One of the best ways to really get to know a new destination is to immerse yourself in the land, culture, and people through a volunteer project. Volunteering during your well-deserved work break does not mean that you have to completely give up sight-seeing or afternoons beside the pool, but it does allow you to contribute to the local population and get a much better feel for the area than if you were to simply stay at the spa.
There are many different ways to volunteer when you are traveling, with options to fit every interest, personality, and schedule. Here are a few ideas for getting involved on your next global expedition.
Nature Lover: Conservation is a global issue and can often feel overwhelming. It may seem impossible to personally save a rainforest or protect the world’s water quality, but no matter where you travel in North America or abroad there is always the opportunity to spend a full or half-day improving the natural environment. Consider researching a local outdoor club, long-distance trail association, national park, or botanical garden. These groups are always looking for individuals to help with new trail building, remove invasive exotic plants, or simply picking up litter.
Playing in the Dirt: Do you love being outdoors? Have you ever dreamed of being an archeologist? There is a need worldwide to discover and preserve history. Even if you do not have a background in ancient studies or archeology you can join a professional or academic dig and provide much needed labor for the leaders who are trying to extract as much information as they can from the artifacts buried just beneath our feet.
See it Grow: Do you have a small garden at home? The ability and knowledge to create a household garden is becoming more and more of a commodity – especially in urban areas. Whether you travel domestically or abroad, consider reaching out to a church, homeless mission, or school and see if they would be interested in starting a garden to help provide fresh produce to families in need. Often, even if you are just able to walk the property, share ideas, or give a workshop, the seed will be planted for a future garden.
Mrs. Build It: Are you handy with a hammer and nails. Better yet, are you a team-player who is good at following directions? If so, perhaps you should consider a building project on your next vacation. Habitat for Humanity is a world-wide non-profit that is constantly looking for volunteers. Because the organization requires the families who move into the house to put-in sweat equity, you may find yourself working side-by-side the child or parent who will someday live in the house that you helped build!
Child-like Heart: Schools and daycares are always looking for volunteers to spend time with their children and share stories of different places and cultures. If you are worried about a language barrier, then consider bringing pictures, and personal items to display to help the children gain a better idea of where you are from and what you do on a daily basis. The children will appreciate your presence, the teachers will value your help, and everyone there will understand your smile.