Is 2012 finally the year that you drop everything and go volunteering abroad? I can’t think of a more exciting way to spend time than traveling across the world in search of new experiences. The key is to set your mind to it and then just do it, very a la Eat Pray Love. Here is a breakdown of really cool ways to travel, explore and volunteer across the world.
Help children at Casa Guatemala
We spent a month here back in 2002, and it was like entering the lost world of Peter Pan. Deep in the jungle on the banks of the Rio Dulce river sits an orphanage that houses approximately 250 children ranging in age from 2 to 16. Some have been abandoned, some have been abused, while still others come from families too poor to even provide the basics of a child’s needs. It’s truly inspiring and amazing to see how resilient these kids are and volunteers, from around the world, help with everything from changing diapers to teaching grade school or simply reading and playing with the children. It’s a rustic experience, and you have to be willing to adjust your diet and sleep in a shack, but my god is it rewarding. You will return a changed person and forever be more grateful for the things we take for granted.
Help save the elephants!
On the land: If you saw the IMAX film Born to Be Wild, then I’m sure you have a soft spot in your heart for endangered elephants. In Thailand the extinctions rates continue to rise for wild elephants, there are only 500 to 1000 left in the region. There are also no laws to protect elephants and they are often mistreated and taken from the wild to flourish their tourism industry. With this volunteering experience you rehabilitate elephants and offer them positive change. Also you travel into a small community in the jungle and help with their community needs.
Bonus: At the end of this volunteer placement you get to be a part of an adventure tour, which travels through Thailand’s Southern and Northern regions. There is an additional (optional) excursion to Cambodia too.
Dive deep to help out the sea
I don’t think the world can get much better than Fiji. This volunteer opportunity takes you to Ysawas where you will be put to work protecting underwater creatures, developing protection plans and awareness programs. And not to mention you’ll be working towards getting your PADI Dive Master certification.
Change lives in Nepal
International HQ is the most popular volunteer placement in Nepal, giving you the opportunity to meet a variety of individuals. They offer a variety of volunteer placements, one being orphanage work. Your daily activities would require you to assist children in their day-to-day life acting as an older sibling to them.
Teach English abroad
If you aren’t sure what your next move is, a year teaching English abroad is an excellent way to find yourself, travel and help others. Plus, you can make money! From Venezuela to China, the options are endless. Ask your friends, someone you know will surely have great advice to share from their experience.
Here’s how to get started.
Learn Spanish in South America
Sign up for an intensive Spanish course in South America! Okay, so this is an investment versus a volunteer or work placement, but you will leave with an impressive skill and new possibilities will open up. Spend a few weeks in Buenos Aires or Santiago, join a class of other like-minded students that hail from around the world, dive into a different culture, travel and learn! If you can do it, DO IT!
Work the land on a Kibbutz
Head to Israel, get your hands dirty and work on a Kibbutz! You will form lifelong friendships, appreciate a hard day’s work, eat healthy, live modestly and truly immerse yourself in a different world. If we could go back in time and spend six months putting our hands to good use farming, we absolutely think we’d be stronger today – both physically and mentally.
Become a crew member
This is a great opportunity if you want a volunteer experience that feels more like a tropical vacation. This opportunity isn’t based on helping others in need, but hey sometimes it’s just about doing something for you. Becoming a crew member on a yacht lets you travel luxuriously, for free. Imagine traveling to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Asia, Tahiti, the Mediterranean and Caribbean? All you have to do is sail the boat, clean and cook. (Very little sailing experience is required.)
This is just a small list of ideas to get you thinking. 2012 is full of possibilities for challenge, adventure, growth and giving back. If that 9 to 5 desk job is driving you nuts, any of the above will only enhance your life, your resume and open doors to possibilities you could perhaps never foresee.