You might remember from my previous blog post that I am a big fan of volunteering while travelling. Since it is one of the best ways to travel and experience local lifestyle I want to share my experiences and dedicate my new post to volunteering.
Before I started travelling I already knew that I wanted to work as a volunteer. There are many organisations which offer different volunteering opportunities all over the world. However, quite often you have to pay for it. Sometimes it is justified to cover accommodation and food expenses; however there are many “black sheeps” and therefore, good research is recommended before deciding for an organisation. There are also many organisations which offer “free volunteering”, most of the time you will then be responsible for organising accommodation on your own. Below a few links where you can find free volunteering opportunities.
You can also sign up for workaway or wwoofing for a small yearly fee to get access to many different projects all over the world like teaching English, helping with gardening or household, caring for animals,…. On these websites you find reviews from other volunteers which makes it a relatively safe opportunity and you also know what to expect.
The first time I have done volunteering was in Chiang Mai (Thailand) around 3 years ago. I am a big animal lover so I decided to do it in a dog shelter which is operated by Care for Dogs. It is a great organisation that is really well organised, free and everyone who works there has a big passion for dogs. Usually, organisations that do not require any payment are small, locally run NGOs which are less organised. That means you have to be proactive in order to get as much out of the experience as possible. And if you work with animals, you have to be prepared for getting dirty and also seeing sad things. There might be animals that got hit by a car, have a severe illness or got abused by people. However, working with animals and especially with dogs is very rewarding. They might be aggressive towards each other, but I haven’t even met one dog which was aggressive towards people. All what they want is food, being taken for a walk and cuddles.
I went back to Care for Dogs three weeks ago when I was travelling through Thailand. It was great to see how much it has developed since my last visit. Only through donations and the help of volunteers they were able to rent another piece of land to give the dogs more space, build a new examination room with state-of-the-art facilities and hire a dog trainer to increase chances of dogs getting adopted.
My second time volunteering was in a small town two hours from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I got the chance to help building up a school for permaculture and bioconstruction. I helped with gardening, caring for animals and building huts made of loam.
I also created the website and was responsible for social media activities. It was an amazing experience since I learned Spanish and a lot about permaculture. The owner of the place took us to a traditional gaucho festival where they let me ride a horse and got to know local people.
My third volunteering experience was in a hostel in Uruguay. I applied through workaway and got accepted by a little hostel which was in need of people for housekeeping and preparing the hostel for the upcoming season. My host was a young couple that only recently took on the hostel and there were many other volunteers too. It was a great community since the people were from all over the world and everyone had a different story to tell. We used to work 4 hours a day and spent the rest of it together walking the dogs, going to the beach and having BBQs in the evening.
Volunteering while travelling is a great way to give back and is also a cheap way to travel, learn another language and experience local lifestyle. So try it and I promise you will love it 🙂