Travelling can serve many purposes: foremost, we all desire to rest and enjoy ourselves. To many, it is also a great possibility to meet new people and cultures. Novel experiences are refreshing and create long-lasting memories, which we like to share with friends and family. There is also another and rather unconventional thing that you can do while discovering a new country: you can provide help. Let’s talk about volunteer vacationers, people who find time to do something for the local community while still enjoying their holidays.
This particular group describes a desire to meet the ‘’real’’ community and how their lead their lives, not necessarily resembling the ones presented in travelling brochures. These helpers often define this experience as a part of their personal growth, where they discovered unexpected and surprising characteristics about themselves. They believe volunteering is more than just providing help for a while and going back to their daily routine. The freedom to change themselves and environment around them is very empowering; their motivation is to rest and contribute to something greater than themselves.
What are the reasons behind choosing this type of vacationing? Many of them relate to inner motivation – often to learn something new and acquire a skill (e.g. teaching children in a foreign country can be even more challenging due to a language barrier). These experiences help us to self-actualize, realize there is potential to grow. There are also factors directed towards other people, such as desire to help others, connect with them and understand their circumstances. We want to become better as people, but also make a positive impact on our environment by bringing some good into this world. Moreover, volunteering can allow you to become an ambassador for your country. Perhaps after you leave, whenever they hear of your country, they will think of you and associate it with a positive image that you have created. All in all, all of these features can enhance your vacation experience and enjoyment that you derive from it, while exchanging love, understanding and care for others.
What are the benefits of volunteer vacationing? The research shows these people are characterized by both good physical and mental health, positively influenced by such experience. They are also happier and get affected less frequently by depressive symptoms, no matter the age. What is more, as a result of volunteering and developing positive attitude towards people and their cultures, vacationers become more content, relaxed and less egocentric, while perceiving the world in a different way. The authenticity of experience and deeper contact with locals can also be unique to this kind of experience; it is when we step out of our comfort zone and perhaps ask the difficult questions we would not usually pose during vacation that help us open to the world around us. Additionally, many people feel how volunteering allows them to ‘’give back’’ and show how grateful we are for what we have. Volunteering means making a difference, something that will be appreciated and remembered. Lastly, some volunteers want to show their children the educational aspect of their actions, while having a chance to bond with them over something meaningful.
Your child might learn a lot from living with a local community and seeing you interact with others in a selfless, respectful manner. As one of the volunteers put it: ‘’(..) you can only lay on the beach so many times, you can only stay in nice hotel so many times and although that’s good and it’s good to get away (…), do something that is meaningful, and do something that lasts in your memory and do something that makes a difference’’. When considering your next holiday destination, why not add a volunteering aspect to it? After all, this type of travelling experience can not only make you a better human being, but also happier in ways you might have not anticipated.
Bibliography: Brown, S. (2005). Travelling with a Purpose: Understanding the Motives and Benefits of Volunteer Vacationers. Current Issues in Tourism, 8(6), 479-496.
Gosia Cybulska is a Clinical Psychology Master student at Leiden University and an International Intern at Willingness. Besides her extensive love for Psychology manifested by volunteering at various facilities as well as pursuing a second degree, she also strives to learn more about what makes cats such adorable creatures.