Why Volunteering Abroad Should Be On Your Bucket List

Why Volunteering Abroad Should Be On Your Bucket List

Why Volunteering Abroad Should Be On Your Bucket List

With the age of technology bringing us more information about desired locations, must-do excursions, and global events, our bucket lists get longer and longer with no end in sight. Great, at least we know how to stay occupied while we’re here. But prepare to add just one more to your list, if it isn’t already there. And if it is, bump it up. Because a volunteer abroad program should definitely be your next big trip.

Traveling to a new destination is no doubt exciting. Meeting new people, exploring a foreign land, and trying new things are all a part of the adventure. We love to meet the locals, and chat with them to get all the insight on the best places to visit, eat, and dance, but rarely do we think about how we, in exchange, can help those locals. A volunteer project gives you the best of both worlds. While meeting and engaging with locals, you could be helping on a small family-run coffee farm, participate in a medical campaign, or assist with building a new school for the kids in a local community. Here’s why you need to experience an international volunteer program now!

A volunteer abroad program should definitely be on your bucket list, its on mine now! #voluntourism… Click To Tweet

You Make an Impact on Local Communities

Choosing a luxury vacation in a developing country won’t give you the insight you need to understand why volunteering abroad is such impactful work. Volunteer projects are based where the help is needed most–poverty stricken, underdeveloped neighborhoods. These neighborhoods house common people who live, work, and go to school–far removed from the five-star resorts on private beaches. These projects are often-times not funded by the government, and so, the local organizations who do work to sponsor such projects do so on a very tight budget.

Volunteers help to sustain these projects by providing their support. Healthcare projects bring patient services to communities with little to no access to a healthcare facility, working with kids projects allow underfunded daycare centers to maintain a full staff, and construction projects help to develop the facilities of a local neighborhood. Your support as a volunteer brings an unparalleled impact on communities in need.   

You Begin to Appreciate the Little Things

Volunteer abroad projects are almost always set up in developing countries which need the extra help to sustain themselves. These same countries, however, have very developed tourist sites, luxury resorts, and high-end shopping areas making it difficult for a vacation-goer to really see and understand some of the more dire circumstances residents encounter on an everyday basis.

When you choose to volunteer abroad, you get full exposure to the unfortunate realities of the local people. You might learn that the average family makes $4/day, or that the community hasn’t had a healthcare clinic in the area since the strike of a natural disaster. There may be hot water available only during certain hours, so you must schedule your showers accordingly. And that although you have access to that hot water, some other locals may not. And if your hot water goes off, and all you’re left with is cold water, you’ll learn to appreciate that at the very least, you have water. Opening yourself to these circumstances will very quickly make you realize how fortunate you truly are, even if you don’t have the latest iphone.

You Experience the Culture First-Hand

Volunteering abroad puts you in direct contact with the local projects and people. At the project site, you will find a number of international volunteers like yourself, but you will also find the locals who work directly with the projects full-time. Because of their experience, they will usually be the ones to train and guide you throughout your program. Having a direct local contact will allow you more insight into their everyday lives and push you to practice a foreign language, all while building a relationship with someone you otherwise would never have known. Not only do such bonds foster cultural sensitivity and understanding, but often times, lifelong connections that go way beyond the volunteer project.

Also, make sure to choose a program which can organize a homestay so you get the full cultural immersion experience. The organization which you choose should have a number of families whose homes have been verified for safety and comfort. This allows you even more insight to the local routines, traditions, and customs of the household. Every day, you’ll interact with your host family as they introduce the traditional foods, show you around town, and accept you as a member of the family.

Volunteering Abroad will definitely offer a unique travel experience! #volunteerabroad #voluntourism Click To Tweet

You’re Guaranteed a Unique Travel Experience

Some people take the same trips over and over, and return home looking tanned and feeling refreshed. However, those people do not have any unique stories to bring back. Instead, you can tell them about their own vacation without having gone. Volunteering abroad is sure to provide you lasting memories, new skills, and a handful of meaningful relationships.

