteer) might seem counterintuitive to the desire to travel the world for long periods. If you’re not making money (or at least saving it), how can you possibly continue that wonderful journey you’re on? While the money issue is certainly one to take into consideration when you’re contemplating a volunteer stint overseas, there’s more to the decision than just money. If you can volunteer for an organization doing work that means something to you — working with children or animals, or distributing food or medicine, for instance — you’ll have a chance at potentially life-changing experiences you’d never get by just visiting the same place, no matter how long you stayed. For one BootsnAll blogger, for instance, three months spent volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal caused a massive change – he’s now back in Nepal having opened up his own children’s home.

Conor Grennan began his RTW trip in 2003 with a few months spent volunteering at an orphanage outside Kathmandu. When he completed his journey, he went back to the same orphanage for another few months. Back home again and out of work, he decided he wanted to make a difference in Nepal, so he set about starting his own NGO and has recently moved back to Kathmandu permanently. His organization, Next Generation Nepal, is going about the difficult and exhausting work of rescuing Nepalese children from child traffickers and reuniting them with families they haven’t seen in months, if not years. Conor’s blog is a delight to read, primarily because he’s got a fantastic sense of humor and is able to see the joy in even the most mundane things, but also because he’s doing amazing things for the kids whose lives he’s touching.

While not everyone who volunteers overseas will make as drastic of a life change as Conor did, his experience shows what a powerful and long-lasting impact volunteering can have on not only your travels but also your life.

BootsnAll has several resources if you’re interested in learning more about volunteering overseas, including the Volunteering Abroad Travel Guide, the brand new Volunteer Logue and the Volunteering forum in the community.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | February 23, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

2 Responses to “Volunteering your way around the world”

  1. Timen Swijtink Says:

    I visited an orphanage in Vietnam last year and since then I’ve been thinking to go back to visit again and hopefully set something up to help them with feeding better quality foods.

    Thanks for introducing me to Conor’s blog. It’s fantastic.

  2. Tamar Greenberg Says:

    I completely agree that volunteering is the most satisfying way to travel the world.
    Personally, I have volunteered in an orphanage in South-Africa and had the most amazing experience.
    I found out about the program through “GoEco” which is really organized and professional.
    I wrote a complete log about it in their website: