11 Ways Volunteering Can Change Your Life

helping handChristian Stolle, Waking Times

1.) You Can Travel the World on Very Little Resources

Whether it’s New York City, the Amazonas jungle in Brazil, a surf spot in Bali, a farm in the Swiss Alps or a natural reserve in the Kalahari Desert—in virtually every corner of this planet there is a place where you can volunteer.

2.) You Will Discover New Places From the Inside

Instead of arriving and staying somewhere as a tourist, you get a good idea of how it is to live there. Of course, you also have the time to go on expeditions, with the added bonus of being equipped with local knowledge from your hosts.

3.) You Will Learn Skills, Grow Your Business and Develop Expertise

Got an awesome business idea but need some help or specific skills to get it started? Register on a volunteering website and you’ll be connected to a whole world of enthusiastic, self-motivated and creative people, ready to engage in your project. Even if you’re merely renovating your garage or need help with cleaning or language practice—there will be folks messaging you from all over the world just to have the opportunity to engage with a foreign culture or learn some new skills.

  • As a volunteer, you have the chance to learn just about any skill you can think of. On top of that, you can also learn more about the mindset of an entrepreneur, which is indispensable if you seek to increase the degree of freedom and independence in your own life. You will see how your host assesses and utilizes opportunities and obstacles in ways that may open your eyes to the abundant possibilities that you have in terms of becoming the creator of your own path in life.

    4.) You Will Live in the Now and Connect With Warmhearted, Adventurous, Bright and Creative People

    After years of getting around and meeting tons of travelers in their prime, I hear them express the same sentiment time and again; people want to work, they want to get involved, they want to be part of something beautiful and uplifting—and they’re willing to get their hands dirty. What they’re not willing to do, however, is commit to a job that fills their bank accounts but leaves their souls empty and restless. The luxury of doing something they enjoy in a project they believe is worthwhile easily compensates for less cash in their pockets. They live now and they know it.

    As for the folks hosting volunteers, they are often the ones creating the kinds of projects that are infused with a very pronounced positive spirit—grass roots enterprises that are slowly but surely changing the world, seeking to empower humanity instead of focusing on making financial profits only.

    While most people have very positive experiences, there may sometimes be obstacles that appear between hosts and volunteers for whatever reason, but in my experience they’re fortunately few and far between. You will of course always find something in others that doesn’t quite rub you the right way, but if you remember to frequently strike a balance and check if the benefits of collaboration outweigh the hassle that comes with the inevitable occasional conflict or misunderstanding, you are bound to have a positive overall experience.

    5.) You Are Pioneering New Social, Political and Economical Models

    At its basis, the concept of voluntarily agreeing to work with one another is free market anarcho-capitalist—two parties negotiate the terms of cooperation freely, without obligatory third party interference. In practice, where usually food and accomodation is given in exchange for half a day’s work, you could call it a socialist model. On some projects, improvising and making the most out of little resources is the modus operandi, which resembles a resource-based economy. The businesses that are created with the help of volunteers are often sharply focused on making a positive difference in people’s lives and facilitating strong win-win situations anchored on solid economic ground.

    6.) Your People Skills Will Increase Dramatically

    It is widely known that traveling broadens your horizon, as the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “The best education for an intelligent person is found in traveling.” When you combine traveling with living and working amongst locals, you take that learning experience even further. You will be exposed to a whole world of personalities, customs, traits and lifestyles in a constant stream of new impressions flowing through your sensory system. Processing and interacting with these realities will greatly challenge and expand your social abilities in general.

    7.) You Will Make Interesting New Friends and May Even Fall in Love

    Essentially, there are three groups of people you will meet—globetrotters like yourself, daredevil entrepreneurs and the everyday locals. The first two groups often have a very strong drive and a real buzz about them, so don’t be surprised to find yourself at a dinner table listening in to a vivid exchange between scientists and mystics, or alternatively as part of an island expedition with a film crew who need you as part of their surf documentary. Nightly acrobatics sessions in the park or improvised concerts may become a common occurrence in your life.

    8.) You Will Discover a New, Alternative Economy

    If you can’t find a good employment situation on the regular job market, consider getting involved with the work exchange community. Usually you’ll meet people who do business in a way that is based on concepts like honesty, sustainability, responsibility and the genuine welfare of human beings and the planet as a whole.

    While the old economy is crumbling, work exchange platforms such as WorkawayHelpXWWOOF or The POOSH are growing in leaps and bounds. Here’s your chance to be part of it, learn new skills and network with like-minded people to create and propel new business ideas and ways of living.

    9.) You Will Get Involved With Fascinating Projects

    A bunch of adventurers going off-grid in the Andes? Working with huskies in Finland? Being part of a diving school or learning about new energy technologies and sustainable construction? Pick your party. Skill sharing among volunteers is also common, and with so many inspired people crossing paths it’s not unlikely to meet people to begin new ventures with.

    10.) You Will Spice Up This World and Create Amazing Places

    By contributing your brain, heart and muscles to a project, you will breathe life into it and strengthen its foundation. Thus a loose network of countless beacons of creativity and inspiration continues to grow globally.

    11.) You Will Come Alive

    The first rule of success in the volunteering sector is to get involved with enthusiasm. In most scenarios you’ll be challenged in various ways simultaneously, so to approach it with a lukewarm spirit will at best keep you from making new, riveting experiences and at worst create tension between host and volunteer. However, if you muster up the courage and take the plunge, you will be met with exhilarating and maybe life-changing encounters—not only with people from all over the world, but also with yourself.

    About the Author

    Chris spent two years in the German army before taking Asian studies at the University of Bonn. Because of what he had seen in a vision he accepted the offer of a thousand horses and a job as a teacher in Outer Mongolia, but on itchy feet he would eventually make his way back to Germany where he co-created a healing center in a castle before fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a bike courier. Afterwards he worked in Portugal, Ecuador, Spain, the US, Greece, Slovenia and Germany as a hypnotherapist, landlord, fireplace builder, editor, translator, model, actor, journalist, filmmaker, farmer, diving instructor and handyman. His passions are magic, blues, calisthenics, world peace and the ocean. Chris is still searching for the perfect taco… You can give him a hint on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ or on his blog.

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