The voluntourism industry is rapidly growing popular. For me, volunteering was always an important part of my life. Last summer, I decided that I wanted to have a completely new experience and try volunteering in a country I’d never visited before. I went to Costa Rica to participate in an environmental conservation program for two weeks. I wanted to help their community while exploring a new country. Personally, I chose to volunteer abroad for the following reasons:
- Learning new cultures: I wanted to travel to a country that I was not familiar with. Previously, I had never been to Latin America so Costa Rica was the perfect destination for me. I wanted to learn about new cultures and be taken out of my comfort zone. Visiting a country that I’ve never been to before helped me realize and respect their separate culture and history that the country has built for itself. It was interesting for me to be able to learn new things and how their habits and traditions differ from my own.
- Helping others: I wanted to find a program that I would feel needed. I wanted to make a difference in the community and have the time that I donated be worthwhile. Although my task of clearing trails and gardening was trivial compared to the ultimate goal, I still felt like I’d contributed to the collective effort. The projects they have set up abroad serve an important purpose and you will help in some way during your stay.
- Meeting new people: One of my fears was that I wouldn’t connect with the other volunteers, but I was able to meet some wonderful people during my two-week stay in San Ramon. They were other students like me so it made my trip fun when we weren’t working. It was nice to be able to create new friendships since I decided to go to Costa Rica alone. We ended up becoming a family since we ate, slept, and worked together.
- Cheaper trip: Volunteer vacations are a great way to cut the costs of travelling. You are provided with shelter, food, etc. in exchange for your time to volunteer. When I went to Costa Rica, I just worked on my project site from Monday to Thursday and was able to travel for the rest of the time. I didn’t have to worry about shelter and feeding myself for the majority of the time, but I was able to explore and enjoy my stay.
These are my reasons for choosing to volunteer abroad. I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel that volunteering is universal. Each person volunteers so they feel that they can help their community or that they are making a difference in the world. If you’d like to volunteer your time, Humanitravels and Habitat for Humanity are teaming up to give back to they Bay Area on Saturday, May 28. Make sure to check out the Facebook event invitation for more details. Helping others abroad is a wonderful thing, but helping out at home is the first step.