Travel with Purpose
Written by Cecily Gamba
As global citizens of a big, big world, it is important to see and experience all that the world has to offer. But, what if we flipped that sentence around? What if, through travel, we were able to see what we have to offer the world? Through travel, one of the most important souvenirs that we can take home is a greater understanding of cultures that are different than our own. Being privileged with travel comes with a responsibility, to share this understanding and empower others.
What if we traveled for good with purpose?
What does volunteer travel mean? To volunteer abroad means to do unpaid work outside of your home country; often in a developing country. The goal is simple: have a positive impact on the environment and people of that country or community.
Volunteering your time while abroad gives greater purpose and meaning to your travel. Many programs offer a wide range of projects for volunteers to work on, giving you an opportunity to work where your passions lie. Are you a musician? IVHQ gives volunteers the ability to teach music in Kenya, anywhere from 1-24 weeks. Have a passion for food? Teach innovative food security techniques to families in Tanzania through the Global Service Corps. These programs allow you to share what you love with those who need it and have some fun along the way.
I asked my sister, Natalia, (pictured top two photographs on the right) who volunteered abroad in India with LoveManifest her senior year of high school, what her thoughts on the topic were as someone who has had this experience first hand. After working to provide clean drinking water, and raising money for medical and orphan care for people in the villages around the Indian city of Tiruchirappalli, she says, “It’s a great idea! Everyone should do it at least once in their lives. You go into it having preconceived notions of what it will be like, but it blindsides you! You go in knowing you’re doing volunteer work for the community, but the people you’re helping actually help you to grow and learn in ways you didn’t think possible. Keep your mind and heart open to different cultures, because there is a lot to learn and appreciate.”
Okay, so you’ve decided that volunteering abroad may be something that you want to do. What are the next steps? First thing to do: your research. There are many incredible programs and organizations that coordinate trips and volunteer opportunities, so it is important to find the right one for you. There are many large organizations that coordinate these trips all the time, opportunities with local universities and churches, and everything in between. Find the organization that resonates most with you. Read reviews, testimonials, and blogs about each program that you may be considering. Be wary of organizations that may not have the best intentions; make sure you are aligning yourself with a group that is sustainable and will allow you to make real change within the community. Some of the best volunteer organizations (according to online reviews, number of alumni, funds raised, etc) include International Volunteer HQ, Plan My Gap Year, Maximo Nivel, Fronteering, Global Vision International, and Cross-cultural Solutions.
A few quick tips once you’ve decided on a program: first, be prepared. Read all materials provided by the organization, and make sure all of your questions are answered before embarking on your trip. Next, be proactive. Ask what else you can do, share ideas, and go the extra mile during your time abroad. You aren’t there for long, and it is best for you, and the community, to give your all. Third, don’t be afraid to communicate. If you are travelling to somewhere whose native language is different from your own, be open to doing your best to converse with locals. Learn key phrases, and find unique ways to communicate. Being kind and open to getting to know others will go a long way.
Talking to locals is also the best way to find out the best sights and must-go spots in order to make sure you take full advantage of your visit!
The next time you consider planning a trip, consider traveling with a purpose. It is human nature to want to help one another; give in to that innate desire and help spread love across the world.