Previously we wrote a piece about voluntouring, where instead of packing your bags and travelling around the world by yourself or with a friend, you head somewhere to lend a helping hand. This can be through teaching English, conservation efforts and building shelters, amongst numerous other schemes.
Previously we looked at what voluntouring could entail, and how it was different yet similar to traditional travel. But what makes someone opt for this form of volunteering/travelling hybrid? Does it take a certain type or person or is it just a safer way to travel?
Talking to a volunteer
We spoke to Lisa, a 23 year old who currently lives in Manchester, who took part in a project in working with orphans in Uganda, whilst studying at university. She told us, “I’ve always wanted to travel a bit anyway, to see another culture and country properly. And I always wanted to do something good to help people”.
This seems to be a statement reiterated by those that travel, no matter what type of travelling they partake in. But aside from experiencing another culture and country, what’s the reasoning behind voluntouring specifically? Lisa told us that she’d “always wanted to help people less fortunate than me, especially children”.
So volunteering whilst travelling sounded like an ideal situation, she later added, “I can travel the world any time and wanted to do it after uni and after I had a bit more money behind me. It wasn’t the right time when I went to Uganda. Travelling the world is quite selfish and I wanted to do a total selfless travelling experience and help people, learn about myself and experience something totally different.”
But why Uganda? Lisa told us that a university lecturer had lived in Uganda and managed to put her in contact with a lot of trustworthy people in the country, making her decision much easier.
However for Lisa it would seem there were more personal motivations behind choosing Uganda. She told us that aside from it being a developing country filled with “so much poverty and desolation”, where the “Children are just in an unbelievable state”. She felt she could really make a difference.
But for Lisa these personal reasons for heading to Uganda were overshadowed by the amazing experience she had whilst she was there. She told us that the travelling and helping went hand in hand with each other, and you can experience them both whilst voluntouring, saying “I went for about two months. The beginning week I went on a safari and saw the country a bit. Then went to an island and travelled to places and different schools teaching children and working with orphans.”
She continued to tell us that her voluntouring experience was one of the most rewarding experiences of her life, and that although the country and culture was amazing, it was the children and the experience of helping that made it for her; “The best part about it was the achievements I made and the things I learnt. I was the first white person to ever set foot in an incredibly rural school and teach the children. I had children running up to me wanting to rub my skin as they had never seen a white person before. The fact that I gave hope to children and happiness they had never dreamed of. I learnt a lot about myself and how I deal with things, as well as tonnes of interesting things about their culture, like their dialect and dancing, and I learnt how to play the drums, and to tie dye and all sorts.”
Would she return?
But would Lisa go back? She said she “would recommend it to anyone and would go back in a heartbeat”. She did give some words of advice to those who may be considering taking part in this type of travelling, “I would just advise people to research it properly, make sure you’re well planned and make sure you have trustworthy people to help you travel around, and just be very patient and take things as they come as it is a massive culture shock.”
It would seem that although travelling is an amazing experience to have in any way, shape or form, those that take part in voluntouring wouldn’t change their travelling experience for anything. It can also prepare them for travelling in a unique way, along with showing a completely different side of the countries they visit.