Traveling to an exotic destination can be found in anyone’s bucket list, but not many are aware of the new trend that has upgraded traveling abroad to a whole new level: “voluntourism.”
What is voluntourism?
Voluntourism is an amalgamation of “volunteering” and “tourism.” It has become a widespread form of international travel, trending in the 21st Century and allowing travelers to contribute to sustainable development of a particular community while exploring a new country and culture. Voluntourism is a way to make traveling immensely more meaningful, by giving something to the society you visit while also taking from it numerous experiences.
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Volunteer holidays centered on voluntourism have multifarious effects, which combine to create an inward as well as outward journey for you and various impacts for the community you visit at large. Here’s a breakdown of the impact voluntourism can have on you, as well as the community you visit...
How voluntourism will benefit you:
Allows you to explore a country more closely.
Are you traveling abroad just to take more photographs and chill at the crowded touristy spots?
Think again, please! This is something that almost everyone does, and you’ll be no exception.
Why not do something that is new, and might encourage others to follow your footsteps? When you travel to volunteer, you get to see the destination more closely, get more involved with the local community people, and also explore the places not much known by the tourists.
For example, Thailand is one of the most popular holiday destinations, and people travel from all over the world to relish the experience of shopping at the floating markets and also the buzzing nightlife of Bangkok. But you can make a difference by volunteering for the kids at an orphanage in Bangkok, while enjoying everything else that the city has to offer.
Helps you enhance your skills.
Each one of us is blessed with a set of skills; some we are aware of, and some we discover and polish with time. How wonderful would it be to enhance your skills while holidaying abroad?!
Volunteering give you the opportunity to choose from an array of program options, and you know that no matter what you can contribute to the host community in the best possible way. Further, the development of volunteers’ skills is often accelerated and enhanced by encountering new problems that may arise anytime during the course of volunteer work.
Nurtures your emotional intelligence.
An immersive volunteering experience can help you in developing a raft of personal and professional skills, including cross-cultural communication and empathy. A crisis situation in a different country will not only test your patience, but also check the balance of your emotions and intelligence.
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Changes your perspective of the world.
Volunteering abroad can be one of the most formative experiences of a volunteer’s life. It has the power to change the perspective of an individual’s outlook on the world. If you engage yourself in serving people, you’ll realize that the world has so much affection to offer. A volunteer gets to connect to other volunteers coming from different political, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds, which provides real knowledge about a wider world.
Boosts your career.
Voluntourism is an excellent means for career enhancement. An experience in a different country, serving a community you barely knew, and exploring a place from a completely new angle will add some extra value to your resume, making your employer look up to you. It will also keep you ahead of your peers, who may lack ground level experience and exposure to real work.
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Volunteering is not a one-sided thing. While you gain a lot, your host community equally benefits from your contributions. Let me explain just how many ways they do...
How voluntourism will benefit your host country:
Gives community members hope and happiness.
Volunteer work essentially involves working with people who are otherwise neglected by society in some way, or possibly are some form of a minority or looked down upon. What you have to offer them might appear very negligible to you, but for them, your time and commitment is immensely valuable as it’s a source of hope and happiness for them.
Provides necessary funding.
The money you pay for volunteering abroad highly contributes in fueling the necessary projects for the development of the native communities. While it fulfils your criteria of traveling and enjoying, it also caters the issues of people who aren’t as lucky as you or me. Collecting fees from international volunteers is one way in which various NGOs all over the world keeps functioning effectively.
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Imparts new learnings, and raises confidence.
As an interesting saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for life.”
If you think you are a good teacher, you can offer your valuable time teaching kids as well as women in countries like India, Nepal, Uganda, Ghana etc. This would not only help them learn about new things, but also boost their confidence and help them take better decisions in life. Education is the base for sustainable development, and has long-lasting effects.
Connects the community to the world.
You’ll travel across the seas and continents, and work for a community where people might not even know about anything outside the place where they’ll always dwelt. Therefore, you shall be a connecting link between them and the world. You can introduce the power of internet amongst those community folks, which would enable them to know and learn about the wider world beyond their boundaries.
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Voluntourism contributes to more responsible tourism.
Next time, when you decide to take a trip abroad to your preferred destination, try to look up volunteering opportunities, and find out how you can serve your host country while enjoying your trip.
The experience of walking along the Great Wall of China is definitely breathtaking, but a trip to China will be more fulfilling if you contribute your valuable time engaging yourself in volunteering programs with poor kids and disabled care. Similarly, volunteering for a year in Africa would be just as adventurous as taking any of those wildlife safaris you’ve seen photos of in Instagram, wouldn’t it?
Travelling is always a memorable experience, but voluntourism is a journey worth taking at least for once in a lifetime!
This article was contributed by Volunteering Solutions, established in 2006 with the aim of changing the face of volunteer traveling, and in the last 10 years, we have had more than 13, 000 volunteers who completed their journeys with life-changing experiences.