What would you do if you were gifted $2500 to put towards your dreams of travel? Towards your hopes of helping make the world a better place? Towards a project that supports a cause that you deeply believe in?
Not many are afforded the chance to travel, let alone the chance to travel with the sole focus of helping others, exploring a new culture, and learning about themselves. GoAbroad and Lonely Planet teamed up this fall to help make such a trip not just a pipe dream, but a reality for one lucky traveler. Not only were the gifted a $2500 scholarship, they received free copies of Lonely Planet's latest guidebook—dedicated to guiding international volunteers.
Anyone who volunteers abroad will absolutely change their life. GoAbroad so deeply believes in the power of travel to yield self-awareness, compassion, and empathy that we couldn't wait to give away $2500 to a meaningful traveler.
The scholarship winner: Kelly Simkins
The lucky recipient, Kelly Simkins, a student at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, is ready for the life changing experience of volunteering abroad. She'll be putting the money towards further cultural exploration and heritage exploring while studying in London this coming year.
The value of meaningful travel for me is the ability to not worry about my personal life. I want to be able to let go of all the bad things and enjoy life and where I am.
We are thrilled to be a part of her story and know she will continue to impact the lives of others through her meaningful travel adventures. She will be volunteering at her new university campus as well as in her local London neighborhood. "Anywhere that needs my services!", she says.
Best of luck and happy travels as you make your way across the Atlantic, Kelly!
Lonely Planet's Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide Recipients
In order to have the most impact while you volunteer travel, you absolutely need to understand the potential ups and downs you will encounter. That's why we love Lonely Planet's latest book dedicated to volunteer travel. It paints a REAL—and incredibly helpful—picture of the voluntourism landscape.
Spoiler: the story is a little more complicated than the oversimplified -- "Person wants to help. Person has money. Person goes abroad. Person helps. The End." -- version we're often spoon-fed.
We believe volunteering abroad is good, especially when it's done intelligently. It is our hope that all recipients of this free book derive deep meaning from its wisdom and use it in their everyday life abroad.
Here's what some of our free book winners had to say:
Riley Ellis - "Traveling and volunteering abroad can give you insight into different cultures, allowing yourself to become a more compassionate and accepting person."
Brittany Clemens - "Meaningful travel expands our knowledge and understanding of the world around us, promotes compassion and tolerance, and most importantly, stirs our curiosity. Volunteering is the most rewarding way to learn about people and cultures directly from them, hands on, without any filters."
Brittany Clemens reiterated Riley's views on the importance of building your interpersonal skills and empathy. If Brittany had it her way, more people would "come together to help one another." She believes that then, and only then, will positive change come.
Book recipient Ian Starnes also touted one of the major benefits to volunteering abroad as becoming a more "compassionate and accepting person." And it's true—you're bound to become more loving, giving, and tolerant of differences when you are so generous with your time and resources. By learning the power of giving, the power of receiving will become smaller. Sharing the struggles and problems of those in need will help you be less judgmental towards others, ultimately gifting you a more open-mind.
As the world gets smaller and smaller—and we become even more connected through the internet, the ease of travel, and globalization—a willingness to listen to and learn about others, within the context of their culture and experiences, is an unmatched skill.
Volunteering abroad will undoubtedly plant the seeds for future successful collaboration across borders, languages, and cultures.
What can one volunteer do abroad?
A lot, it turns out.
You can interact with people very different than you, and know that you have contributed to improving the world. You'll gain nonprofit experience, refine new technical, soft, and interpersonal skills, and become an advocate for others. You can contribute to sustainable change by spreading the word about how specific groups of marginalized people need guidance and can benefit from the help of volunteers' time, money, and knowledge.
You can build a house. You can make a child feel loved and appreciated. You can support one more turtle on its journey to the sea. You can protect delicate ecosystems and conserve the endangered species that make our biodiversity so precious. You can become a part of family, gain a new sibling, hug your new mother. You can improve your language skills—both gestures and spoken words.
You'll meet new people, gain an improved sense of well being and health, be exposed to the complicated, multi-level complexities of world aid and volunteering, you'll be challenged, and you'll have fun.
You might even become a lifelong supporter or volunteer for a cause. Take Niki Kraska, for instance. Her two week volunteer trip to India to support young girls' development turned into a month long trip, then a six month return trip three months later, and now a long-term permanent position working and volunteering at the girls home. Niki is an inspiration to us all, and a testament to the ways a small act of service abroad can turn into a life of service abroad.
Accomplish more by volunteering abroad with an organized program
We've spent a lot of time talking about the cost of volunteering abroad, how to pay for it, why you probably can't (and shouldn't) do it for free, and more. We are big fans of organized volunteer programs (especially the best ones) and think with the right amount of research, you can find a program that will amplify your impact.
Lonely Planet's book has an entire chapter dedicated to the pros and cons of an organized program like these.
...chances are that a little voice may have asked, ‘Can I really do it?’ The prospect of volunteering abroad can seem daunting, but it can be made much less so when it’s arranged through a structured, organised programme. Choosing this route to a volunteer placement means that, in most cases, you’ll pay a single fee and – voilà – everything...is arranged for you.
This type of program organization structure might sound incredibly comforting to some, and downright repulsive to the other, more independent types. But as you consider your possibilities, start to learn how you can contribute to sustainable projects, and get to know not only what's out there, but who's out there, guidance and food-for-thought like the kind provided in this book is very helpful.
Volunteer abroad this year
Here's our go-to list of resources to help you (and you and you and you!) all put your hands to work as a volunteer abroad this year.