The famous American author Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all one’s lifetime.”
Through travelling, you see different cultures and customs and can take a break from your everyday life. You live subject to the vagaries of travel delays, different climates and unusual foods. You rely on people whom you’ve never met to make sure that you safely get where you want to go, and sometimes, you have to communicate outside of the comfort of your primary language.
These experiences not only enrich your life, but they also keep your mind actively engaged with humanity and nature. That’s why it may be time for you to consider making charitable work a part of your travel, as this will not only enrich your life but also the lives of others. Many organisations offer volunteer trips of anywhere from two to 52 weeks for all ages of travellers.
The variety of charitable travel opportunities is amazing, which is great if, for example, you have special skills or you are more concerned with helping animals. You can teach in Japan, India or Africa. You can work with training impoverished communities to use computers. You can share your musical or artistic abilities with Cambodian communities. If your primary passion is environmental, then you can join a research team working to save the Amazon rainforest. Helping to save the whales on a trip to Hawaii is also possible.
Combining your travel with giving to others is a wonderful way to contribute to the world and may also bring some benefits to your life. Here are some reasons why travelling for a charitable cause can be rewarding.
You are helping people (or animals or nature)
It seems obvious, but you will help others by becoming a part of a community outreach program. There are some great organisations such as Penny Appeal that bring relief to poverty-stricken populations. Their projects can show you how other people live and why your help is needed.
But organisations also need feet on the ground implementing their programs. Your participation makes their mission of helping others achievable. By volunteering, you will become a witness to many things but will especially witness the impact that your help makes on the lives of the less fortunate. You will realise that even small acts can lift up others and create a chain reaction of charity.
You will more fully appreciate your own life
While the goal in charitable travel is for you to impact an underserved culture, it is the exposure to this culture that makes you realise how many advantages you have. The concepts of privilege and “first-world problems” take on a new perspective when you see how homeless people survive in freezing weather or witness a starving child receiving milk. Being thankful — for your job, your home, the air around you, your healthy family and your pets — will become part of every breath that you take. That perspective is priceless, especially when you face normal life stressors.
You will learn about other cultures
Do you know the traditions of Dia de los Muertos? Can you greet someone with a Sampeah? How about kissing people on the cheek when you meet them? Do you know any dances native to Chinese, Indian or Native American populations? These are just a few examples of the unique traditions that you can learn when you have up-close interactions with people on your volunteer trip. You may discover a new dish that you can’t live without or a new way to celebrate holidays. As Twain noted, you’ll see things that you could never have imagined if you had stayed in your “corner of the Earth.”
It looks good on your resume
There is no denying that building your resume is a less-than-altruistic reason for charitable travel, but there is no shame in acknowledging how your trip makes you a great job candidate. No matter where you are in your career, charitable works portray you as an ethical and caring person. The skills that you acquire as a volunteer can go right at the top of your CV summary: excellent time management, the ability to work well in teams and communicate with diverse personalities and creativity in difficult situations.
There are many ways to combine your travel and charitable passions. Start looking into the programs that will enrich your life and the lives of countless others, all while seeing new parts of the globe.