The following article was supplied by Sandra (See Bio at the bottom of the post)
Travel in all its forms is rewarding in some way, which is why we enjoy it so much. The countless travel blogs and hosts on 1&1.co.uk, as well as the blossoming tourism sector, are testaments to this fact. Whether it is to have an unforgettable experience or to immerse yourself into and learn about a new culture; whatever the draw may be, we all engage and invest in travel to gain something from it. However, throughout our own travels, we have run into some fellow nomads that have shared some of their most rewarding travel experiences, all of which involved giving something back.
From helping out with endangered animals, to teaching English abroad, assisting with academic and scientific research, or offering aid to a community, voluntourism offers one of the most unique travel experiences of a lifetime. Moreover, the benefits of these trips extend far beyond merely serving the individual traveler. The voluntourists that we have come into contact with have all expressed exciting adventures mixed with the knowledge that they were making a difference.
Of course voluntourism is not perfect and there are still the regular negative environmental impacts of travel, not to mention other social-economical oppositions that are being discussed of late. Although some voluntourism projects can be rather narcissistic in nature with less quantifiable positive effects on the community that they are meant to help, we encountered a good-hearted nomad who was traveling with Onwards – which is an organization that is intent on helping to build up and sustain the economy of a community, instead of merely digging a well or building a house.
Our nomad contact explained how this type of travel can really be an effective way to help a community by investing in a community, as it offers long-lasting and developmental benefits to that community. It is not merely helping the residents, but teaching how to help themselves. Onward, we were told, also attempts to use only local resources, which also pools money back into the economy, which in turn helps that community.
Saying that all voluntourism projects are ineffectual is the same as saying one person making a change can’t change the world; the right project invested in building the right infrastructure or the right change leading to further change, these small efforts are indeed exactly how we change the world. These arguments also don’t detract from the fact that a travel experience like this can be an incredibly rewarding and memorable one, which is the whole reason to travel in the first place.
The Traveling Nurse
Along a similar line as voluntourism, we also ran into medical professionals merging travel with career, like this travel nursing program. Similar to the widely known Doctors Without Borders, travel nursing is a wonderful opportunity to travel and work wherever one may be needed. And since demand for nurses is quite high, the opportunities available for this type of career travel are quite varied. One of the nurses that we encountered on our travels who was involved in this program said that it appealed to her because she felt that she had a secure position while still having the flexibility to experience something new, unlike if she was stuck in regular shift work at her local hospital. Plus, the experience was rewarding because she was helping people along the way.
The Traveling Yogi
Finally, we also manage to run into some yogis from time to time who are participating in yoga teacher training retreats that prove to be a satisfying way to engage physical and self-exploration, to encourage self-improvement, and to learn something that they can pass on to others. Although this isn’t the same type of giving back to a local community as the other two travel options listed above, it nevertheless proves to be a fantastic and gratifying travel experience. Whether this retreat is at a beautiful beach location in Thailand, at an ashram in India, or somewhere in sunny California, these travelers feel incredibly fulfilled by their experience and journey.
Merging education with exploration, these retreats offer an opportunity to immerse oneself in a place and culture, as well as a personal practice and personal journey. Unlike hectic trips of jam packed schedules, this travel experience is one where people can slow everything down and really take in their surroundings and the experience itself in a more conscious and assured way. They leave feeling enriched with new knowledge, more balanced, more connected and joyful. Finally, this transformative experience is one that they can hold on to as they head home and then can pass this enriching experience and practice on to others in a way that can further touch and enlighten.
About The Author:
Sandra is originally from London and gave up her hectic city life to go traveling. She now teaches English and is currently traveling around Asia.