Volunteering while travelling is an amazing way to give back and empower the lives of others. There are many communities that don’t have the tools or resources available to reach their full potential or even live in a healthy environment. By donating your time, energy or resources you can make permanent improvements to the lives of others and the environment.
The thought of volunteering while travelling can appear daunting to some by having to find a volunteer organization, pay a fee then be placed somewhere totally out of your comfort zone. Although that is an amazing way to grow and give back (I volunteered in a Nepalese orphanage) there are other simpler ways to give back by volunteering your time, energy and resources.
1. Volunteer your time
If you meet a person or visit a business that looks like they could use some assistance, then offer to help. Clear tables and clean up at a restaurant in India that is understaffed, pick up some garbage on the ground, help set up events, hand out flyers for your new favourite thai massage parlour. I’ve offered to teach yoga during meditation retreats and dropped into local orphanages in Nepal and India to spend a few hours entertaining the kids. If you see an opportunity to help out with your time then act on it. Not only are you giving back and creating good karma you also build relationships with the local people you are helping out.
2. Volunteer your skills
While meeting and interacting with locals in your destination you may meet someone that could really use your skills to help them in their business, health or family life. Why not teach them what you know whether it’s making jewellery, how to use technology, provide business advice or teach yoga. I set up an email account for a Sherpa guide in India and taught him how to send emails. I gave business and marketing advice to my Inca Trail guide in Peru and tips to improve his website.
3. Volunteer your things
When changing destinations sometimes a whole new wardrobe change is in order due to weather, culture and activities. When ending a trip to head home, often items you have travelled with, such as electronics, are no longer needed. Instead of posting things back home or selling them, why not donate your items to locals in the community or even other travellers. This is a good practice to pass on useful items that have served you to someone else. It’s also a good way to recycle and be environmentally conscious by creating less waste and reusing items. When finishing hikes/treks in the Himalayas or Andes and continuing on why not donate your hiking shoes, jacket, warm items to the porters. Often items you buy locally in these hiking countries are fake brands so the quality of real North Face gear lasts a lot longer.
When leaving Thailand I gave my mobile phone to my hotel owner, as I knew I would upgrade when I returned home. When I left Morocco and I was on my way to hotter climates of the Middle East, I gave my jacket to a crazy prostitute in Casablanca (long story) and sweater to my tour guide to give to his daughter.
Good items to give away to locals and other travellers:
- Clothing – jackets, technical gear
- Electronics – camera, phone, speakers, computer, ipods
- Unique items from home
- Good quality brands that will last