Are you looking for a way to be useful in the world? Do you want to give back by making the lives of others better? Do you like to take the less traveled road? Then volunteer travel may be for you! What is volunteer travel, you ask? An unknown writer wrote, "When you see the world as part of yourself, you will take care of it. When you see yourself as a part of the world, you will be taken care of.” This is the essence of volunteer travel. We live in this world and we should do what we can to ensure it is a safe, clean and caring place to live for all of its citizens. Many possibilities await those who want to make a change in their lives as well as a change in others and you don’t even have to speak a foreign language.
Volunteering in another country can mean building homes for Habitat Humanity in Central America, turtle conservation in Costa Rica, teaching for the Harambee Society in Africa or tsunami cleanup in Sri Lanka. Pick what you love to do or something you would like to do and volunteer.
For those who love scuba diving, Mexico offers an opportunity to volunteer at its first Biosphere Reserve located in the Atlantic Ocean with the second largest natural barrier reef and the largest coral system in a truly pristine underwater environment. You will live and work with locals and fishers all the while experiencing their food and way of life.
In Xi’an, China, home of the famous terracotta soldiers, you can volunteer to teach children, assist local medical professionals or care for people with disabilities. Xi’an is culturally diverse with Tibetan, Muslim, Han and other Chinese ethnicities. In your free time, visit the museum that houses the terracotta army, take language classes in Mandarin, and learn to cook local dishes or visit the Muslim Quarter. In the night markets you will find silk goods and a huge variety of locally made products.
Help build a multi-use community center in Bahia, Brazil so people can be brought together in a common space where they can discuss issues relating to preserving the natural environment, villagers’ health, local heritage, challenges the community faces and ways of resolving them. It will also be a place where local artisans can learn how to promote and sell their products. Volunteer travelers can teach basic first aid, computer or English lessons. Teaching of basic hygiene and a program to reduce alcoholism is also needed. Best of all is the beach and swaying palm trees to enjoy in your free time.
You don’t have to travel to abroad to volunteer. There are plenty of needs in your own town or city. Start with your church, hospital or local service group. There are many Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) that could use a few of your spare hours each week.
Just think of the personal warmth you will feel when you return from that volunteer vacation with a tan and maybe a few sore muscles knowing that you spent time doing something useful that really made a difference in the lives of others. Volunteer, it will change your life.