Why Volunteering Abroad is My Favorite Way to Travel

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Photo credit: auremar via Shutterstock

By Megan Claire

At some point in their journey, every long-term traveler is told that they should enrich their experience by meeting locals and experiencing the culture. People told me to “get off the beaten path”, “experience local life”, and “do as the locals do”.

For the average traveler, however, this is a daunting concept. Are you expected to walk into a local neighbourhood  knock on a random door, and ask to sit down for a cup of tea and a chat? Hitchhike around town perhaps? Surely not!

How, then, are you expected to immerse yourself into a local culture and spend time with the local people, when it’s not actually that easy? The answer is to volunteer.

Photo Volunteering in Costa Rica as an International Student Volunteer.
Volunteering in Costa Rica as an International Student Volunteer.

Volunteering Abroad

Volunteering abroad has many advantages. It’s an amazing way to travel on a budget, a fantastic way to gain new skills, and a perfect way to cope with language barriers. However the best part of becoming an international volunteer is the opportunity to meet, live, and socialize with locals.

Having volunteered extensively, I  now have friends from all around the world. One experience which is particularly memorable was time spent volunteering with a local family in Costa Rica.

My Experience in Costa Rica

I signed up for a wildlife conservation project through International Student Volunteers. I and 10 other volunteers spent two weeks living on a local property in rural Costa Rica. We worked directly with a local family collecting research and data on wildlife in the area to stop a proposed Government project that would destroy their natural habitat.

For two weeks we lived as they lived,  ate as they ate, and our time off was spent exchanging stories, questions, and anecdotes. We were taught to cook and — despite the language barrier between ourselves and our host mother Susie — we managed to do so without poisoning each other.

We spent time with our host father Jorge and learned about agriculture. We spent time in the corn fields, planted plantain (banana) and gathered coconuts for evening meals. However the real “high” was chowing down on sugar cane from the plantation!

Enjoying the natural high of sugar cane with our local family.
Enjoying the natural high of sugar cane with our local family.

 

Afternoons were spent fishing with our host brothers, and learning how to create local arts and crafts. It wasn’t long before we had become part of the family, and it was heart wrenching to say goodbye at the end of two weeks.

Volunteer Abroad

Volunteering abroad is an excellent best way to develop local friendships. Thanks to volunteering I have a better understanding of the cultures I’ve visited and have friends around the world.

Opportunities to volunteer abroad are plentiful and diverse. If wildlife conservation is not your thing, why not consider working in an orphanage, teaching English, or working on a farm?

Anything you can possibly imagine can be done through International Volunteering, and the experience is the perfect way to enrich travel.

Our Costa Rican host brother, David. We became family.
Our Costa Rican host brother, David. We became family.

 

About the Author: Megan Claire

Megan Claire is an Australian Journalist who has been traveling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure! Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home. Meg blogs at Mapping Megan with the goal of providing the best tips and advice on traveling, volunteering, living, working ,and holidaying abroad. She hasn’t been everywhere, but it’s on her list!

You can follow her journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

Comments:

  • Volunteering Travel abroad is very exiting way. I like to travel abroad as a Volunteer.
    I am retired and have time to serve abroad.
    I am an Engineer,Vocational / Tech. Teacher, MBA, PhD., with management /Supervisory experience of over 40 years in India, England and mostly in Canada now
    Please inform as how I can go on budget air fare to help the needy people.

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