Epic Adventures: Why I Chose Volunteering Abroad Over “Traveling”

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I’ve done various breaks away from home ranging from two days to more than three months over the last five years. Now I’ve covered three continents and through these experiences I have realized what ‘type’ of traveler I am.

You can take all sorts of surveys to depict what type of traveller you are; the budget traveller, the selfie taker, the city breaker, the typical tourist, the soul searcher, and many more.

I seem to have found myself as a free wheeler; someone who loves traveling alone and going on a whim with no one to slow me down. 

Basically I’m someone who loves the flexibility of not knowing what is the next step.

When I first decided I wanted to travel alone, the thought was daunting. This prompted me to look into organizations I could book with to help organize the majority of the trip.

Hebron 1

My first ever flight in 2010 was out to the Holy Land. The trip was fully organized by my church, and the main reason for the trip was to volunteer at a children’s camp in Hebron, Palestine. The program was run by the organization Musalaha; a NGO with an aim of reconciling and bringing together Israelis and Palestinians. Looking back, working on the camp was so rewarding, but I felt like I had a very sheltered experience.

This gave me the boost to try the whole volunteering experience again.

So I sent myself to Kenya in 2013 through the organization Camps International and spent two months with an average of 10 others working on the coast.

It was and still is probably the best two months of my life.

Africa 3

Sometimes when I’m on holiday I compare what I am doing there to what I would be doing at home. I remember doing the same comparison in Kenya.

I was doing the same Monday to Friday 9-5 but just on another level. Instead of a car journey to work, I would walk down to the village saying ‘Jambo’ to the local children. Instead of retail, I was plastering walls in a medical dispensary and planting trees in a sacred forest. My weekends spent at home in Bolton, were now being spent relaxing on the most beautiful beaches with some of the best people I have ever met.

Africa 1

 And thing is, I never felt guilty about leaving my life in the UK since I was on a ‘working holiday,’ and the tasks I performed were the most rewarding experiences.

The realization that we built a medical center for a local community to utilize when there was originally no other option for them made me feel like I had made a difference somewhere.  Or that planting the trees was one small step in the counteraction of global warming.

Africa 2

This year, I have been lucky enough to have a 6 week break in between education and a new job.

I have been fighting a losing battle with the travel bug and wanted to see a completely new culture, somewhere I hadn’t seen before, so I chose Asia.

A yearning to volunteer again for the last two years lead me to the organization TRACC (Tropical Research and Coral Conservation). I spent 4 weeks on a desert island helping restore the obliterated coral reefs that had been destroyed by bomb fishing. I could go on again about how rewarding it was to see the difference we made by the work we did there, but it is just so hard to put into words.

Another aspect to why I love volunteering abroad is all the other volunteers you meet along the way. I experienced such a range of different personalities, cultures, and opinions which opened my eyes to different ways of living and lifestyles. At the end of the day, most of the volunteers I have met are there with the same mindset as myself. The groups I have worked with became more than just friends, they were like a family.

It was amazing doing the most rewarding work I have ever done and being able to share it with some of the most important people to me.

In between my volunteering experiences, I have also been on many holidays around Europe, and have loved them all. Some were city breaks, some were meeting up with friends, and others were literately to lie by a beach all day.

I have so many great memories from these, but it is the stories and experiences when volunteering which really stand out for me.

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My aim in life is to see as much of our beautiful world, which unfortunately is scarred with poverty and human destruction. So I can’t think of a better way to kill two birds with one stone and spend my time and money by trying to restore, rebuild, improve, and protect our planet whilst seeing the most incredible sights and places I never thought I would end up in.   

I cannot emphasize enough how rewarding the work is, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see the world as much as I do. Volunteer somewhere for a part of your trip I can guarantee you will not regret it.

 

grace bio

 

If you have an Epic Adventure you would like to share, shoot me an email at eclectictrekker(at)yahoo(dot)com.

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