Volunteering abroad can be one of the most rewarding travel experiences with immeasurable benefits for local communities and the volunteers themselves. Here are 7 reasons why everyone should volunteer.
1) Connect with a country
Volunteering trips take you right into the heart of the action, befriending the locals and giving you a truly personal insight into the country you're visiting. Rather than simply exploring the country, you'll be working to improve the lives of its occupants, helping to protect its wildlife or preserve its natural environment.
Volunteer expeditions take you further off the beaten track than almost any other trip and you won't be there as a mere traveller but as a member of the local community, if only for a short time.
2) Learn new skills
Whether you are constructing new buildings, caring for animals, or working as a teaching assistant, you can be sure to pick up numerous new skills on a volunteering trip. With a number of organisations offering projects in various fields, you can pick up new skills in all sorts of areas.
Just make sure the organisation and the work you are doing is ethical as there is growing concern over some companies benefiting travellers over local communities where volunteers are sometimes poorly placed in certain roles.
3) Putting something back
Travel is always a rewarding experience for individuals but rarely can we say we played a part in improving the lives of the people whose country we chose to visit.
With an expansive number of volunteer organisations to pick from, be it helping to protect endangered or sick animals, working with children or lending support to a vulnerable community, your work will make a difference. Volunteer talking to Congolese children (Shutterstock)
4) Broaden your experience
We've all spent a long weekend sunning ourselves on the beach, or battled the crowds to see some of the world's most iconic sites – but not all of us have have been completely consumed by a new culture.
Not only will you get to stay among the locals and gain experience working in a new field on a volunteering trip, but you'll come home with a broader perspective of the world.
5) Make life-long friends
There's something about working towards a common cause and overcoming your initial culture shock with a group of strangers than bonds people for life. Even the most shy among us will soon find friendships brewing between fellow volunteers as we each work to complete our days tasks. No matter where you choose to volunteer, you'll likely find electronics are scarce and without the outside world causing a distraction you'll make friends that you'll keep long after your return home. Volunteers planting tree (Shutterstock)
6) It's good for you!
The health benefits of volunteering are well documented. Anything from raising self-esteem to relieving stress and fighting depression, helping others boosts our happiness and can even make us live longer!
Working for a cause you care about has been proven to have immeasurable benefits to your mental well-being but your physical health can also be greatly improved when volunteering for projects that keep you active and out of doors.
7) Improve your CV and job prospects
If you want to stand out from the crowd few things will be as effective as volunteering. Not only does it show initiative and an adventurous spirit that is attractive to prospective employers, but it helps boost your communication and team-work skills that will make your CV shine.
If you fear the conversations running dry during an interview, just amuse your potential employer with an entertaining anecdote from your travels. You can be sure your time spent volunteering has given you valuable skills and you won't be forgotten in a hurry. Main Image: Woman holding heart in the city (Shutterstock)