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Unique Travel Experiences that can Change Your Life

Updated on June 23, 2011

Volunteer Travel: Life Experiences You Can't Replace

Eric woke up at 6:30 am, a half hour before the rise of the sun in this rural parish in Uganda. He was excited and nervous ...maybe even a little scared. It was a whole new world for him. It had been a long and adventurous flight to Kampala but he had finally made it.  The woman who had met him at the airport the night before had filled him in on where the progress of the volunteer project and let him know he would be starting the next morning. He was really here! He was finally going to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, helping to build a solar powered school for kids who really need it. There were a lot of different volunteering programs. But he had decided to volunteer abroad with this one because he knew they made a difference.

He had to get ready to begin work shortly. They needed to get started early in the day before the hot sun of the mid-day made its appearance. A village that gets sunshine all day but has no power! This solar project was going to make a huge difference and Eric was going to be a part of that. Eric had entered the world volunteer travel.This was going to be one of those life experiences that would change him forever.


Why Volunteer? Making a Good Life a Better Life

Are you at a point in your life where maybe you are a little too comfortable? You have a good life. All of your needs material and otherwise are met but you still feel like there must be something more. Maybe you know that you have more to give, and even though you already have a good life you envision having a better life, a more fulfilled life. All people have basic needs in life. Outside of food, clothing, and shelter we also have the personality needs of love and belonging, mastery and personal power, freedom and choice, and personal enjoyment. Sometimes, though, our lives become predictable and routine. In many we ways we crave predictability but it’s often not enough. You may have all the material possessions you could possibly need but still you feel like something is missing. Maybe you feel have the underlying sense that you are living a boring life and that it feels meaningless in many ways. Maybe you lack passion in your life and don’t have the sense of fulfillment that you believe you should have.

Why volunteer? Some Native American’s believe there is another very important need and many other people around the world agree: the need for generosity; the need to contribute beyond ourselves, the need to embrace the spirit of giving. At some point we may feel like material possessions or our jobs no longer give us everything we need. So we need to find something we can be truly passionate about. For many of us generosity might mean volunteering in our local community or maybe making an even more radical commitment to volunteer abroad. Real change in our lives comes when we get out of our comfort zone, when we change our environment, when we try new experiences that are sometimes difficult or challenging but equally rewarding. If we volunteer abroad we can discover a great way to travel and still get the personal fulfillment that can only come from sincere generosity and helping people who really need help improve their quality of life. Joining a volunteering program not only helps others, it can improve your life in a way you can only get by doing. This means making a meaningful effort to give to others.

To enjoy volunteer travel a person needs to be willing to give something of themselves without expecting a lot in return. To volunteer abroad a person has to be willing to make some sacrifice. Volunteer travel means a volunteer is willing to drop their ego and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, in the lives of people that have been less fortunate. Volunteer travel means someone who is willing to be challenged, make a change for life, and in many cases allow themselves to be amazed by the spirit of people who have so much less than them. Volunteer travel means a person is open to being humbled. In many cases though, people don’t know where to start. Many people believe volunteering abroad and volunteer travel only happens through church organizations. They may want to volunteer but aren’t affiliated with a particular religious group. People should know this isn’t always the case and there are many options that allow them to find volunteering programs based on their own interests and personal beliefs. There are many volunteer travel organizations around the world that have no religious affiliations and need adventurous volunteers to make a difference on a variety of community projects in developing countries.


An NGO for Volunteer Travel that Makes a Meaningful Difference

I recently came into contact with a volunteer travel NGO (non-governmental organization) that has no specific religious affiliation but is involved in some great projects like the one described in the beginning of this article. It is called Meaningful Volunteer and it was started by a young IT professional from New Zealand named Malcolm Trevena. The organization is now headquartered in North America but has projects in several developing countries, including volunteer programs to help stop the spread of malaria, volunteering programs to encourage natural methods of birth control, volunteering programs to create meaningful jobs, and many other great environmental and social volunteering programs that help empower people in these countries. According to Malcolm’s bio, he became very disillusioned with many of the other NGOs that offered a volunteer travel experience. He felt strongly that this type of volunteer travel should allow volunteers to engage in work experience that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of the people they are helping. So he founded Meaningful Volunteer which attempts to do just that.It gives volunteer's one of the most amazing volunteer travel experiences they could ever have. And rewarding too! Of course today there are many others that are helping Malcolm with meaningful volunteer and the volunteering programs they have undertaken. It takes a huge commitment to get these projects off the ground and a lot of caring and generous people working behind the scenes.

If you’re interested in volunteer travel or there is something else you can do to support or help organizations like Meaningful Volunteer, take the leap and do something bigger than yourself. You can make a difference by spreading the word among friends in your daily life or online, by donating funds, buying something online at the meaningful shop, or hopefully by even taking the leap and doing some volunteer travel yourself. I have never met Malcolm and he is not a personal friend of mine, but I have heard from many people that this is a wonderful NGO with no specific religious affiliation and that they have a lot of integrity and all the staff are really committed to making a meaningful difference. Agencies like this deserve our support. They are committed to making a real difference in the world and we can’t always be sure when we donate or volunteer that this will be the case. If you want to know more about Meaningful Volunteer you can contact them at Meaningful Volunteer.


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