Even if you volunteer abroad every time you travel, you’re always guaranteed a unique experience. No two projects will ever be the same, even if you volunteer for the same project; The people you meet, the places you travel, the cultures you learn from, and the families you grow to love will always bring something new to the table. Whether you further develop your language skills, or gain more work experience, every factor will also contribute to your personal growth.

**This post is brought to you by our friends at Maximo Nivel. Thanks to them, it is easy to see why Volunteering Abroad Should Be on Your Bucket List. If you are wanting to learn more about Volunteering Abroad, then be sure to check out Maximo Nivel’s programs in Costa Rica, Peru, and Guatemala.**

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45 thoughts on “Why Volunteering Abroad Should Be On Your Bucket List

  1. Love this! I volunteered in South Africa for 6 weeks a few years ago and got so much from it. Helping a new community like this is so enriching for the soul and expands the mind. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is certainly from the heart, and I like how you pointed out the differences between the resorts and the reality of so many local lives. Someone told us about how when they went to an all inclusive resort, the leftover food was thrown over the fence for the people there to scavenge. How sad that sounded, and how disconnected it is from how we live.

  3. Great information. A volunteered in a very important person for any project. Travel volunteering is very important to any traveler. This post gives me some wonderful Idea and useful tips. Thanks for sharing your information.

  4. I traveled to Europe once and even though it was a vacation it opened my eyes to how much we have here. Volunteering overseas sounds like a very rewarding experience that I hope to have someday. Thank you for sharing.

  5. What a great experience and thing to do! I know how easy it is to forget how fortunate we are sometimes. This is definitely something I would like to look into. Thanks for the info!

  6. For sure, appreciating the little things really does come from volunteering. I think with the amount of disasters happening right now, volunteerism really is going to increase. So many opportunities to help.

  7. This really looks like fun and I really need to look into this. When we travel aboard we tend to go off the beaten path so my children can see the locals. Although many attractions are great and a must see I think to see the locals give you better appreciation. Great article….

  8. I taught English as a volunteer for 6 months in Ecuador and I largely agree, with a couple of caveats.

    First, it’s important to make sure that your involvement isn’t taking away employment opportunities from the locals. Rather, it should be beneficial to *their* employment prospects.

    Second, especially when it comes to working with orphanages – abandonment issues are a real issue when there is a revolving door of volunteers. Where I was in Ecuador, most of the volunteers only stayed a couple of weeks and when they left, they often promised to come back and visit but never did. Kids remember these things.

    So, for those who want to volunteer abroad – go for it! And make sure you choose your project responsibly and wisely. Then we can truly make a difference for the better in others’ lives.

      1. I agree with Michelle on this. There are some great things volunteers can do, but we must be sure that we are actually doing something useful, and not just taking manual work from people who need the money.

  9. Completely agree!! So happy I took the opportunity to volunteer abroad when I was healthy enough to do so! I have the best memories and it was such a humbling, fun & memorable experience! Making a difference and giving back is so important! Great post!

  10. I couldn’t agree more. I did a university exchange from Wales, UK to Warrensburg, Missouri in the US and it was amazing.

    I took part in a few volunteer community projects while I was there and found a huge sense of accomplishment.

  11. Oh my…I feel like I’m so blessed right now to see this post. I’m wanting to do such work like this. Im now checking Maximo Nivel’s site to see how me and David can be part of this. My husband is already teaching english online and we’re in the process of moving out of US to start our nomad life. If you got to see our posts on our Facebook Page, we’re planning to do an outreach event with my friend in the Philippines who’s the founder of Make A Change PH. I believe that this is a great start. Thanks for sharing this. 😀

    -Gerome

  12. This is one thing that we are going to do. Last summer when we went to Indonesia, my home country, we didn’t get a chance to do it but between the three of us we got to bring 6 suitcases. So, starting spring before we left, we collected gently used clothes to drop to orphanages there. Almost 4 suitcases filled with used clothes for the orphanages and we felt satisfy and happy.

