There are a lot of people who see volunteering as a chore; a charitable cause that takes up all of your free time with no reward (‘I’m too busy to volunteer’ you’ll regularly hear people say). The reality is, at some point in your life, you should volunteer and contribute back to society (think of all it’s done for you?), but it doesn’t have to be for charity, in fact, you can combine it with something you really want to do, like travelling.
Volunteering abroad can be a very valuable learning experience for you. Now, more and more people are signing up to websites like Help X, Workaway and WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on their travels because of the enormous benefits that come with them.
Recently, I did my first Workaway in Black Forest, Germany, and decided to write about how it enriched my life and how, if you choose to do it, can for you too.
1. Free Room & Board
This first reason is obvious: free room and board. If you’ve ever traveled before, you’ll know how much you can spend on food and accommodation. In fact, most of your money will go on this. Most (if not all) overseas volunteer programs will provide you with free roam and board in exchange for your volunteer work. I volunteered in a small country hotel and was fortunate enough to be provided with some of the nicest meals I’ve ever eaten. How else can you travel the world and not have to worry about keeping a roof over your head and where your next meal is going to come from?
2. You Can Explore
If you volunteer in a rural area (most hosts are in the countryside), you’ll be able to explore some of the most beautiful countrysides and wildlife you’ve ever seen. You’ll be able to explore a side of a country you wouldn’t usually see if you visited a city (which most tourists do) and if you do it over the summer (when most help is needed), you’ll be able to enjoy it a lot more in the sunshine. I was lucky enough to see some of the most beautiful lakes, waterfalls and mountains I’ve ever seen; the sights were some I’ll certainly never forget.
3. The People
My hosts were the nicest couple I’ve ever met. They were so hospitable and generous – I was treated more like a guest than I was a worker. My co-Workawayers were also a real pleasure to meet. It’s like a family: you eat together, you sleep in the same dorm room and you work together. You become really close because of it and you bond over the experience. You’re often all there with a similar goal: to contribute back.
4. Learn New Skills
If you’ve never worked on a farm and/or a hotel before you’ll be able to learn and hone a whole new skill set and often to your own amazement, skills you never thought you’d be good at (or even considered before). I ended up helping a local Sheppard shear over 600 sheep–a day that only happens once a year. What an experience that was and something I’m proud I was a part of. You can also learn a lot from your roommates. One of my roommates taught me a little Russian and another taught me how to solve the Rubik’s Cube.
5. The Experience
My time in Black Forest is one I’ll never forget. When you volunteer abroad you people that inspire and motivate you, you eat well and most importantly, with your free time, you reflect on who you are and what’s important to you. It’s an experience that a lot of people won’t be willing to do (because they’re too busy), but once you do it, you develop ‘the bug’ for it and want to do it again.