Choosing what to do with your gap year or summer break is always going to be a challenge. With so many countries to see and so little time, how do you go about deciding where to go and what to do? Faced with this decision, most people opt to spend a couple of days in a long list of locations, dragging their rucksacks around and never settling in one place long enough to really understand the local people or culture.
The sheer fact that you’re faced with this, let’s be honest, rather middle class ‘dilemma’ suggests you’re among some of the most privileged people in the world. So why not use this opportunity to do something worthwhile?
I’m currently volunteering for the organisation ETIV do Brasil, which is (funnily enough) in Brazil, located in the beautiful surf town of Itacaré on the Cacao Coast of Bahia. No two days are ever the same and I spend my time teaching English and also helping out with Marketing and Recruitment in the office. Coming here was without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done. This is the happiest I have been in ages, and makes a very welcome change from being stuck in my hometown, post university, living in my Dad’s house!
If you’re still undecided, here’s ten reasons why choosing to volunteer rather than just travel may just be the best decision you’ll ever make!
#1 You still get to party!
One of the main attractions of hostel hopping is of course the fact you get to ‘cut loose’ from your mundane life and party till sunrise on a beach. Funnily enough, by choosing to volunteer you still get to enjoy the party lifestyle! The only difference is you’ll get to know the people behind the bar, meaning you can definitely wangle a few cheeky discounts! And if you’re in Latin America you’ll also have plenty of time to pick up the some of the national styles of dancing (which here in Brazil are Forró and Samba) – the locals are always happy to teach you a few steps on a night out!
#2 There’s more to volunteering than just teaching English
Some of the best people I know recoil at the sheer thought of standing in front of a room full of children. I personally love it and there’s nothing I would rather be doing, the thing that makes it most enjoyable is that the children truly engage with and choose to come to my classes. But if you’re not the teaching type, that certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t a volunteer position that’s perfect for you! Here at ETIV, for example, we offer roles in Fundraising, Marketing, Environmental Conservation, Youth Development (that can include, music, arts, dance, sports and more) as well as Construction and even Website Development. There’s so much you have the potential to bring to any organisation with the skill set you already possess, so why not put it to good use and do something significant?
#3 You’ll get to meet people from all over the world!
This is of course true when you’re travelling, but the main difference here is that you’ll get to have more meaningful conversations than just where you’ve been/ where you’re planning to go next (which let’s face it, gets pretty damn tedious after a while)! In my time here I’ve made some incredible friends from all around the world, there’s so much to gain from connections with people that come from a completely different culture to you. Meanwhile, there is something even deeper connecting you with other volunteers that share some of the same values and who also want to help make a difference in the world.