  13. There has been a lot of bad press lately in Australia about volunteering abroad. The suggestion is that there are commercial agencies which are just traps for well-meaning tourists and they don’t really do much to help local communities. I think it is worth doing your research and choosing an agency carefully.

  14. I got lucky to volunteering in an English-school in Tamil Nadu, India, years ago (my first international solo trip!) and I loved it. Highly challenging because I was not a teacher, but staying with a family, interacting with the kids, living with them, was priceless. It is true that volunteering is getting bad press and I think one has to be cautious how and where it is done. But I still think it can bring good, because it opens bridges between cultures.

  15. It’s great to read that there are so many travelers volunteering abroad! Like you said, volunteering makes you immerse yourself in the local culture for real, makes memories last, as well as develop true and sometimes lifelong relationships. A pity that we both work full-time now, and don’t have the opportunity to experience these experiences anymore.

  16. This is a great overview of all the positives of volunteering abroad! I’ve done it a few times and 100% agree that you will always have a unique experience. Every time I’ve left more humble, with a deeper appreciation of all those around me. The connections you can make through selfless help are well… priceless.

  17. Volunteering is a great thing to do as long as you’re careful that the agency you choose is a responsible one. You don’t want to be taking jobs from locals. Teaching English (or another language) is probably a good way of using your unique skills while still getting all the benefits of being immersed in another culture you’ve mentioned above.

  18. Service learning was such an important part of my education during undergrad and in both my graduate programs. I think it’s wonderful you’re encouraging people to give back while they travel and I think I should do this more often during my own travels. Great posts and I couldn’t agree with you more!

  19. I’ve only volunteered locally but doing it abroad sounds very rewarding! I’m not sure which country I would choose. This is a great read

    1. Don’t say “only” locally because it sort of sounds less. That is awesome that you have volunteered at all. Thank you for giving back and I hope one day you can experience it abroad also

  20. Volunteering is always a good idea! I like places like Earthwatch that have options for archaeology and other historically focused trips instead of just teaching which seems to be most of the options.

  21. I think everyone should do some kind of volunteering work in their formative years, whether home or abroad, it gives you so much better understanding and empathy for others, and the strength and pride that comes from helping those who need it. And when overseas, as you say, there are the added benefits of insight into a place and purple, and genuine connections with many of them.

  22. There are indeed so many benefits of volunteering that I need to do this. Currently because of a full time job not able to do so. Volunteering is a great opportunity to give back to the community and also promote sustainable tourism. One also gets the chance to really get close to the local culture.

  23. I had traveled a lot around the world but never tried my hand at volunteering. Your post convinced me I should. Thanks for sharing this heartfelt post.

  24. This is really inspiring. You have given me a socially driven travel goal. I have never volunteered, but yes have donated books and drawing pens when visited some tribal belts in India. That gave me so much pleasure. Thanks for sharing things to do. Next time wherever I go, I shall explore them.

  25. Volunteering abroad does sound like an amazing experience to have. I’ve heard so many stories from friends and I hope to do some volunteering myself one day. Great post

  26. Volunteering overseas is definitely a unique way to travel and can give you more of an insider’s view of a destination, provided the organisation is reputable of course. It is definitely something that will be on our list when we have a child to show her more of the world.

  27. I’ve heard a lot of amazing stories about volunteering abroad from friends and it seems like a crazy good adventure that could be life changing. What I’ve noticed is that it usually takes you to very interesting places that you would otherwise probably never visit if you are just travelling in the area. Experiencing the culture from up close is probably the best thing!

  28. Volunteering sure does open up your eyes to another world – as well as making you incredibly grateful for what you have in your own life. It is a pity some people are taking advantage of others’ kindness but the world needs volunteers to survive.

  29. Definitely love the message you’re promoting and these are such awesome reasons to volunteer abroad! I’ve always wanted to but none of my friends have done it and I’m not really sure where to start. Will defs have to look into Maximo’s programs!! Thanks for sharing!

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