From early morning swims in crystal clear waters to summiting the once far-in-the-distance mountain top to falling asleep under a blanket of stars, there’s something special about parks. If you’re gung-ho for the great outdoors and have a burning desire to make a positive impact on the world, you might want to consider volunteering in parks abroad. There’s no better way to enjoy pristine destinations while helping to ensure the wilderness will be enjoyed by generations to come. À la Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec, “treat yo-self” to an awesome time in these woodsy community spaces as a park volunteer.
Why Volunteer in Parks Abroad
So you know you want to volunteer abroad, but you haven’t nailed down your focus. Organizations around the globe with limited resources and funding depend on park volunteers to maintain their unique missions. Volunteering in parks is a good option for people who enjoy adventure, don’t mind rubbing elbows with woodland creatures, and secretly (or not-so-secretly) like having a little dirt under their fingernails.
When you choose to volunteer in parks abroad, you are choosing to contribute to the future of our planet. If you are interested in entering into the wildlife management or conservation fields, your experiences abroad will make you equipped with knowledge to implement the skills you learned when you return home. Additionally, students studying environmental science will be better equipped to narrow their career paths after gaining experience in the field in different areas of interest.
When you step away from your natural surroundings and the comforts of home, your eyes will be opened to new and creative ways of thinking. Whether your work as a parks volunteer includes conducting wildlife research, participating in studies to protect endangered species, or learning techniques to preserve biodiversity, you’ll gain knowledge and experience that will benefit you as well as the country you choose to spend your time in. And when you return home, you will be a more attractive candidate for jobs in your field of interest!
There are hundreds of locations to volunteer in parks abroad. It is important to do thorough research to determine what location would be the best fit for the goal you hope to achieve from your volunteer experience.
The Mountains. Asia and North America are amongst the most popular locations for volunteering in parks abroad, each offering a wide range of volunteer opportunities in mountainous parks. Beast K2 and fight off invasive species all in one day (OK, that might not actually be possible). Popular parks volunteer destinations include the United States and Nepal.
The Coast. If you prefer a coastal destination, you might consider volunteering in Central America or Oceania, in particular the beautiful landscapes of Costa Rica. Not only would you be contributing to worthwhile conservation efforts, you could participate in world class bungee jumping, surfing, or whale and dolphin watching in your free time.
The Desert. If you’re drawn to desert climates, Africa has a multitude of unique volunteer opportunities in parks. To make things even better, you’ll get to experience African culture firsthand. If you become a parks volunteer in Zimbabwe, you’ll have opportunities to explore the world-famous Victoria Falls, Matobo National Park, and the ruined city of Great Zimbabwe.
Certain locations need parks volunteers more than others. Although it is important to make your decision based on what is best for your particular situation, you might want to consider spending your time volunteering in parks in a location that needs the most help. What better way to make a true difference in the world, and in the process find out what you are made, then by a life-changing volunteer experience?
Volunteer Opportunities in Parks
Once you have determined that you want to volunteer in parks and have narrowed down your location, it is time to choose your focus. Depending on your interests, there are many causes to choose from.
Education. Provide education to schools and tourists for preserving land for future inhabitants. Work with community groups to ensure ecologically friendly programming is the “norm” rather than the exception, and challenge tourists to make choices that will benefit the Earth. Take part in teaching local children about their natural surroundings and the environment so they will understand the importance protecting and preserving animals.
Wildlife Reparation. Become immersed in a wide array of activities, including endangered species research or bird surveys, by supporting wildlife residing in parks abroad. You could also take part in conservation workshops and events in the community or teach anti poaching education to villagers.
Trail Maintenance. We all love a good hike, and it turns out, those trails weren’t put there by accident! Trails are the result of many hours of hard labor from volunteers and land-lovers alike. Give back to adventure by helping others find theirs through this type of volunteering in parks.
Be willing to commit to an extended stay as a parks volunteer if at all possible. Although, most parks volunteer programs have short-term as well as long-term projects. You might not have the flexibility to stay in your country longer than a couple of weeks, but if you can stay a few months to a year you will gain the greatest understanding of cultural needs, and in return help the success of the overall project. You do not necessarily need specific experience in order to become a parks volunteer abroad, all you need is a burning desire for adventure and making a difference.
Benefits & Challenges
No matter the field or location you decide on, volunteering in parks abroad can have a lasting positive impact on your future for years to come. If you are preparing to apply to colleges, you can use your experiences abroad to gain acceptance by showcasing the skills you have already learned in the field. Parks volunteer experience is also a great asset for your resume, as many companies seek out employees who have foreign language skills and hands-on experience that cannot be learned in the classroom. You will have an advantage over other candidates and you will have gained amazing experiences on a personal level as well by immersing yourself into a new culture, helping you grow as an individual.
It is important to allow yourself enough time to gain the full benefit you are seeking from your volunteer experience. In short, time constraints can be challenging. If you are capable of planning an extended stay, it is recommended. A person committing to 10 days as a volunteer in parks abroad won’t have the same overall experience as someone who is able to spend three weeks, one month, or even a year engrossed in the culture. Another challenge might be that once your experience is completed you won’t want to return home.
There is no better way to learn about yourself, others, and the world than by traveling and volunteering. If you have the desire to make a positive impact, then volunteering abroad in parks can open up tons of doors for your future. If you love adventure and the outdoors, parks are a great place to spend your energy and time. You will thank yourself for taking the leap into the unknown and becoming a part of something bigger. Now, “Get Over Yo Self” and let the adventure begin!